Wednesday, October 26, 2005

17 years ago today....

I left for Army boot camp.

Yep, it was 1988. I was 18 and I couldn't wait to get outta my little one-horse town in North Dakota. Who the hell is from North Dakota anyway?

I was gonna be an Army broadcaster. "Good Morning Vietnam" and all that. I was really hoping to end up overseas, as about 98% of military broadcasters do.

Ha. I found myself in Georgia. "The Armpit of the Nation." (No offense to y'all Georgians out there.)

I was not the greatest soldier. I *hate* athletics of any kind, am not good at them. Go figure, I actually won the "Most improved" award for my entire Basic Training Company (about 200 soldiers). That does not mean I was good, just that I improved the most. I am the type of person who, when the office does a team building exercise, sits in the back, rolls her eyes, and makes fun of all the other eager beavers up there making fools of themselves. FYI -- this personality type is NOT ideal for military life. Well, boot camp, anyway. Sarcasm is virtually unknown, people have very little humor in their general makeup, and having fun is not allowed.

The Army and I were not well suited to each other. We said our goodbyes as quickly as possible. I gained some valuable things in those years, though: several friends who have seen me through a lot, including Teresa; a stronger sense of myself and knowledge of just how much bullshit I will or will not tolerate in life; and knowledge of just how physically tough I can be. I made it through boot camp -- and the knowledge I could do that helped me through childbirth. I'd still rather deliver a 9 pound 4 ounce baby without an epidural than do a 15 mile road march in the snow -- but I know that because I've done both.

That first night I was terrified. I was waiting to go to my actual unit for boot camp in a day or two, learning the ropes and doing stupid busy work. Waiting games are something the Army is good at, and it is one form of bullshit I never got used to.

Once I actually got to my unit (a couple of days late because they were trying to recruit me for the ultimate oxymoron -- Military Intelligence), I discovered that living with Drill Sergeants was not all that different from living with my dad. As much as he hated some aspects of the military, he sure carried it with him. (of course, my kids all know how to stand at attention and parade rest, and they know what I mean when I tell them to "lock up," so I guess I carry it with me, too).

We got issued our boot polishing kits and I was shocked to see that they were exactly the same as the kit I'd used for years to polish my dad's old jungle boots and his cowboy boots. Huh. They didn't have to teach me how to polish boots. I got to sleep through that lesson. (Another thing I learned how to do -- sleep with my eyes open. You never know when you might need that....).

I will never regret the time I spent in uniform. Because I was a soldier once, I understand the deep conviction that military personnel have that they are well trained and ready to defend their country no matter what. I know that the troops in Iraq today are proud of their service, proud of their skills, proud of the work they are doing on behalf of our nation. They should be proud.

But I really hope that their deep conviction that we are doing the right thing over there, that it is a just war and the President has been honest in his reasoning about the war, is right. I know I would have given my life for my country had it been asked of me. But I am grateful it wasn't, and I grieve for the loss of life every day. I don't wear the uniform any more (hell, I couldn't even fit in the uniform any more), but those are my comrades out there. I wish them well.


1 comment:

  1. That brought back a lot of memories. My day was November 30, 1988. Damn 17 years ago. Girl, we are getting old.

    But, you have to admit DINFOS was awesome.