Military Service - Basic Training

“What did you do during the war, daddy?”

There comes a time in a man’s life when he feels he must break away and start out on his own.  Many times this is when he decides how he will answer one question posed by his future offspring when at any time one of his children just might ask, “What did you do during the war, daddy?”

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jungle warfare
jungle warfare

‘Rock and a Hard Place'

After graduation from high school in 1963 and attending a few years of college I found myself distraught about my future.  With the Viet Nam War building in intensity and the possibility of the ‘draft’ hanging heavy over my head I found myself somewhat between the proverbial ‘Rock and a Hard Place’.  No one in my family had ever been drafted and I was certainly not going to be the first.  Friends at college were also fearful realizing that good grades and a secure job afterwards was the only thing keeping them from being snapped up and rushed off to a boot camp somewhere with a commitment of at least the next three years of their lives off in a jungle halfway around the world without any guarantee of ever returning home alive or in one piece.

obstacle course
obstacle course

promised the world...

It was early 1966.  I didn’t return to college after the winter break.  My chemistry grades had proven that I might as well choose some other field of study.  A degree in medicine was out of the question now.  I might as well go into teaching or public safety or something less cumbersome; I needed a break, my mind was cloudy.  In April of that year I decided to join the US Air Force so I signed up.  I had stayed at home with mom for almost seven years after dad died, I needed to start my own life I thought.  Yes, it was difficult especially during basic.  Being the oldest recruit was like being a big brother to all the other guys many of them just fresh out of high school for no more than a year or two at best.  Since I had a few years of college with ROTC behind me was supposed to insure an automatic first stripe on my sleeve, but the recruiter failed to mention that on my paperwork.  I wasn’t the only recruit that had been promised the world just to be laughed at and reminded that our recruiter was not there to confer with.

sometimes they didn't fit
sometimes they didn't fit

Rainbow, Rainbow don’t feel blue...

At Lackland AFB near San Antonio TX we recruits even had a song we would count cadence to as we marched – “Rainbow, Rainbow don’t feel blue, our recruiter screwed us too…”  We were called ‘rainbows’ because of our civilian clothes.  As we all got off the bus that first day I’m sure the differences in our clothes matched the many colors of a rainbow so all the others that had been there long enough to be issued their fatigues just laughed letting us all know they had less time left in basic training then we did.  We were greenhorns.  The drill instructor seemed to take pride in shouting at each of us, calling us all kinds of names sometimes getting right in our faces as we tried to march in time.  We first got our haircuts (all one style – GI).  Some guys said they didn’t want their hair cut, but we ALL got one anyway, I don’t think it took a minute for each one of us to be sheared like a sheep in the springtime.  Then we were issued our uniforms and then marched back to the dorms (barracks) to shower and change for the first time.  I’m sure we were a motley looking crew as we stood in line at the mess hall later that day, but we all felt somewhat better as we noticed a new busload of recruits unloading right across the street.  As the bus pulled away someone in our group let out, “look at all the pretty little rainbows…”

© 2011 SamSonS

Comments 10 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

I never did understand the draft system in the Viet Nam era. In my time we had "Universal Military training" which still makes sense to me. Somehow it got changed to a "lottery" which does not make any sense to me.


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks dahoglund for being the first to respond and for voicing your comments. If you recall, LBJ was in office and the war was so unpopular that a lottery was just another way for the democrats to say 'we wash our hands of the whole affair' to cater to the public and somehow relieve the government of the pressure caused by the draft...


Dave Mathews profile image

Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

At 17 years of age, I enlisted with the Canadian Armed Forces, something I will never regret. I joined the infantry, received special training as a sniper, traveled to Europe and earned a university degree in computers and learned contract law, which enabled me to later return to the Canadian Work Force and become a Union Contract and Disiplinary Arbitrator with Canada Post.


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee Author

WOW! Dave, sounds like the military was a great 'fit' for you. I'm glad things worked out so well. My older brother Jim made a career out of it and now one of my son-in-laws in twenty-two years in. Both the USAF.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 5 years ago from Arizona

Samsons, I remember getting off the bus, we lined up on the yellow foot prints I carried nothing with me save an old Zippo.

We were told to get rid of all our cigarettes when we were boarding the bus at the Atlanta airport. I sat alone toward the back and smoked every cigarette I had on the rip to Parris Island. All the guys who brought bags of what ever they thought they needed were stripped of the bag and it was stored away from them, some were just tossed in the trash as DIs looked inside, we were told to dump our pockets and I layed an empty wallet on the table with my drivers license in it and it was stored. I kept the Zippo in my pocket along with uniform emblems of my fathers time in the Marines as well as 60 dollars in twentys folded flat. I don't remember how I got them all rolled in a pair of issued socks but I made it through with all intact. Over my years of service I was blessed with opportunities that after being a simple grunt I was sent to sniper school, expecting to be deployed with the 3rd Marines as special forces then in mid stream I was TAD to HMS-367 light helicopter squadron as a door gunner, where through a series of events after that tour I was the recipient of a field promotion by an officer who liked me to the rank of Gunnery Sargent that qualified me for a program since canceled, the Silverwings program where I was sent to flight school on the Huey slicks to be a "Peter pilot" or co-pilot. I finished my 8th year in peace time service with a below the knee amputation on my left leg, still allowed to fly. After gathering my senses and got sober it transferred to high paying jobs in the civilian world. I can no longer pass a physical to fly, but I'm able to live my lifestyle thanks to the time I spent as an active Marine. I get my stories jumbled due to getting old and forgetting some things but for the most part I will forever remember the sacrifices made by many other boys, for this country, that I now remember as "we were all tricked by politicians" and I pray we bring home all of our soldiers, men and women. Peace, 50


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks 50, for sharing all that information. I need to write more, about my time on Guam and TDY to Udorn Thailand even my R&R to Japan in April 1968. There's no times like those we spent in the military...


2besure profile image

2besure 5 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

My son loved ROTC and joined the Army not long after graduation. Basic was real difficult for him. He had to take his final PT test right after getting out of the hospital with the flu, I think. He passed though. Later served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He volunteered to go to Afghanistan. Didn't listen to his dad (Nam vet) about don't volunteer for anything when you are in the service! His is safe an out of the Army after many years. Great hub! Voted up


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee Author

thanks 2besure for your visit and for sharing this great reminisce about your son. Also, thanks for the fine rating.

blessings...


fred allen profile image

fred allen 5 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

Thank you for your service sir!


samsons1 profile image

samsons1 5 years ago from Tennessee Author

you're quite welcome fred and thank you for responding...

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