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Thursday, April 13, 2017

It Was 27 Years Ago Today... I Joined the Air Force.

            The one thing about being older is noticing how much time flies. For instance, the end of this school year marks 28 years since I learned in a high school, well, if you don’t include the time when I finished teaching high school, which was still 13 years ago. If I think about life since I left England, that event would be 21 years ago in July. It was 29 years ago that I broke my arm when my friend fell asleep at the wheel and drove off the road. Hell, it’s been 19 years since my first trip driving across America. I’ve been in a classroom for 16.5 years. Big D, my Godson, has been smiling on this earth for over 3.5 years!

             And let's not forget that it's not even 6 months since I've been diagnosed with Parkinson's, though I've known for almost 7 months. Oh, and I'm supported by my wife who I've been married to for 8 years in August and been dating for just about 9.5 years.

            Additionally and importantly for my life as a whole, today marks 27 years since I began Air Force Basic Training.
            All things considered, I learned an equal amount of things because of my time in the Air Force as I did after my time in the Air Force.
            To begin with, I learned that I was in fear of authority when I went in. It didn’t take long for the Training Instructors to pick up on this. At that point, I needed to have the fear mentally removed. Personally, I would have rather they made me do pushups than just yell at me. At least I’d have Hulk Hogan sized arms to show for it.

            I also learned that despite never being a runner in my life, I could push myself to stay with the group. The last run of training was 2.5 miles. I could have done a lot more. I regret not pushing myself to stick with it. Now, my dystonia toes limit how I can’t walk in sneakers. However, at the time, I did well, and I never fell behind or walked on a run.
            I learned that I should probably have shut my mouth before I spoke a lot of the time. Then again, I would have never been a chow runner (my advanced speaking to hateful audiences course), I would have never spent an extra week in Basic Training (my advanced lack of confidence in isolation course), and I would not have attended the "University of Bury St. Edmunds" (not a school I attended, mind you, just a name for the real life learning I experienced for about 7 months after the Air Force), met great people (and some sucky ones, too, who thought that when they were green lighted to retribution, they could do whatever, however), and finally figured out that despite not getting it in the Air Force or doing a job I was interested in, let alone could do well (I was a medical LPN type - a "nicht so gut" one in the words of the Germans, I might add), I could learn that I had discipline, drive, and standards, even if to tell civilians that there are consequences for mistakes often goes against their snowflake / entitlement views. I lived and learned, for better or worse. I don’t regret learning. It’s a part of life. Hell, I took all the same lessons, too, regardless of what I thought was and wasn't fair.

            I may regret not seeing Europe more in those days (I did see Nirvana before "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was a single), but I don’t regret learning, though a lot of the post-high school macho posturing and that sort of bull caca can vanish with the ghosts of the dinosaurs.
            I don’t regret my mistakes because they helped eliminate the old me. That said, he had to go. As you can see from this confidence course video (that I do show in my classes), if you don’t believe you’re capable of getting over the water, you’re not. That’s why I swam that day (in my boots and birth control glasses). Life is all about the Stockdale Paradox. For this, I confront my setbacks, but I know I will prevail in the end. Even Michael Jordan missed final shots. Still, he went on to be the guy who wanted the ball at the end. What other choice is there but to give it to the best with the game on the line?

            On another note, I named 2 of the characters in The Rules of the Game after my Training Instructors (Sgts. Rouse and Honig). Making them football coaches for the persona of my nephew CJ was done with tribute and respect. I’m not sure they’d want to have a drink with me, but it would be interesting to say, “Here I am now! Thanks for doing your best to make me better.” I'm glad you did because now you're 2 of the 3 biggest influences on Colin Jameson!
            If you’re interested in the much longer version of the story, check out the rest. If not, thanks for coming by. It is LONNNGGGGGGG. Most of my stuff is. No matter what, I appreciate having you as a reader!


Most of our younger days do fly by if we look at it in proper perspective. That said, when we’re waiting for school to end for the summer or forever or whatever place we want to get to, Christmas for instance, the time between never ends quickly enough.
In those days of youth, my life was changing rapidly as I had finally graduated from high school, and I was getting ready for my destiny in later life. It couldn’t happen quickly enough, but that said, just because public school ended didn’t mean that the learning stages of life had ended. The reality was clear: I had to do something, so I went in the Air Force.
My father was a Marine. Semper Fi, always faithful, once a Marine, always a Marine. I went in the Air Force because it seemed like the thing to do. I hadn’t done well at high school, so I figured what the heck. As an angry young man – well, actually teenager, I couldn’t accept the offer from my parents to pay tuition and to be sent to college and always know that someone else made me who I was, so I went and did something else that was all my doing: redirected my scrawny, geeky, rebellious self to the athletic and rigid military. I was a teenager consumed in the bullshit of my mind and my understanding of the universe, so I made a simple choice.

The Air Force called and I answered.
Originally, I thought about the Army, but in all honesty that was only because they would talk to me. I liked being talked to, and I liked the fact that they were willing to take me out for lunch, which was half the fun of signing up. Even when I was in 11th grade and my friend MG signed up for the military, he stressed the point and purpose of monthly pizza parties. I guess it makes it easier to choose army greens over all the other uniforms, so equally non-distinct, save for the Marines, but that’s a whole other can of worms. I talked to the Marines, too, but that was just to get out of school. They did a good job selling it, and for a split second I thought maybe until my dad informed me that they would have sent me home in a box.
