Again, going through old photos, I came across two from my training days in the Army. Hopefully, I’ll find more to share. It was so long ago.
Daughter of a Marine. Praised many times as being an even better Marine than his recruits. I could pour water at the age of five without spilling a drop or shaking an ice-cube. I perfected hospital corners that could stab you as you walked by when I was seven. My “dress” was always functional and precise. I had a “foot locker.” In school I had been known to salute, march and stand at perfect attention. I remember even calling cadence and teaching my girls to march when we attended a Science Fiction Convention. 🙂 I was not a brat. There really isn’t such a thing as a Marine Brat.
My father was a Marine during the “Full Metal Jacket” days. Before Marines were “retrained” to function in civilian society. He pointed with a full hand. He punished me equally with beatings and push ups. He used and abused me. He may have been a damn good Marine; he seemed to make other Marines shiver in awe. But he was a horrible father. He raised a Marine. I served 18 years in the Marine Corps. I was an excellent Marine. But I needed a vacation, so I joined the U.S. Army.
When I arrived at Receiving in Fort Jackson, South Carolina, I had no problem switching into “training mode.” I had been in it all my life. I showed up on a Friday night and spent the weekend teaching the other recruits how to do a proper push up. We had to do just ONE to make it to Basic. If you didn’t you had to stay behind until you learned how.
January 9, 1989, Monday morning at 4:30 am I was ready to go when the Drill Sergeants came banging into the barracks to propel us with their vocal brawn onto the buses that would take us to our Training Barracks. I remember seeing the Chaplain badge on the lapel of one as I stowed my duffel. I fought not to cringe knowing this Basic was going to be Hell on Earth because the Chaplain had God in his pocket and knew he wouldn’t kill us. Then as I started to climb into the bus, I was met by a loud, short, woman Drill Sergeant and stumbled. Seeing her was not what I was hoping for. Everyone knows female Drill Sergeants are the hardest. Not to mention, I was taller than her. I remember thinking I was going to die. Thankfully, I was not assigned to her platoon, but I was assigned to the Chaplain’s platoon.
Throughout Basic I kept my head down. Did what I was supposed to do and tried to stay invisible. It worked for a time. Then I got mail. I can still hear the Drill Sergeants demanding to know who “PRIVATE MIX” was. That’s when my military career took on a whole new dimension. I was visible. Before that package arrived with contraband Sweettarts in it, the focus was on Private Sexton, an unfortunately attractive woman from Florida. Or the Alaskan, Private Itulmulria (Private Tomorrow). Even Private Baker, a tall, big, Black woman with a huge smile and a bigger butt. Nobody noticed the little Hawaiian girl because she never stepped out of line. It was my strategy. But that day, suddenly I became “Mixmaster.” It was my job to call cadence, “rap” for my mail, and sing. Argh. I still cringe when I think of it.
Not to reminisce too much about Basic, but from that moment on I was a different Private. I wasn’t afraid to show my strength. I put my bayonet all the way through my target. I excelled at Rifle Training. I threw my grenades with precision and distance. I sucked in the tear gas with fervor and vomited like a volcano. I excelled at everything put to me. All except the run. The run would be my nemesis my entire military career. I scooted in just under time every PT test. I love to run. But I’m a sprinter. I never did learn to do distances. I still haven’t.
When graduation came, I was excited. I had done something. Made a start. I was still very young. Still very new to the world. Still easily taken advantage of. My father appeared at evening formation the day before graduation; In his dress blues with every medal in his arsenal gleaming like a million suns. He outranked my Drill Sergeants. I died a little. They all dropped and did push ups. My father in his dress blues, my drill sergeants in BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniform.) I didn’t know I could die more, but I did. I was inspected and corrected. Eventually, we were “dismissed.” I was not. I was still speaking with my father at the time. After a brief discussion, I returned to my barracks, only to be re-summoned by my Drill Sergeants who wanted to know why I neglected to mention my Marine upbringing. As a friendly punishment, I remember doing push ups to “replace” the one’s my Drill Sergeants had to do with my father. Fifty each for a total of 250.
My military career was full of interesting times. Some fun. Some sad. Some just plain unbelievable. I can honestly say that when I left the Army, I didn’t want to go. The world made sense to me. I was succeeding at things I didn’t know I could do. I knew where I stood with everyone and I knew what my weakness was. I knew where to go for help when I couldn’t succeed. I was seeing the world and reinventing myself in a positive way. I didn’t want to return to a world where I was likely to be denigrated by those “closest” to me. But eventually, I did leave. I did return to the world.
I am proud of my military background. I am proud of the things I accomplished on my own. I am even proud to say, I joined the Army before it became and “Army of One,” but when we did “more before 9 am than most people do all day.”