At the time, I thought the years (actually only six weeks) that I had spent in basic military training at lovely Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio were the worse. But the next day after graduation (and after having been awarded honor graduate for my “skills” as guidon during honor flight competition) as I stepped onto a chartered Greyhound bus headed north for Wichita Falls, TX (which conveniently was a mere 9,990 miles away) I contemplated the past six weeks.
The past six weeks? They really weren’t that bad, I thought.
I got into great physical shape after having gained a great deal of poundage in college on Dominos Pizza and Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I learned to actually listen to people, sure it was compelled listening, but I got here.
I scored some new awesome Kermit the Frog-like clothing and I got a great new haircut! I am the guidon in this picture (the one holding the flag).
With that in mind, the photo below is of a group of Soldiers about to separate from the Army at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey in 1948. To be fair, I don’t think that they had such a flippant attitude of their own days in the military as I did my Air Force BMT days. After all, these guys were almost all veterans of WWII. So, some of them likely saw action in any number of battles.
I don’t have a lot of photos from my dad’s time in the Army, so I try to mine each of them for as much information as I can. He is standing in the back row on the far left. He’s not demonstrating the best military bearing either; hands on hips, scowl on the face, and large ears protruding from his garrison cap. Heck, he may have had a few drinks by then, who knows.
He’s the only one in the photo standing this way. Well, except for the guy in front of him leaning on two of his friends’ shoulders.
My dad enlisted in the Regular Army in 1945, months after the war was declared over. I am not positive about what he did in those three years, but I have documents stating that he was a drill instructor, a mechanic, and a driver.
But, here in this photo, he looks like he’s ready to get out of the Army and go home to Choctaw County Alabama.
Sometimes I can relate.
Especially when a chapter is ending in my life and a new one awaits — like the day after basic training. Sometimes, the few moments spent just before leaving a group of friends in college or a job you liked can be sentimental. I had that feeling when I graduated college; when I left the Air Force; and when I said goodby to my beautiful translator in a small airport in northern Russia. But I came back for her.
And sometimes just the anticipation of getting away from some crazy people can be off the charts. You’ve done your time and you’re ready to leave.
I am thinking that dad had the latter attitude as he left New Jersey for his home in the south.
Paul Swann is a dad, husband to a Russian Princess, lawyer, legal instructor, writer, and occasional guitar player. He spends his time in Arkansas with his aforementioned Princess Bride, Two Stunning Daughters, and two ne’er-do-well dogs. You may find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or his Medium Page.