I was 17 when I reported to the Induction Station in Pittsburgh at 6 a.m. Sworn in at noon and the please go here, please go there stopped; the sergeant now issued orders. I was probably the youngest person inducted that day, but I was given a large stack of records for everyone headed to Fort Jackson, S.C. We left by train at midnight and started our two-day journey. We had an 18-hour layover in Washington, D.C., and several of the group changed their minds about being in the Army and took off. I was threatened with bodily harm if I reported them missing when we got to South Carolina. A couple of guys stepped up and said to leave me alone, as I was just carrying the paperwork and that the Army would figure it out.

We arrived at 1 a.m. at Fort Jackson, where we joined several hundred guys in a large room to be welcomed to the Army. I came from a small town of around 4,000 people, and when they called for any weapons to be turned in, I remember thinking that was a silly request. To my amazement, a table in the front of the room was soon covered with knives, guns, brass knuckles and even a few chains. It was at that time I realized I had entered a new world. Three days in the same civilian clothes, learning to make hospital corners at 4 a.m., too nervous to eat much for three days, kitchen police and peeling potatoes for two of those days. Please send me to my basic training company!

Finally assigned to Company C, 18th Battalion, 5th Regiment just in time to have a July 4th break. That was July of 1963, and as nervous as I was, apparently the lesson on hospital corners stuck because at the age of 70, I still put them on my bed.

« Previous story
Next story »