In the end, I joined the Air Force because of the brainwashing job that they did on my friend TL. Coincidentally, he didn’t even last two years in the military, but that’s another story altogether. Prior to all of this, he sold me on the idea of 2 people to a room, 6 weeks of Basic Training, and I am sure he sold me on several other things as well, though none of those stand out to me at the moment. Besides, everyone was joining the military at the time. My best friends K and T were already signed up for the Army, and there was a sense that I would join the Army as well. When the movement to action happened, I came within one night of being a member of the Army, which was only stopped because I didn’t take a drive up to MEPS, otherwise known as the Military Entrance Processing Station. However, I decided not to go after talking things over with my mom, who felt that there was no point going if I wasn’t going to sign. I called the recruiter and cancelled, and he was upset, but not upset enough to not give me another free lunch, though I still turned him and his fine career opportunity down in the end.

The Air Force was still the best option available.
For all that the feeling of “purpose in life” would have later, there was something else that was going to have potential implications for the immediate future was the consequences of what it meant to have a steel plate on my right arm (from the aforementioned car crash).
This metal device was hinged into place with 3 solid screws boring deep into my radius. As a result, I was barred from entering the military with the plate intact, and therefore, since I couldn’t pass the physical, the Air Force had no time and / or patience for me. The Army talked to me because they wanted to get all of their ducks in a row when it came to meeting new entrant quotas, and to be honest, I wanted to be talked to. I didn’t want to be in school at the time, and I wanted to do something towards a future, which was a two-fold thing in that it kept my parents off my back as well.
Months of uncertainty and my stupidity drifting through high school days passed, and when the plate came out toward the end of my senior year, I still had several weeks to wait before I could get a doctor’s approval to say that I was capable of doing whatever motions it was that I needed to be doing with my arm. Like all things, the necessary time quickly passed, and I was given the note, and then it was off to sign up for the Air Force.
Even in signing up, I was never wooed. There was never a feeling of “you’re our boy, so let us take you out to dinner so we can wine you and dine you before we let you get yours in Basic Training, Fresh Meat.” Instead, I was made to feel like a fish that was going to bite, get reeled in, and be here now, waiting the required amount of time until I would become one of them in some participatorial orgiastic love fest where my sorry ass trainee self would be the main course.
The time went by quickly from early summer 1989 until April 13th of 1990. In many ways, it was the time of my life, and the social life I never had before had now taken off fully, and before I knew it, March was here, and just like that, I was 40 days from going in. When the countdown first began, I never thought the time would get to the point where it was actually here. When you’re young, 300 or so days of waiting is an eternity, and it was meant to be experienced without worry or contemplation, and so that’s what I did. I just never found a cause to want to think about it.
Nevertheless, everything changed when I was on a date with this girl going to see Born on the 4th of July. That night, everything was going well. It was strange, but it just ended as I realized that I was going into the Air Force and this was going to be my life. I never thought about being paralyzed or some crazy wartime incident because I was going into the Air Force. I wasn’t going to be carrying an M-16 and firing bullets at Soviet troops or even doing something as cool as throwing a grenade into an open foxhole, Rush’n Attack style. I was just going into the military, whatever that would be. All I knew is that I was going to get yelled at a lot in Basic Training, which was the main focus of my contemplations at that minute. Thus, there was nothing else to do with said girl, so home I went to think about this revelation instead of making out, which was what I should have been thinking about.
As I thought about it, I thought back over these last few months, and thought about how even when my ex-girlfriend D would tell me that I was going into the Air Force, hearing that I was leaving didn’t mean the same thing to me as it must have meant to her at the time. Maybe that’s because she was facing the decision to wait for me more than I was thinking about waiting for her. It’s not that I wouldn’t have sent letters and done everything to come back home to her; it’s just that the future was never a concern of mine in those 18-year old days.
However, when all of that changed, I was 40 days away from the military, and it was a ton of bricks over my head.
Forty days of freedom until the Air Force. Damn.
Time flew by quickly. The time I spent with friends and casual acquaintances seemed precious and so full of meaning. I felt like Dostoevsky, contemplating the need to not waste a single minute of the freedom, which I had been given as a gift, so I felt that I had to do so many things before I went in. I wasn’t allowed to waste any of my valuable time.
And that’s what I did, though truth be told, I wasted a lot of money on records, tapes, and CDs.
On April 12, 1990, I left for Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, via the New Cumberland Military Entrance Processing Station, otherwise known as MEPS. This is where I would do my final duck walk, drug tests, weigh-in, and swear my allegiance to country, God, and anything else that said, “HEY! This kid is getting on with his life,” or at the very least, he’s willing to fill a position with us for the next four years and / or be fresh meat for Training Instructor insults.
As my parents put me on the bus, my mom and I cried a little bit, but in a short while, I was OK, thinking about all of the things that were disappearing behind me until I returned again a new man. At that point, I knew that the military could do that for people, but I never thought that they could make an adult man out of me. That said, I never consciously thought that they would fail either.
That night, the rest of the military recruits who were hanging out at the Holiday Inn were partying the night away, but I watched one of the Rambo movies on TV, wondering what the next day would be like, and eventually, I fell asleep before it was even that late.
