I'm not going to lie...I spent 17 years trying to escape this state, i broke a good boys heart after he asked me to marry him, left a Great-Grandmother that meant more to me than anyone else in the world, gave up my scholarship to the Rhode Island Institute of the Arts...all to run and join the Army, to travel, to see the world, to meet new and interesting people, do something important with my life. No one thought I could make it. I was small, I was not athletic, I hated the outdoors. All I ever did was paint, read, draw, write books. I had flat feet and I had been smoking since I was nine...thats a whole other story though. I made it. I struggled to be sure. I failed my first p.t. test and was stuck at reception for quite awhile but I refused to quit. I had sacrificed so much. I had made my choice and I was very very stubborn. I passed my pt test finally after weeks (it felt like months) of pushing myself and working out. I actually did not even realize I passed. I had gotten so used to getting close but not making it that it was a shock when they told me to pack my gear. I was going to Basic.
In BCT, I was thrust into a whole new world. The people in reception were like me, not exactly the cream of the crop physically speaking and most had dropped out right away. Three people I had gotten close to came with me to Basic, one was a cousin that I had never known. Lisa Hawthorn, she was at least six feet tall, blond and raw boned with an exceptionally sweet nature. Another was a very short Mexican boy Stephan Grieago that I called Lizard because his hands were slightly deformed. Lizard was hilarious and full of a kinetic kind of energy. Another was a chunky tall boy from Minnesota, he was paler than I even and his hair was a shock of white, he was a 00N, a piano player, that was his MOS! Amazing to me that he joined the Army to play the piano. I was in awe of his talent and he constantly worried that he was going to injure his hands. I myself was a 74B, a computer tech basically. IMO/IAMO was the official title. Information Management Officer/Information Management Security Officer...more on that later. Back to Basic...haha, see what I did? Anyhow, Fort Jackson, in 1998, middle of the summer...we got off the bus amid a din of activity. Other buses were all around us, movement was constant and hectic, we formed up into four rows, my friends and I next to each other glad we were together at least and then they started counting, 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4...we quickly caught on and looked in panic at each other....we readjusted as fast as we could...whew...we made it, I stayed where I was and they each pushed into the number 1 spot down the line. We all fell out of formation when a drill Sargent called for the 1s. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
E447, Echo four four seven…for the next nine weeks this would be my home and these people my family. I had no idea that they would still be my family 18 years later.
Basic was hard, it was not as lonely or sad as reception though.
I actually enjoyed BCT. No shit. I still sucked at PT but I started to learn that I also excelled at certain things and I was filled with pride. Sit-Ups! I could do more sit-ups in two minutes than ANYONE else in my platoon! I was almost a side show freak…lol, Lizard was close, he and I would race back from chow everyday and do crunches in the quad, but I still won every time, a lovely boy from Jamaica with caramel skin and seafoam green eyes came in third and sometimes I was tempted to let him win just because of his sweet smile. I was also the absolute best at rifle drills. My DS always seemed baffled that I was the last one standing, he could not fathom all theses tall, strong beasts around me falling out while I stood still…lol, my stubbornness at work. I was only better at three more things than anyone else but these things are kinda goofy…I was impervious to the gas they used on us in the field, I ate faster than anyone else (I made sandwiches out of everything on my plate) and I always drink my two canteens of water at the end of the night formation fastest…(I added Kool aid to my canteens…lol) I also taught people how not to stink, we were not allowed perfume so I cut air freshiners up and put them in all the pockets on our uniforms…it drove the 3 Drill Sargents crazy trying to figure out why we all smelled like lemons and oranges. Good times, lol.
Basic wasn’t all fun obviously, I made my share of blunders, I was very inexperienced and to hide my innocence I lied and told people I had a child, My mom had me when she was barely 17 and thats the age I used. I had never been with anyone like that, not by choice and I felt very young, I was very young. I was very young and very stupid. I still struggled with my run, I barely passed every other test. I missed my Granny, Mott, a girl only slightly older than me kept me company in the barracks the first two weeks, she was dreadfully near sighted and had a problem with controlling her sweat. She had short black curly hair and a delicate nose. My feet and hers hurt so bad after all the marching and pt that we started sleeping heel to toe on the same bunk just so we could rub each others feet. She didn’t make it, she quit. I haven’t heard from her since. My closest friend was still Lizard but I was making other friends. Dunlap, Every day during class I sat behind him. I memorized the moles on the back of his neck. I knew his neck better than I ever thought possible. He was quiet and sweet, middle class, not tall, not short, except for his soft smile he was all together average. We hardly ever talked. You just didn’t talk in classes in Basic. He’s married now to a very beautiful girl. I am so happy for him. We still hardly ever talk but we stay in touch, just in case. If he needs me I am here and vice versa. Sometimes words just aren’t necessary. Mckenzie was an orphan, he was a sweet boy, short, only a couple inches taller than myself, his cheeks were permanently flushed and he had messy brown hair and a crooked smile. He’s the one in the picture with me, it was taken on the day after graduation. The Boroquin twins, two boys we constantly compared to Tweedle Dee and Dum always were good for a laugh, Bettany was the only person it seemed hard to get along with, he resented me for replacing him as Platoon Guide, he was a specialist, Prior Service and the spot should have been his. I think they gave it to me because they knew the platoon would behave so I would not get in trouble. They always acted up under Bettany. Jackson and McCall were two of my absolute favorite people, Jackson was 6’5, ebony and lean, McCall was 6’3, Mixed and a bit stouter. They were my constant companions in the field, We dug a fox hole together once and I was to short to get out…lol. Fox holes are supposed to go up to the tallest persons arm pit. It was around this time that I realized how much these people meant to me, I was sitting guard in the dark, I saw Johnson, a sandy haired country boy and a massive flirt walk by. There was no light but I knew who it was because of how he breathed and how his feet hit the ground. I stood up, slightly shocked and slightly in awe and walked the perimeter, with no light and a dark sky, not even the moon because it was raining and somehow I could tell who everyone was.
