It was January 1977. The sixth day into basic training was my 18th birthday. My drill sergeant knew it was my birthday, so he bestowed me a gift: a gallon of yellow enamel safety paint and a brush. My instructions were to paint all the hand rails in the platoon area.
January at Fort Jackson, S.C., is not what you would consider optimal painting weather, with the temperature being around 35 degrees. Needless to say, the paint spread like tar and did not dry. By midday, our drill sergeant was getting angry that a lot of the trainees were getting the paint on their fatigues, so he called a formation, excluding me to continue painting. He commenced to chew out all the trainees for carelessly getting the paint on their fatigues and dropping them for 20. I was standing behind him still painting the hand rail. As he was finishing his lecture, he rested his right forearm on my freshly painted hand rail.
"Excuse me, drill sergeant, but you are leaning on my wet paint," I said. His face turned red and a menacing cringe formed on his face
"Dismissed!" he yelled.
Thirty-three years to the day I found myself standing in the paint department ordering yellow safety paint for the soldiers in advanced infantry training at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, to paint stairs and hand rails. Revenge is mine!