The next movie that I would remember watching would be Full Metal Jacket. Everyone watches Full Metal Jacket after Basic Training and reflects on how difficult it was for him or her to get through even though we were in no way in the Vietnam era military. Each squadron is worse than the other squadron. There is a reputation to uphold and each Technical Instructor lets the squadrons know just how worthless they are until they can get through their training (and maybe not even then). You won’t have it as easy at the 11th as some of those other places, that’s for sure.
The torments, the lack of sleep, the way that people could be made to look bad no matter what, the way that people could cut right into you and let you know without a doubt that you could be made to suffer, and that if there was a reprieve it would only be because the reason why trainees have not fallen already, and do not fall now, is only that the Training Instructor's appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. The Training Instructor will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.
The truth is the same in 1990 as it was in 1741 for Jonathan Edwards. I am sure the truth is still the same in 2017. This is how it has always been done.
The whole group idea of bonding over a movie with regard to this common experience seems ridiculous now, but just as I would never be a high school student again, I would never go back to walk the same path to take myself back through Basic Training again, even though it enabled me to do many things that I could never have done without it, most importantly teaching and battling Parkinson's. Simply put, it is a place that some of us see and experience, which makes us who we are, but it’s not a good time. Instead, it’s a journey of adventure through intense standards and disrespect. That said, I do believe many of us need that at some point in time.
In a way it was good that I knew no other way than to walk than this path. I knew that to back out was akin to failure.
In that moment of transition, I went to my processing, and MEPS was a breeze. The flight from Harrisburg to Chicago was a breeze as well. I just went with the flow, and fate moved me closer to San Antonio and the bus to Lackland. I wrote my first of ten million Air Force letters to this gal L, a girl that I had known from my time at the Loft, a local dance place. I have no idea why I wrote her instead of someone like S, C, K, A, A, or S; I just did.
It’s amazing the remembrances of these things past, which fly off my fingers when I’m accumulating my life’s lived-out expression. I am Proust. I am Miller. I am Kerouac.
My life is my story. Let it all be told.
Such a long long time to be gone, and a short time to be there…
I didn’t feel nervous on my airplane journey into the military. After the tears of parting onto the bus, things became quiet and subdued. I really wasn’t feeling anything except hours of transition. All the same, I wasn’t excited at all. Nevertheless, as time moved closer to Lackland, I was ready to get trounced. Like all things, time moves, and eventually, I ended up sitting in San Antonio airport waiting for all of the remaining future airmen to arrive and join me for the final 20 minute bus ride to Lackland. Nobody talked. In fact, it was a strangely mute time.
Even years later, I can still remember the lyrics to the Cateran’s version of the Byrds’ “Time Between, which filled my head: “The only pain I feel is all this time between you and me.”
For as long as I can remember, the songs and sentences of the great authors and singers have spun in my head and have come to make me real. They make sense of the crashing of star systems into one another. They express past lives, future lives, and the sacrificial attitude toward the now. They are the paying back of all things past, the hopes for a better tomorrow and an inability to connect any of the dots together to walk up and say “Hey! I’m Dan, and you seem like my kind of a person.” Like some kind of idiot junior high school cheerleader, I can hear myself telling people that I’d like to get to know them while jumping around, shaking pom poms, and twirling my pigtails for all those people around me to feel energized by.
Sadly, I could never be that person because I’m too withdrawn socially in new settings.
Rather than living excitedly for what is coming to be, for too much of my existence, life was a vicarious expression of the joy of seeing and reading about other lives led, lives that can still turn out in ways that have not experienced even a fragment of what is going on around me now. Thus, life has become a concert in my mind, subconscious and realized. It is all here, and the truth is somewhere in the genius that is music and literature.
The swirling and twirling of synth pop over words: “Standing in a dream weaving through the crowded streets leaving you again endlessly.”
When music is gone, I am a fragment of the man that I was. Memories of the loss of music, and the feelings of getting it back, even if only in the form of the songs on Ratt’s first album, is something that is not to be taken lightly. When I said goodbye to music for the first part of going into the military, I was without my safety net.
When I was forced to stay in a crowd with no hope for alone time, I was cut off from a hope for sanity. I needed my own time. I needed to be by myself to recharge, even if it was only on a drive from here to there. Too much time with people is a concept that has never been easy, and in the years since those moments of Basic Training, even when I tried to get back to my kind of people, people who would understand and accept me without reservations, I was still conscious of my need to be alone and vent the pressure of feelings and emotions that lurk underneath my skin and my need to force my pressures out consciously or unconsciously. These are the provisions that I have drawn up for me, and I live within the confines of my protective force field. I do not try to go outside of it. I have learned only too well what happens when I go against the grain of who I am. The easiest way to do this is to drive somewhere and sing along to music. I also do this by typing ideas and stories on my computer. In an ideal world, I combine the 2. That said, if I’m really lucky, I get to do that by going hiking, which I never really did prior to the Air Force. Now, I wish I could do it more.
At the time of my Air Force days, my conscious release was hand-writing in diaries. Since then, I abandoned that to the point where I not only did not write about things in the here and now, but I destroyed all of the journals and poetry of youth that I did write. As a result, I grew more internalized about things going on with and to me, although it should be said that instead of writing on a structured something, my reflections grew into a propensity of talking to myself about how I feel. Either way, it’s all just something that I have learned to deal with to examine my life like Socrates or Jay-Z would want me to.
