Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day

I took a book from my shelf today and a picture fell to the floor from between the pages. I
thought at first it was some kind of receipt until I picked it up and flipped it over.
On the right margin written in blue ink was June 71, but I knew the instant I picked it up when and where it was taken.

Uncle Sam drafted me in April of that year. One moment I was studying psychology, history, sociology, and badminton at Jefferson State Community College, and it seems like the next moment, I was standing in a warehouse full of guys my age getting our heads shaved.

One of the draftees in our group looked like Fabian with hair as black as anthracite. He asked the barber with pleading eyes if he could leave some length to his hair. The GI barber listened intently and shaking his head understandingly. The trainee breathed a sigh of relief until the barber proceeded to buzz the shaver right down the middle of the guys scalp. You could almost hear him whimper as the barber finished up and said, “Welcome to the Army.”

The next day we were on a bus headed for our new home in Charlie Company at Fort Campbell Kentucky. It was April 3, and the weather was nice. 
I weighed about 150 pounds when I stepped off the bus at the barracks. One of the drill sergeants in the welcoming committee called me chubby. 

When June rolled around, we were running all over the state of Kentucky, and it was hotter than Satan wearing spandex. 

By the end of basic training in late June, I weighed 135 pounds, and I was in the best shape I'd ever been in. That’s when the picture from the book had been snapped.
Many people complained about the Army, but for me it wasn’t that bad.

Growing up in the rural south, I was already a decent shot with a rifle, and camping came easy for me.

I learned the true meaning of hurry up and wait. While we ran everywhere, we spent half of our time in basic waiting on something.

So, when all was said and done, I found it hard to whine.

Many of the good things that have happened to me in my life were the result of the Army. I learned to follow orders, and I learned when to keep my mouth shut. Both of these skills are invaluable if you plan to stay married. I consider it an honor to have served.

I was lucky in that my tour took me to Central America even though Vietnam was still a hotspot. As it turned out, Panama was like an extended vacation in the tropics except that I had to wear unfortunate clothing.

This coming Monday is Memorial Day and as I write these words I remember that a lot of young men and women had a much different experience in the military than I did.
This last decade we have asked a great deal from our troops, who are now volunteers, and many have laid down their lives.

This Memorial Day I’ll hang my American Flag and let it dance proudly in the breeze. I hope you'll join me in taking a moment to thank those who made it possible.


  1. Memorial Day is a good day to remember ;-)

    I laughed out loud about being quiet and listening to orders helped you with your marriage... cute ♡

  2. My husband was drafted the summer of 1970 right after graduating law school. He took the bar exam and was sworn in as an attorney after basic training. He went to Vietnam and when he came home from there, he was done. They wanted him in JAG, but he said no. Life takes some very different turns, doesn't it?

  3. Such an awesome post Rick. Thank you for serving. And I am very glad that you didn't have to go to Vietnam. Seems like nobody came back from that the same. And I would be remiss if I didn't ask - does Jefferson State CC really have a badminton major?? :)

  4. Good read. Like the line about being from the rural south and basically being ready for much of the army. I found that true in all branches.
    Very good 'Reader's Digest' version of beginning life in the military. (smile)

  5. Rick, I do think all of us should learn to take orders and keep our mouths shut. Now, days if we ever drafted they would get a bunch of baby Hughes; as they sit and play video games and do not even venture outside much, to hot, to cold....
    Glad my grandsons have learned as much as they have, we are to train them boys to be leaders and to be able to take care of themselves and others.
    Loved this!

  6. You got some invaluable training and I'm glad it's still serving you well after all these years. lol.


  7. Thank you for serving Rick. I'm glad you didn't have to go to Vietnam. My brothers did in the 60's and thankfully came home healthy and whole. I hope you had a good weekend!

  8. Dear Rick, I so hope that the whole Veterans' Administration system gets needed help so that the men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get the medical attention they need and deserve. I think we can judge a country's morality by the way it treats children and the elderly and those who serve the nation in times of conflict. Those men and women coming back with brain injuries and with PTSD and all those who served come back and find themselves changed just as the culture keeps changing. They must feel so alone so much of the time. And their loneliness haunts me. Peace.

  9. Being the grandaughter of two veterans, sister to one, and married into the Air force twice now, I am honored to know you. Thank you for your service.

  10. I bet the badminton prepared you well for the army.


  11. My husband was about to get drafted back then, so he joined the Navy. Ended up staying for 20 years.

    Thank you for serving!!


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