I was 23 years old and had just taken my first Teaching Job in Monticello, Minnesota when my Draft Notice arrived at the U.S. Post Office. It seemed that our U.S. Elected Tax Ticks had gotten us into a War in Vietnam for some dumb reason and they were sending everyone there to “Curb Communism” by blowing the hell out of a jungle. Big Ears Johnson said I was to report for induction on the Old SSS-252 Form at the U.S. Federal Building in Minneapolis, Minnesota on January 16, 1969. I chose a shortcut method and my Mom took me to Moorhead, Minnesota to a Buddy’s place where the next day I caught the Greyhound Bus to Minneapolis and latter to the world famous Curtis Hotel.
After a night of drinking beer and looking at some flashy women, I awoke and took a cab to the Federal Building on Roberts Street. I will never forget that morning which was to be my draft induction date: I had since enlisted in the U.S. Navy in hopes of getting something out of this precious time in my life. On the morning I was to report for the Navy, it turns out the Marines were taking all the Draft Inductees. I will never forget the feeling and vision of seeing 35 men told to follow a Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant down the hall to the Marine Corps Induction Room. Those poor Inductees were doomed and were at the bottom of the rank and file of the Military. They would be used as Sacrificial Lambs to crawl into tunnels and be point men on Night Reconnaissance Missions for some worthless “Senior in Rank” who had a hangover the night before. I was so glad that I was not in that 2 year Draft Group on my way to San Diego to be a North Vietcong Bulls Eye! After 2 hours of tests, signing papers for my Family, and giving someone my Oath of Allegiance, I boarded a Western Airlines flight to Los Angeles and had a window seat. I had never been on a plane before in my life and the experience was exciting.
After six hours of drinking Coke and going to the bathroom the plane floated down into Los Angles. I loved going over the Sunset Strip and laughed because I knew I would never see it again. We all switched planes and flew south to San Diego with nothing but Military and Government Employees on the plane. No one spoke to each other and it was my guess what the hell was next? When we arrived in San Diego an airline employee took us to an area where we stood in line and waited for the big Grey Navy Bus to arrive. While we were waiting a Marine Corps Staff Sergeant came in to get his 35 Recruits. He screamed and yelled like a Rooster to show off for the Tax Payers who could have cared less.
The bus trip to the Navy Recruit Training Center was sort of cool at 9:00 P.M. California Time and 11:00 P.M. Minnesota Time: Lots of Lights, Lots of Traffic, and the Smell of the Salt Water Air which I had never experienced in my life. When the bus arrived, the “Fun” began! We were yelled at for everything and told to stand on a Yellow Dot which I still have dreams about to this day. Then a Dude with no hair came out of the Brick Building and collected all of our 35 order packets, which I could have gotten rid of anytime on the trip, but rather chose to honor the Service Time my Dad spent in WWII fighting the Japs in Burma. Then a bald headed Male “Goonskavich” told us to follow him to a barracks where we were told to get some sleep because 04:30 A.M. would be coming up real soon. God what a night! Men crying, Men yelling, Men sobbing, and lots of “BOYS” Scared to Death about what was in store for them Tomorrow?
Well Tomorrow came about 15 Minutes latter it seemed. I don’t remember even closing my eyes until that ball headed “PSHYCOPATH” with a black baton hit the garbage can and yelled “@#%T, Shave, and Shower” “REVELEE REVELEE” “UP AND ATEM YOU MAGGOTS”! This gy had the manners of Rat and I remember not laughing out loud because he looked like a Rat too! Did he escape from a Walt Disney Farm? Ha!
For the next 10 weeks the Navy’s goal was to teach you how to Eat, Sleep, Communicate, and Tolerate your fellow Sailor. Up at 06:00 A.M. each morning as the “Bugle from Hell” reminded you that your vacation was over. At 06:30 was a G.Q. Muster where all the alive bodies were counted and the A.W.O.L. personnel turned over to the F.B.I. Then it was Marching to Breakfast and standing in line with no talking except “Yes Sir” and “No Sir”! After a very good Breakfast it was back to the Marching Formation for an experience to burn off the Breakfast you had just eaten and polish up on your left Right-Left memory bank? Da?
The Noon Lunches were very good and were done so to impress the Naval Officers whose ships were moored at the main base for Supplies and New Personnel. The donuts were out of this world and Recruits were only allowed one so the Officers with the Beer Guts would be kept happy! Coming out of the Chow Hall at noon, the perimeter of the brick building was lined with Sea Gulls waiting for a Recruit to get sick and loose his lunch. When it happened, the sky turned white and the only thing not eaten was the poor Recruit who was having a reaction to his Food or Medications from the earlier Morning Injections. Afternoons were for Schooling: learning all the Naval Terms was a lot of fun: Scuttlebutt, Bivouac, Mooring Line, and that good old term EYE EYE SIR!!
After learning that the U.S. was at war with the Communists in South East Asia, the brain washing started about what “YOU COULD DO”! I selected an Air Command Rate and was told I would be going to Memphis, Tennessee for 3 more Schools after a 14 Day leave back home. I was also brought into a room and asked if I was going to be an O.C.S. Candidate. I remembered hearing early on that Ensigns, fresh out of O.C.S., went to Vietnam and became Commanding Officers of the P.B.R. Boats that went up and down the Mekong Delta River. I was not interested in being a Bulls Eye for some Mekong Delta Viet Cong with an AK-47. I told the Navy Captain that I was not interested and he yelled and screamed at me and I knew I was going to be peeling potatoes the rest of my enlistment.
Around March 14, 1969 we had our Graduation Parade and Exercises which were kind of cool cause we got to march with the US Navy Band from San Diego who were very good! After everyone saluted the Officers who were going back to their ships, we were given an 8 hour leave off base. I went to La Mesa to see a friend’s family and after a few drinks got driven back to the Recruit Base for the next day’s exit preparation. I was up at 06:00 A.M. and had my dress blues on and looking pretty spiffy! A lot of us Sailors took pictures and said goodbye to others before catching the bus to the Airport.
WOW! Free from the Routine and on my way home to Minnesota! Not So! The Western Airlines Plane I was on got hit by lightning and one engine was knocked out of operation; so we landed in Phoenix. We changed planes and headed for Minneapolis where I slept in the Airport all night on a bench by myself. The next morning I caught a N.W. Prop Job to Fargo, N.D. where my Mom and Dad were waiting at the gate for their new Military Son! It was great to be Home, out of the Uniform, No Reveille, and good home cooked Meals! Did I really have to go Back? Did I really have to go to Memphis, Tennessee? Did I? Yes!
I was promoted to a Marine Corps Electronics Instructor at the NATTC - ASE Aviation School and I went to Graduate School at Memphis State University at night. I always had trouble and still dream about the (3) C-140s that landed every Thursday on the Memphis Tarmac to unload the Drab Green Flag Draped Coffins of the Boys who paid the Maximum Price for “Curbing the Spread of Communism”?