“I’m like the dog. I never speak, but I understand.”
This statement of solitary reflection is being a man. There is no emotion. It’s just a fishing trip to a burned out forest that is split by a big river with 2 hearts. There is a feeling of what has been, what is, and what will be. There is a sense of me dealing with my shit. There is a sense of you and a plan of how I have to deal with your shit. If I can, I will solve both of our shit so we can function together, but if I can’t, I’ll reflect on me and mine since you need to be there for you, no matter how well I feel I can help you.
Through all of this shit, there is no tears, not for real life at least. Movies, yes, but there is no liquid emotion for real people and their lives unless the shit just starts to pile up and it gets to be too much. A man does what he can and that’s it. But that doesn’t mean I or we don’t feel. There is often a sense of pain that this shit causes me and the lack of control I get from seeing both of our shit end up this way. Nevertheless, rather than deal with this shit, there is a river that needs fished, and for me, the answer is to fish it, unless it can’t be fished due to the endless death that floats lifelessly in it, and then it’s clear that men just get their shit all over everything and what was once good becomes my shit to deal with because they just shit all over the place.
No matter how we look at it, sometimes, the world is just confusing and absurd and evil and ugly and rotten (though, clearly, this isn’t always the case). When it is, we get pulled into its deep end, and we can only see that the world is just shit, and even when it comes to time be acting on the shit of it all, there’s only so much shit that can be dealt with at any one time. Sometimes, it’s better to just internalize it because nobody wants to hear our shit either – unless they have to or they’ve come to believe that we need to be more open and honest with our feelings, which is all just a bunch of childish sing-songy shit anyway. In reality, people may be paid to deal with shit. They may love you and agree to deal with your shit for better or worse, but really, nobody in life going out collecting shit to unburden us unless there is something in it for them.
There’s always a game.
From my first days of adult-ing and the military, these are things that I learned from life and what I left behind, no matter what the Sasquatch-looking, flannel-clad grunge rockers of the world seemed to think and believe, much less the millennials, snowflakes, and metrosexuals of the world.
“We are our only saviors. We’re gonna build something this summer.”
There definitely are good days. Without them, why bother. Then again, part of life is dealing with ourselves and others as a bull in a china shop. Sometimes, the shit is metaphorical and referencing Hemingway’s short stories. Sometimes, it’s real and it sits in a sink in a Wisconsin rest stop. That was a horrible 12-day journey into the dark soul of America that I never want to drive back through. Whoever that vandal is, I hope he went through a karmic hell for what he did.
Nevertheless, for all that Rollins, Hemingway, Frost, and the existentialists taught me about being hardened to the ways of life, I did find a way back to writing about the now in more positive and cathartic ways (obviously), though I try to only write on reflections more than events in progress. Too much open-ended stuff with too many emotional attacks on people in everyday life is juvenile and who the heck wants to read that? I’ll save the open-ended rants for current events frustrations, but yeah… enough of that mental drifting away. Back to the story at hand.
I exited the bus, and I knew the abuse that was coming. I predicted it, and it came to me, but it took longer than I thought. I looked across the tarmac and saw an African-American guy in a King Tut jacket, wondering if he was going to take abuse for that, and I was shocked when it didn’t come. I was dressed as inconspicuously as possible, and here he was looking completely odd by my suburban white boy definition of odd (1990 was a different time in America, youngens).
How was I to know that the Back to African Roots Movement was off limits for all Training Instructors not named R. Lee Ermey?
I was a product of my upbringing, and my upbringing didn’t know the first thing about relating to African-American culture since I grew up in the suburban / rural Berks County of the day. However, 27 years later, I can name many hip hop stars and sing along with Lil’ Wayne reflecting how he is a venereal disease while helping a student write an A paper on the history of rap music. That definitely counts for something in making my cracker ass a little more “cultured” to the ways of the inner city.
From here, all of the trainees went upstairs to the dorm after we had been marched around on the drill pad long enough. We were given keys for our lockers, and these keys were on chains. We were then told that we needed to wear them tucked into our shirts, and I quickly placed mine beneath my shirt in an effort to keep the wolves that be away.
Almost expectedly, a short while later, I was yelled at for having my key exposed. I put it away for a second time, at least I thought that I did. Within a few minutes, I was being yelled at again. Somehow, I instinctively and stupidly responded that, “I ALREADY DID THAT.
And it came out like that: loud and smart ass and just the opposite of everything that the, “yes sir – I’m doing that as we speak” that I should have said was.
And so it was that these were words that would haunt me for the better part of the next two months: “I’m going to make your next weeks a living hell.
The response was calm and exact. It wasn’t a threat or a prediction. It was a promise, and to be honest, Sgt. Honig succeeded in that.
Sgt. Honig was a big man. He stood over 6 feet tall and was packed head to toe in solid muscle. I was 120 pounds, 5 foot 7ish of skinny, goofy gimp, who had only recently started getting in some semblance of out of shape as compared the lazy scrawny whatever that I had been.
In short, I was dead meat.
The next morning I woke up to hear my name called in loud commanding tones by the other Training Instructor, Sergeant Rouse.
