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Entry date: 5-11-2022 - The Beginning of... well, something... - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

The next couple of days in my army life are a blur in my memory. I have possibly blocked them out because what happened on Monday, September 21, is so strongly etched there, but I will do my best to remember them.

I had expected it to be one of those situations where I would meet my drill sergeant right away and it would be akin to the beginning of the film, Stripes (which is a favorite of mine, by the way) and I would meet my own personal Sgt. Hulka. This was not the case. I did get to meet the staff who oversaw the reception battalion, where we were waiting, and they were mostly a bunch of dicks.

I wonder if those guys were ones that were not great at doing anything except scaring the shit out of new recruits? They were definitely good at that. I mentioned “Jesus” earlier. Poor, dumb kid showed up with long hair and they rode his ass for those first few days.

I mostly kept to myself and just paid attention to what was going on. The cues were all laid out as to how to be successful. Do what your told, do it quickly, and only ask questions if given the opportunity. Even then, try not to ask questions. Speak only when necessary, too, if you want to avoid being told how “fucking” stupid you were.

Inserting the word “fuck” into every sentence is a way of life in the army. I learned this quickly. Those first few days at Fort Benning may have been the first times in my life I was addressed as “Fucktard” or a “Fucking fuckwit,” for example. I can’t remember if it was Friday or Saturday (so, day two or three) of being there, but we did our fitness tests. The swear words rained down like some sort of verbal hellfire that day.

I was more than ready for those tests, so I breezed through them. It felt good to run in the Georgia air, which was much cooler and wetter than Phoenix. The pushups and sit ups were no problem but for some dudes, they couldn’t do more than one or two. This meant that they were called all manner of things that insult a guy’s manhood.

We also got to sit through many hours of something like training, I suppose to get us gung-ho about our decision. One of these was a presentation about the President’s Guard. This is a unit of the army that is assigned to the President. This unit is part special forces, part undercover, and part ceremonial. I was very intrigued by this as one of the prerequisites for acceptance to the President’s Guard is being over 6’2” tall. At the end of the presentation, I figured, “What the hell?” and filled out the application.

On Sunday, September 20th, I went to church. I have never been super religious but grew up going to church with my grandparents semi-often, and it was something to do. I’ve never admitted this to anyone but that day I took my first communion. I never did the whole “first communion” thing as a kid and for some comfort, I suppose, I took it at Benning.

By this point, I was pretty sure I had made a bad decision. The main reason for this is that the vast majority of people I came in contact with those first few days were morons. I don’t use that term lightly, either. They were fucking dumb.

Maybe I am, too. I realized this now. I was dumb enough to sign up. I was dumb enough to take daring the universe to kick me out before I left home too far. I was not even 18 yet and didn’t know, as my grandmother would say, “Sickum.” I was quickly becoming miserable and felt like an idiot for being there.

I was also getting sick.

It was probably the physical training (PT) that did me in. We had shorts and a t-shirt to wear for the running and such and it was pretty chilly when we were out exercising. By Sunday night, the night before I was supposed to go into basic training, I was running a fever and completely stopped up. In a way, you can say that cold may have saved my life.

The next morning, when reveille played, I was sick as a dog. I went to one of the sergeants who was barking at us to get out shit together and get ready for the ride to basic and told him I was sick. He looked at me like I was a piece of human shit, called me a “pussy faggot,” and said to get my shit and get out to the busses.

I didn’t know what to do. I knew that I was not going to fair well, so I asked again, to just see a medic and get some medicine, something, because I was actually sick. More swear words were hurled at me. I can see his face as I type this. He was probably mid-twenties and looked a bit like Robert Patrick, the guy who played the evil Terminator in T2.

He pointed to a door and said, “Get your faggot ass in there.”

I went into the room and there were a few other sick soldiers in there. In a few minutes, the medic came and took me into a small office. He asked me what was wrong, and I shared my symptoms. He asked me where I was from and when I said, “Arizona,” he said, “No wonder. You have a climate cold. Everyone gets them this time of year.” He rummaged around in his desk and gave me a tube-like thing.

“Squirt this up into your nose and it’ll clear you up. It smells like shit, so be ready.”

I told him it was no problem because I had no sense of smell. He asked why, so I shared about my concussion, and he started looking for my medical file. He read through it and said, “You’re not going to basic today. We have to get you checked out.”

He wrote a few quick scribbles on a form, told me to give it to the T2 Sergeant guy, and said to go back to bed because I wasn't going to basic that day.

It got really interesting from there.

See you tomorrow.

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