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Entry date: 5-10-2022 - The First Couple Days of Army Life - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

If you can take your mind back to 1987, you can imagine what the bus I rode in as I traveled the hundred or so miles to Fort Benning looked like on the inside. It was basically just a step up from a school bus, with tan interior and it was full of nervous dudes. I didn’t know whether to strike up a conversation or just sleep. Something told me that I wasn’t going to get much rest that night.

As I mentioned yesterday, we were walked into a decent sized meeting hall in the Reception Battalion. This was a new building, at the time, on base and was very modern for 1987. The floors were so shiny and smooth. Little did I know that I would become very aware of just how this happened to be in a matter of days.

We were given the whole speech about what it meant to be in the room and how expectations would be high. It lasted about half an hour or so. There were a lot of bleary eyes, including mine, and we warned that 0500 would be approaching fast. The second to last thing we had to do was go into a little room and dispose of any contraband we may have had. This was basically anything that wasn’t clothing or toiletries. We were going to be searched thoroughly before bed.

I went in the room thinking I didn’t need to take anything out of my bad but did a quick search anyway and I’m glad I did. If you’ve been following along, you may remember that Michael and I got searched at the border going into Mexico on Labor Day weekend a few weeks earlier. The border cops had found a cigarette wrapper that had two tabs of LSD in it. They had been used, but I could have probably still been busted for them.

Rather than throw them away in Mexico, I had forgotten about them again and they had made it to Fort Benning with me. I disposed of them in the can and felt comfortable about being searched. After we got our bags torn through, we were led to a room that contained the most bunk beds I have ever seen in one place. I found one that looked good to me and for the first time in my life, slept in a room with about 75 people I had just met.

It was about to begin.

I distinctly remember sleeping the sleep of the dead that night. It was as if the weight of the last six months or so was off my shoulders. I was finally there. It had also been such an emotional few days of goodbyes and wondering when I would see my friends and family again. Best case scenario, it would be right around Christmas time before I would see anybody.

Being in a huge room of people who were in the same boat as me was comforting. I can see it now, row after row of bunk beds. Just like in the movies, there was a footlocker on each end and space enough for two people to walk or stand in between each row. I’d have to guess, but I’d say the room could sleep at least 120 soldiers if necessary.

There was a huge bathroom, as well, with tons of stalls and sinks and showers. They were private showers, thankfully, as I have never been fond of the communal shower thing, and because the building was just a few months old when I got there, everything was new and clean. I’m not going to say I was truly comfortable at that point, but it could have been way worse, for sure.

When reveille began at 0500, I was excited to see what the day would be like. It was a Thursday morning and the chatter started to go around as people got dressed that since it was so late in the week, we would not be starting basic until Monday morning. I remember being disappointed that it was going take that long and wondered what we would be doing for four days.

One of the first parts of army life I was introduced to was breakfast. We went into the mess hall, which was all stainless steel and glass and institutional style long tables and benches. I’ve never been much of a breakfast person, so I was not pleased to see the large heaps of food on my plate. It wasn’t terrible, to be honest, but it was a lot.

We were given seven minutes to eat from the time we sat down and started our meal. This seemed a daunting task, at first, but you get used to it. Even though I was there for just a short time, it took me years to break the habit of eating quickly and still do if I don’t think about it. It’s weird how stuff like that sticks with you.

I learned that first morning that you eat what you are given. I’m not going to be dramatic and say that I learned the hard way because I didn’t need to learn the hard way. I learned by watching poor slobs who were in line before me get berated in a vigorous and thorough manner about how ungrateful they were or wasteful. When you’re still in your civilian clothes and there is an angry man in uniform yelling at you, you feel even less like a person than ever.

By the end of that morning, though, we were all in uniform. You get measured for everything and then you are given your new attire. T-shirts, boxers, socks, shirts, pants, a couple hats, boots, all of it. Prior to walking in, I was handed three or four, I can’t remember exactly, small green strips with my name on it, as well as my dog tags. After you get your sizes, you give the strips with your name on it and they sew it onto your uniform shirt.

Private Reardon, reporting for duty, I suppose.

See you tomorrow.

The King and friends. Stole this off the internet.

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