Glass? Glass? Where’s Airman Glass?
I sprang to attention as soon as my feet hit the floor in front of him.
“Sir, Airman Glass reports as ordered.”
Loud and sarcastic were both gone.
I was given my first duty, which was to be the chow runner. It was my job to ask permission for the group to be seated, eat, and leave. In the course of going to do this, I would have to face 1-5 Training Instructors and all of the wrath and insults that they could dredge up in an attempt to make a fool out of me.
To be honest, it wasn’t very hard to trip that version of me up.
A person who was a chow runner would stand in front of these dudes, and he would have to remember the words line by line, word for word, and when he was given a card day one, it was impossible to get all of the words down pat immediately.
My first time up there, I was so nervous and forgetful to my lines that I was told to tell my flight that they could not eat because I was so inept or stupid or worthless or something that implied that I was less than dog shit.
Needless to say, I wasn’t looking forward to what would happen when I told 47 other guys that my stupidity, mouth, and lack of ability to make my mouth function properly were all going to cause them to go hungry. All the same, I told them, and after a pause that lasted longer than the Hundred Years War, I was told to retry. They got to eat, and I had about a minute or so to eat after those 116 years of standing there feeling like a complete dumbass.
Nevertheless, over time, I got used to eating quickly. I didn’t notice the taste of the food; I just inhaled it. We do what we have to do in those days of Basic Training, and after a while, the body doesn’t even notice; it just responds.
Eventually, I got good enough at my task, so they replaced me with someone else who was screwing up too regularly to let it be ignored, and he was made to suffer until he got it right.
All the same, it took a while to get good at facing confrontation and pressure. Now, I can honestly say that I’m not afraid to stand in front of a class and run the show from Day 1 for up to 4 hours at a time.
This is how life teaches us many things. Thus, we do what we need to do and we make it happen – unless we get a situation in substitute teaching in a ghetto school where the situation leaves us to feel like we’ll get a shiv in our side for daring to make angry post-teens learn. If we’re lucky, in this situation, we’ll just get a lot of shit talked on us. This shit will be in several languages, and it will let us know how little we are appreciated. However, we will do what we’ve committed to do because of several things. There is the obvious monetary gain, which proves that I was conclusively a whore in the situation at hand. Then, there is the fact that this is what men do. 
What's more, this is what Jackie Robinson would do. He would face a stadium full of ignorant ass racist slime and step to the plate with the fate of Black America resting solely on his shoulders. He would do this despite death threats to him. He would do this despite their hatred of his wife. He would do this in spite of threats to kidnap his son. He would do this when his own team got a petition together to not play baseball with him. And he did it all while promising Branch Rickey that he wouldn’t retaliate at all for a full three years.
To this, three hours is nothing. Going back to do it again is nothing. It’s so 5 years ago, and seeing as yesterday is history, 5 years ago is really the same forgotten ancient history that I ramble about in my asides and examples!
To think that I owe all of this to talking out of my ass the first night of Basic Training!
When I look back on Basic Training, there was only one thing that I did right: I never fell behind on a run. I actually got in better shape than I had been in my life, and to be honest, I might have only been sort of out of shape when it was over. In fact, I ran with a speed that I have never matched, and at this point in my life, I never will either since Parkinson's claimed my left toes with their curled up state while wearing sneakers. 
On my final run, I ran 2½ miles in 20 minutes, and felt like I could keep going forever. Unfortunately, after that, we were allowed to eat junk food, and I redeveloped my really bad addiction for caffeine, sugar, and lack of exercise. It is true; an object at rest remains at rest. Such was the end of the physical specimen that I had become. The only difference was that now I was 130 pounds, and I was actually getting solid (as opposed to the scrawny guy that I was coming in). At college, they call it the Freshman Fifteen, but in the Air Force, it was a new and better me.
The first weekend of Basic Training was the worst. I was constantly hammered for bouncing when I marched; that said, it wasn’t like I could do anything about it. My hips were and are turned weirdly, so my toes actually point inwards. As a result, I bounced the entire Basic Training session. I bounced through tech school, and I still bounce. I live with it, but the USAF people couldn't. The abuse got so bad that I counted down marches until I never had to march again. 
At one point, I was even forced to stand out on a balcony and think about what I was and wasn’t doing right. I'm not sure what they wanted me to think about, but they definitely wanted me to think about something. After an hour, I came in, but I couldn’t find the right room, and thus, I was forced to endure more abuse from the Training Instructors all for having a strangely-arranged body.
I think back to that and I know that there must have been some logic in being thrown out of the room and made to think about things for all of that time. I wonder now if I could have stayed out there for three hours if I wanted to. As I said, I’m not sure what I was supposed to think about, though. It’s not like I had talked back to my mom. I walk weird, and that’s it. Was I to relearn it, or was I just to have time away from getting yelled at? Maybe it was just to keep me from getting yelled at constantly by a training instructor who was already sick of yelling at me and who didn't want his karma to suck for having to spend more time getting yelled at.
To this type of punishment, I think of a teacher who I work with who had dyslexia as a kid. He told me how he used to have to clean chalkboards for not writing correctly. When he got to college, he was diagnosed and assisted by a professor, but not before he was subject to a lifetime of getting abused by teachers. He became a criminal justice major and still teaches law enforcement in his sixties after a lifetime in the field. I guess he got himself figured out after being “incompetent.”
