This was a long time ago, October 23 1965, and I am now white-haired and fat but I remember that day as if only a few years ago. Who wouldn’t? A Major General in the U.S. Army hands you a medal after the eight hardest weeks of your life and says, “Congratulations”.
I was a youngster like countless thousands of others who decided to sign up for the cause, or to otherwise show up when called.
Actually, I was drafted, but since I was married the induction center informed me that my marriage status prevented me from being inducted and they would just process me right on out. There were hundreds of young men there at the induction center, calmly waiting in line. I felt that I was one of them and was there for all the right reasons. I argued. Wait a minute. Just hold it. What if I want to anyway? Well, then, I guess we could. Hang on, I’ll call my wife. OK. I called her and she said You Should Do What You Want To Do.
Those were among the most important words I’ve ever heard and to this day I congratulate her for offering them up. Thirty minutes later I was sworn in and inducted into the United States Army.
It was August 21, 1965. I don’t regret a split second of any of it.
For some strange reason I loved Basic Training. It was like I was born for it. I can’t explain that. My entire life before would have seemingly negated this possibility. Neither can I explain some of the things I did during Basic which eventually led to my being awarded the American Spirit Honor medal.
But it was all good. This is what we do.
Now my youngest son has joined the U.S. Air Force and will be showing up for work just about now, Monday, January 21 at Lackland. It’s called Basic Military Training. And it’s going to be the first time in his life he’ll be yelled at for simply existing, for being alive, for being within eye-shot of a Drill Sergeant. Oh Man, I’m grinning as I write; I just can’t help it. Many of us have gone through this and we know how his world will be changed.
But he’ll get through it. He might even excel. He’ll evolve into a member of a team, one of the best teams on the planet. When he walks away from Lackland he’ll be walking tall and straight and he’ll be a new man. Since he was a damn good man to start with that’s saying something. But that’s the idea behind our military. Take the best of the best and then grow them some more.
The American Spirit Honor Medal has been discontinued. Now all trainees who make it to and through Basic Training are correctly considered exceptional. All of them will develop, hone and demonstrate leadership skills, and survival skills, equal to anything any of us could ask from any hero.
My son will be among those men. I hereby award him the American Spirit Honor Medal.