My first day in the US Army began April 06, 1953, when I showed up at the induction center in Newark, NJ. I was drafted.
I’d already been poked, prodded, examined and weighed a few weeks before during a physical exam. I was 6 feet tall and weighed 119 pounds. By noon, I was eating lunch at Camp Kilmer.
By the end of the day, I had been forced to run around a quadrangle 10 ten days for the unforgivable sin of referring to a rifle (AKA “weapon”) as a gun. For the next two years, every day began with calisthenics. At some point in the day, virtually every day, I was required to run around a quadrangle or or do 50 jumping-jacks or 25 pushups or 25 pullups for one ridiculous infraction or another.
The first ten days or so were surreal. The camp barbers buzzed head and facial hair down to the raw skin. When not filling our forms or standing in lines (often at the same time) we were being shouted at and insulted by a series of sharply dressed corporals and sergeants.
I soon discovered that my real name was Mother-Fucker. I also had a first name, but those who spoke to me like that usually confused me with one of the other Mother-Fuckers. It took me a while to figure out that I was Stupid Mother-Fucker, and not actually related to Dumbass Mother-Fucker, Shithead Mother-Fucker or Cocksuckin Mother-Fucker. They may have been kin, but I never had much free time to discuss it and find out.
I was miserable every single day of the next two years. And those morning calisthenics, after a night out on a pass drinking cheap beer in honky-tonk bars, was daily torture.
Oh, yes. I did get to show off my skill as a student in Auto Mechanic School, thanks to my Dad who had insisted I learn how to maintain a car before he sold me his 1937 Ford V8 when I was 17 years old. I graduated at the top of that class.
They sent me to Truck mechanic School. Again, top of the class.
On to Tank Mechanic School at The Armor School, Fort Knox, KY. The strange thing was, I was nowhere near as skilled or knowledgeable as some of the country boys I was with. But I was city-smart at explaining the things that they could do better than me. So, once more, top of the class and on to Tank Mechanic Instructor School.
It was boring, but at least I was not being shot at like guys who had gone in a few months ahead of me.
And, as the top of the class of that school, I was made an Instructor at The Armor School. By then, somewhere back in the late spring, the North Koreans must have been advised that I was about to finish all this schooling and would most likely be shipped to the 38th Parallel and start shooting at them.
So, they stopped shooting.
When I got out of the Army after two years of service, I was 145 pounds of solid 22-year-old muscle.
At 80 years old (last week) I am in amazingly in good shape. I can run for the bus. I walk at least as fast as the college kids on a nearby campus. The medical care I get at the VA Hospital has cured prostate cancer and cleaned up 8 different incidents of potentially disfiguring skin cancer. I eat and sleep well. I have a wife 25 years younger than me.
Last month I was selected as finalist in an exciting singing contest. I intend to win, so I am taking singing lessons every week from a former opera singer. That event will be mid-june, 2013. Stay tuned (as we used to say).
What a surprise all this is.