Since that day, I think I have grown several lifetimes. I know there was a part of me that needed to die. Perhaps, he was killed off on that day. Maybe it was another day after that. Throughout all of the time in Basic Training, there was a lot of painful learning to remove the bad me from my life. However, for all of this, is it weird to say that I hope I have done these drill instructors proud and that I have managed to successfully abandon that person who stood out on the balcony crying that Easter night in 1990.
As a result of my inability to march, I was also viewed as a liability for our graded march, and so I was left on dorm guard when the group went to determine whether our flight or our brother flight was better at marching. When they went, we stayed in. The captain who was in charge of our squadron came in to see whether or not we knew the procedures for letting people in or not. I knew who he was, and I knew that he was allowed in, but he showed an unacceptable identification card, and so he was fuming at me for screwing up and letting him in. In my earlier life, I thought of this as he was upset in a way that only a person who feels a total lack of power in real life and a total attachment to his quasi-authority can feel. He seemed to gloat at his having got me, and I felt even more dehumanized as he sent me back for an extra week of Basic Training.
In my older life, I know that he was forcing attention to detail on me in a way that only a person in complete power and authority can possibly do. Things are either right or they’re wrong.
In the military, we were led to believe that if we didn’t do all things right, people could die. But those were peaceful times save an excursion that the US had in Panama, so what could possibly happen to members of the Air Force who lived on a training base if they didn’t pay 100% attention to detail?
 As of the day I first wrote this (I have updated it many times), there have been 43 attacks that saw terrorists in Afghanistan security forces uniforms kill over 60 Americans. This is in Afghanistan alone. There are many comparable incidents in civilian society, which see people have to be right on or be all wrong as well. Much of life is a situation that’s the high pressure that we put on ourselves and that other people put on us. Some of the time, it’s our neuroses, but other times, it’s real pressure. Mistakes cost money. Mistakes cost lives. Mistakes slow down the process.
The knucklehead in me needed to go, and the captain had all of his ducks placed in a line for eradication. He got three of the four people that he was sent to recycle. Let’s just say that he had his statistics analyzed so that with a minimal amount of effort, his final actions would be an efficient and effective removal of the problem spots.
An extra week of Basic Training isn’t a situation where you have to complete extra tasks. If you completed something, then it stands. What happens is that you have to endure extra verbal and mental garbage that is constantly dumped over your head, and you are forced to do things like guard duty, though it should be said that there is nothing to guard except a bay that has a door, which is locked so that nobody can get in. As Basic Training forces, we just aren’t trusted with keys. It’s kind of like working at most schools when it comes to giving out keys to anyone who doesn’t need to have them. Get away from me kid; you bother me.
Anyway, on a positive note, the dorm guard position allows the instructors to make us wake up in the middle of the night, walk around the dorm, and check people’s shoes for proper alignment and shine. This can be translated to mean it interrupts our sleep. It also gives the trainees the authority to wake other people up if they are not a satisfactory shoe-shining person by each individual’s standards.
And standards are all subjective.
I learned this too late, or I would have stepped on a few boot toes and forced people to do the same three in the morning boot shines that I was forced to do by certain assholes in my flight.
Then again, I’m not a big enough guy, now or then, to make that happen.
While I was recycled to my second flight, we were also given a guy who did something else to screw up. Like many people, he decided that since he didn’t want to be recycled, he was going to just quit. 
In real life, quitting is easy. People quit my classes all of the time. They just don’t come. Even when students were supposed to get a teacher’s signature, they rarely did. I would never argue with them. If that’s what you want, then just do it. Why should I have to get into an argument with you or try to sway your opinion if your heart isn’t in it? It's your life and your money. The path of you’ve already quit on yourself; have at it” was ingrained into me in much of the Air Force as my motto for those who can’t cut it in the world of education, which is what I currently work in. Still, despite their lack of having to be forced to answer why, most students would and still do just abandon the class altogether and stop coming without so much as a whimper other than the occasional “F--k you / go die, worthless teacher” letters I and my colleagues will occasionally get (in varying terms of hostility, but it’s all there whether it’s written or not). However, in the Air Force, you can’t just do that. In the Air Force, getting out takes a long period of time since the idea is to make people suffer for quitting. In addition, military members quickly learn that things aren’t done at your pace. They’re done at the worker’s pace and what the priorities are that he needs to do. Even getting sent to casual dorms means that it’s still a military mode of thinking, but now the difference is that the trainee is waiting to get back to his or her life until they’re good and ready to do issue it back.
That could take a lot of time.
The guy in question was a strong dude who was not really your prototypical quitter. He seemed to have his life together; it’s just that now he was handed defeat, and if we know anything from life it,’s that most people can’t take defeat. As is, I was suffering through my defeat, but I was inching on because I didn’t want to face coming home after quitting. Even if we’re not great or barely breathing, we’re still moving forward. But this guy was different. He decided to quit, so instead of letting him stay in our bay, he was moved to the Training Instructor’s quarters. His bed was literally carried down the stairs and to the hallway where he slept. Only, he didn’t sleep. His bed was kicked, and he was punished for being a quitter.
