It was 1968, the height of the Vietnam conflict, and having registered for the draft in Milwaukee, I was in the process of finishing my degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, an activist campus where many students and faculty were protesting the Vietnam War.
I decided to enlist since I had a better chance of obtaining a branch I wanted and to qualify for the officer delayed-entry program. Upon graduation, I boarded a plane and then took a bus to Fort Dix, N.J., home of infantry, queen of battle.
Aside from the sense of accomplishment of graduating from this grueling process, my fondest memories during basic training were the friendships I made, with one fellow Wisconsinite in particular. His name was Wayne. He graduated with me from basic training, advanced individual training, and Engineer Officer Candidate School at Fort Belvoir, Va. He was a true friend and stuck with me like a brother.
My worst memory from basic also involved him. I had just returned to the barracks when a group of three basic trainees tried to "initiate" me. They threw a blanket over my head and proceeded to beat me with their fists. Wayne came to my rescue. Little did I know then that Wayne was a boxing champ, and once he took the blanket off me, he and I proceeded to take care of these three troublemakers.
All-in-all basic training was a challenge I met, and it helped me mature into a man. I was honored to serve my country for 31 years through active duty, reserve and the National Guard, and as enlisted, chief warrant officer 5 and captain. Basic training was the bedrock of my career, and for that I am grateful.