I continued fumbling my way threw basic, I loved everyone in my platoon and even managed to become friends with a few people in the other three platoons. My biggest mess-up came close to the end. We had a medic, Hampton…he had flame red hair and his BCGs seemed to fit him. He gave me mole skin and assumed i would be smart enough to use it the right way. I wasn’t. I put the stuff on inside out and as a result lost all the skin on my feet from the ankles down. I compounded this particular problem by not telling anyone. I was to embarrassed. Lucky for me, next day was victory tower, I assumed I would be great at this endeavor because I spent my childhood in the tree tops but nope…lol. I volunteered to go first on the rappel wall, my first step back I literally folded in half. In hindsight it was hilarious, at the time I felt very lucky to have a sunburn, my face was flaming. I managed to get down and got across the one rope, and all of the rest until the two rope crossing. I somehow managed to get between Jackson and McCall again, those two were pranksters of the highest order. I had to walk between them on a thin rope while holding onto another rope above us….I couldn’t reach it…luckily there was a net…lol. My feet and the lack of skin came back to haunt me on our final ruck march….During our rest breaks Dunlap and I would turn our backs to each other and lean our rucks together, doing this we were able to lower ourselves to the ground easier and by pushing against each other and bracing with our feet we could also rise back up with a minimum of fuss. Lizard sat across from us leaned back to back with Hawthorn, he was my best friend so we always tried to sit that way, Hawthorn toward over him but she had a tremendous crush on him anyhow and always sat nearby. Lizard saw blood on my pants leg, between the last ten miles and the sweating my feet had gotten much worse. He was furious and so was the DS when he jumped up and told him. I was ordered to take my boots off and i swear half the people tried not to throw up. I had not told anyone because i did not want to seem weak. Everyone was hurting. I was put on the back of the water truck to ride the last five miles to our bonfire. I was mortified.
I spent my remaining days on KP duty, sneaking apples and cereal boxes back to the barracks in my pants legs. I passed them to starving soldiers in the bathroom after hours. I have more to tell but not much fits into the flow of a story, like how we went to a concert on the 4th of July, we saw the Commodores in purple spandex and pigged out on pizza and two liters of coke. How during class if you fell asleep they made your squat at the back of the room holding a pencil between your fingers. How to get into the chow hall you had to be able to answer questions from the handbook, mine still has flowers pressed into it btw. How we learned hand to hand and to yell Kill Kill Kill, allot was packed into nine weeks, more than I have written here thats for sure. I honestly could fill a book. Most of the time i had my hair in corn rows because of the other girls in my barracks, they looked out for me like I was a pet almost. I was lucky in the people that I met. Ive always been lucky that way. Then graduation day rolled around, we spent the night before polishing boots and floors and then right before bed DS Williams a giant of a man who said not one word the entire time we had known him turned on the water hose and had us remove our dog tags and toss them into the now muddy pit in front of our building…then we low crawled…in our shiny boots and pressed uniforms…we were so angry until we looked up and saw the huge grin on his face as he took a running jump and slid down the hill right into the middle of us. Then we all lost it. It was a blast, a dirty filthy blast.
After graduation my mom and dad picked me up in my Uncle Bills blue sports car with the pink zebra seats…Uncle Bill was a bit ahead of his time. Mckenzie had no one so he rode with us. First stop Fast food! After that we went to Wal Mart and I panicked, it was to loud, to crowded, I wanted to yell at people to move to the side etc…it was a relief to head back to post after that, I got on the bus the next day headed to Fort Gordon GA for A.I.T. My A.I.T. was a year long. it was a very eventful year…
To be Continued...