Training Instructors from all over the base would come into the hallway for a chance to make this guy suffer. Somehow, this guy survived the first night. He still thought about quitting after a full night of no sleep. By the second night, he either decided that he was wrong because the instructors were fully prepared to make him suffer through another night or he wanted to sleep at some point in his life. He came back to us and somehow became a competent airman who did what he had to do.
It was definitely one of those experiences that made me think.
Fortunately, I never thought about being so pigheaded, but alas, my time in Basic Training did carry its consequences. All in all, over seven weeks, I was made to break into a thousand pieces of my former self, and really, that was necessary. At the time, it was completely destructive to all that I was and all that I was hoping to be. Looking back on some of it, I find it funny, but at the time, it was a nightmare that couldn’t end soon enough.
The most amusing anecdote was the story of the first locker inspection that Sgt. Honig would perform. I was caught leaning against a locker early on. My elbow was against the locker when we were allowed to be at rest. Rather than me having to stand at “attention,” which we had to be at when he came to inspect us, I was doing my own thing. Until then, it was a state of “at rest, which meant stand straight, but we could move. I was way too casual for that.
With this came my punishment. Being that my last name begins with a G, the torment that he chose to inflict would last forever as we had to get through to Z. The question was what I would be forced to do. 
In the end, I was forced to stay leaning against the locker, and every time that my name was called, I would have to yell, “GQ,” which was changed to “GQ Daddy” when he got tired of just “GQ,” and finally it became, “Yo, what’s up GQ Daddy?” It seemed like this went on for longer than it takes Kuiper Belt objects to go around the sun, and when Honig finally got to the other side of the dormitory, I wasn’t excused. Instead, I had to follow him into the other bay so that the other side could watch me suffer.
At one point, one guy started to snicker, and Honig got in his face.
“Do you think this is funny?!!!!”
“Yes Sir.”
“You’re right it is, but if you laugh one more time, you’ll be up there with him.”
There were no more laughs, and nobody else came to join me. Finally, I was released and left to humbly plod across to my bunk. At least I still had the ability to laugh at myself, which shows that I could own my mistakes.
Basic Training was and is a time of immense changes and paranoia, and some of it seems conspiracy laden. An example of this is the idea of salt peter in the water to keep guys’ hormones under control. I would probably say the fear of morning wood is greater than the strength of any substance in keeping phalluses soft. 
But anyway, in some ways, it’s easy to divide the room into best and worst / leaders and followers. You pick leaders, and you divide them off from the group. A simple action such as offering cookies and soda to all who donate blood and refusing to let the leaders go when the lackeys can’t make their beds is the easiest place to start. It worked for our group. The leaders then make beds all day, and they come to resent the Average Joe slob when he returns to the barracks. The leaders are faced with firings and abuse if they don’t dole out the abuse. It creates a level of hostility and anger, a room of class distinctions and pyramids and hierarchies of who will stay in control. They did an experiment on it at Stanford in the early 1970s; you can read about it if you’re so inclined.
I don’t remember my leaders, but I do remember they were forced to go out of their way to be assholes. I can remember instant karma bitch slapping some Latino dude that was in charge of my row when he was teetering on the edge of firing. It’s amazing how compassionate people get when their naughty bits are hanging naked in the wind while waiting to be smacked by the biggest power in the room.
Today, as a teacher, I reflect on how I used to feel some of the need to act or be acted upon. Here, this was fail / discipline them or become a doormat. I think it’s worse as an adult to know what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and feeling resentment for being forced into this behavior, but at the same time, I know that it gets the job done, even if the job is often only done out of fear of reprisal in the form of a bad grades. This is easier with the powers that be backing things up. It becomes harder when the management eliminates standards and lets people walk through or take minimal watered-down words as a “teaching lesson.” This isn’t to say we want students to go to the firing squad, but we do want lateness, lack of work, and lack of ability to be graded accurately.
Some things are what they have to be.
In Basic Training, it was easy to have control over me since I had a fear of reprisal. Allowing your “superiors” to have this is akin to giving in before the game even begins. In a relationship, this is referred to as hand, and that was something that I never truly had in the situation of Basic Training.
Because of various times my lack of confidence and submission plagued my life, who I was as a man changed drastically. I became more unwilling to enter a situation that could cause failure and force me back into a situation where I have to give up control of my own life in the ways that I did during these time (i.e. relationships). On the good side, this protected me from hurt, but on a negative note, this caused me to be even more to myself than I was before, since I was less willing to take risks that could maybe lead to failure. Nevertheless, on another positive note, it caused me to be less inclined to do things such as drink excessively or be self-destructive or to be impulsive. On the good side, this keeps me from utter stupidities. 
Chris Christie was right. If it looks stupid, it is stupid and you’re going to wind up hurting yourselves and others.Still, it did nothing to protect me from getting involved in every situation that couldn’t end up anywhere good because I can and did still make mistakes.
Additionally, my time in dealing with Basic Training, Air Force people, and other people who weren’t compatible to me, caused me to be even more standoffish against anything that goes against my way of thinking than I ever felt before. I am more challenging of what is absurd or out of control, and for this I have improved dramatically in confronting things that need confronted. It’s just sometimes there are better ways to handle it than I have in the past, and at other times, some things just don't need to be confronted. For the longest time, I went through life saying how there will be no rolling over to appease anyone’s ego. If something needed to be dealt with, it would be handled in a way where I would win. I would line up all my ducks in a row, cross my Ts and dot my I’s. Then, I realized that I was becoming all the things I didn’t like. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a thing that I need to be conscious of because in the real world, there are ways that things are done and ways that things need to be done. Sometimes, it’s the difference between efficient and effective.
