boot camp…

Originally uploaded by jayfherron


I found the attached clip from a ‘comic’ book sometime in the summer of 1969…just weeks before I entered boot camp. Little did I know I would eventually mutter similar words.
As kids,comics were the form of entertainment -the variety was to wide for me to think of remembering them all,but I do remember the war comics as being some of our favorites.
Our street where I was a smaller boy looped through a hillside neighborhood that began at a higher level of the hill and ended down in the bottom in a gully-most of that area was wooded,and that is where we acted out our versions of ‘Combat’. We had every bit of nazi Germany at our hands. Hazbro (toys) had made a ‘tommy gun’ that had a lever that you pulled back-and upon release the toy made a sound that was exactly like a real machine gun.
We were brought up in an era that kids made heros of the veterans. I will never forget the old soldiers (the veterans) as the stood in the intersections and walk from car to car selling the Poppys…a little hand made red flower fixed to a wire. They were fixed to our shirt collar-and I remember those old men. I can think of how in awe I was.

Looking back almost 40 years ago-this date would be right at my last week of boot camp. Boot camp wasn’t as bad as it was made out to be on the film starring Jack Webb -The D.I.-which somehow conveniently came on a late movie only days before I went to boot camp. I expected our Drill Instructor to match Jack Webb’s character,and after meeting him the first morning (he was waking me up screaming I wasn’t at home anymore) his face bellowing into mine-directly,and loud! I knew right then-what ever this guy tells me,I’m doing it.
I met and became friends with Spencer on the trip to Great Lakes,and it made things more fun to have another to laugh about it all with.
I remember that final week. We had liberty to walk around the training camp-twice the size of any university campus,and as if it was automatic,we headed for the gedunk. The gedunk was a huge retail area attached to a large room the size of a small auditorium. That final trip we found the rows of tables selling ‘grips’ and a separate group of tables with men with white markers-they were there to letter the black grips with logo’s of our ships or names or American flags. It was all up to you. I got one with the USS Vulcan lettered on it. Little did I know-we couldn’t take them on board ship.

The last week of boot camp had a special aura to it. We knew it was coming to an end-we had made it this far,there was going to be no more ‘send backs’…the guys who made clear the threat to be sent back to begin boots again,as a punishment- because the boot could not seem to get the picture,or was a trouble maker to begin with…the threat was real. So we made it to the last week and things were more relaxed.

The mornings started at 0400. That’s two hours from 6 o’clock A/M-earlier than our parents woke us up for high school,but once I was used to it it became my favorite part of the day. There is that moment just before daybreak where the birds start singing…and no matter where you are-the sweet noise makes yo feel good,even in boot camp.
The last day was no different. We marched in small groups down to the mess hall-a place so huge it had ten or more serving lines. We felt so hardened compared to the fresh boots that lined up along one wall-heel to toe,that’s how we stood. Step by step in a shuffle of sorts-all the while our every move was under the eye of someone to ensure we kept order.

It is such a disappointment-something you wanted most of your life. Playing combat games as a kid-not realizing how we were being programed to want to do these things-have war. But we played them anyway-and the games gave us the impressions of being hero’s…and the games did a good job because that’s what I was looking for when I finally became enlisted.

So before I went to boot camp in August 1969,I tore this one scene of a comic page out of the book and kept it in the Bible I had bought on my 18th birthday-I still have it too.
I had thought if I was to mutter the words this boots is saying “G’gosh…I-I never thought it’d be like this!!” I’d be doing so in a real extreme situation like being shot at with real bombs.
I never ever thought of a scenario as compared to what ended up happening. I never exactly knew anything like what happened even existed…we weren’t so knowledgeable then,at least-I wasn’t.

I get out this old book-titled ‘The Keel’. Every year about this time-I get it out and look at it. The Keel is like a high school year book-but about the USN Company 507,which I was in. My boot camp division.
I had long ago transferred this comic clipping from my Bible to The Keel…and looking for something to bring back sweeter memories I found it once again in the pages.
It brings back the memory of the day I tore it out of the comic book. We had long since moved from West Virginia and that house up in the hills where the road looped down into the gully where our war games were played. I’m glad I kept it as a memento to those days-more innocent then we ever knew.

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