In short, there’s one answer that works in a world that is outside of human emotion and another than involves people's feelings.
I never wanted to live in that fear again, and yet I haven’t been able to shake some of those fears. The same fear I had for whether or not I would pass a locker inspection is passed off on the question, “Did I say or do the right thing?” I have developed the trait of obsessive worrying, and I can feel things eat away at me, gnawing and never letting go. I cannot shake them. These neuroses can even affect me with headaches and nausea (extreme butterflies - not vomiting, mind you) when they are at their worst. Perhaps this change began when I was young, having to make things perfect for others or just to not make the same mistakes again, but I don’t recall the fear existing the way that it did in my days in the Air Force.
In those Air Force years, I can remember wondering if something would disqualify me from service. I can remember wondering if I would be sent home prior to getting my haircut, standing there in tears on the balcony, knowing that things were out of my hands in so many ways. I can remember wondering what my friends were doing. Would they still like me if I got kicked out of the Air Force? Would they still be the same? What would my parents think?
In the end, my parents were happy that I made it, yet they were concerned for the trouble that I was having getting through. They came to visit me for graduation, and I was overwhelmed to see them. It was good to be around people I knew who cared about me. My aunt Toot and cousin Ben came with as well. They recorded graduation, and they also recorded a poem that I wrote read for some other ceremony thing that the Air Force did. It was all too dramatic, and it is mocked by some of the people who watch it, and for this reason, I am paralyzed in fear just thinking of it, and so for this reason it no longer exists. The words don’t matter, but they express the fact that I felt ripped apart and alone, yet changed for the better. My overly emotional teenage state made me a liability to so many things, but no place did it make me more vulnerable to myself than at Basic Training.
On a side note that reflects the extreme's of what Basic Training used to be, my aunt tried to bring me cookies as well, but I refused to take them after hearing how my dad saw a Marine, who was in his Basic Training, was sent cookies. For his crime, he was forced to eat all of the ones that were sent to him regardless of how sick it made him. I wasn’t going to go through that ordeal of puking out the old and eating the new.

At one point prior to the end of those Lackland days, I was so desperate for escape that I took a day off to go to see a priest with some guy from North Carolina named W (interestingly enough, nobody had first names in Basic Training). This was a good excuse to go somewhere where there was no true supervision, and it was where a person could sit around and spend a day unwinding. It was a good way to de-stress, and it helped for the day, but it wasn’t a penance, and it wasn’t a saving grace; it was just a place in the middle of a hurricane where the swirling sides could not touch me and for that I was thankful.
I can’t say that I went there with break in mind, but when it was over, I didn’t mind that this was what I got out of the day.
Finally, after seven long weeks, I crashed through the sides of the storm, and it was over. Just like that, nothing was left anymore except to leave. We dressed in our blues and headed off to Shepherd Air Force Base, a fine military town in the most sarcastic form of the word. For all of the reasons that go with the Texas / Oklahoma border mentality and the military base atmosphere, I really hated being there in the midst of Cowboy, Texas, as an East Coast Suburban guy, but I also came to truly resent the Air Force for my own inability to fit in, even though subconsciously, I really wanted to fit in and to make myself belong in the wild blue yonder.

The good thing was that at the very least, I wasn’t in Basic Training anymore. Instead, now I was in tech school, and I was memorizing the facts that would make me pass all of my tests that I needed to complete in order to be a medic. I can’t think of very much that happened during those times. I took my classes, I studied in the mornings because I was made to study, and I kind of hung out in the evenings until I had to be back for my curfew. About 3 months later, I transferred to Mather Air Force Base outside of Sacramento and I really came to realize how little I knew about the medical process that I was a part of. As I have said elsewhere, the time at Mather was a time of lots of drinking and hanging out. In looking back on all of it, it’s amazing how little can be said about some parts of our lives where we’re spinning our wheels and not really doing much at all.
Such is the nature of man.
Fortunately, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, but unfortunately, it ended up being the metaphorical train that hit me while I was heading home on November 21, 1990. After out-processing, we all hit the planes that would take us home for Thanksgiving.
And like that, I finally got to fly home and see what the other side looked like as people got to see who I was. I don’t know if anyone liked me any less or more than I did. In fact, I was just some twisted and contorted version of the old me in a blue uniform with a single stripe on my sleeve and one ribbon on my chest.
Thus, this stream of conscious story hits another wall that we’ve already crossed, and it leaves me to face the future of my life, which was really just spinning my wheels in another country. It’s like the part in Forrest Gump where life is all Jackson Browne all of the time, and Forrest is running and running and running and people are following him, but there’s no real reason why. They are all just running through the empty highways of America, and so was I. Forrest has got a huge beard, and he’s got Jenny on his mind. He’s still running and running. In fact, Jackson Browne is still playing and he’s nowhere near “Running on Empty.” He doesn’t know where he’s going, he just running on.
And so was I.
Even though there are times I think about how I’ve stopped, I realize there’s no solitary running from. Instead, it’s a group hike to something better.

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