I started my 23-year career in the 164th Group/Tennessee Air National Guard a few days after my graduation from Germantown High School by entering basic training at San Antonio, Texas. Along with 35 other disoriented teenagers I met our drill instructor Sgt. Onacki on June 1, 1968.
On our first day Sgt. Onacki brought all of us into his office on the second floor of our open bay barracks and allowed us to see his collection of state flags. He told us to look around the room and find our state flag. If our state was not represented, and if we could acquire a state flag for him, he would find his way to exclude that person from KP or guard duty. I was disappointed to see that he had a flag from Tennessee and was destined to serve my turn at both KP and guard duty. However, the young airman that was sleeping in the bunk next to me told me that he would be getting Sgt. Onacki a state flag from the state of Texas. Furthermore, it would not be just any flag. It would be something special, because his father was very important in Texas.
The next week we were allowed to receive mail for the first time. We all sat down on our respective bunks and began to pour over the letters from girlfriends, friends and family. I was sitting knee to knee with the man next to me that had made the claim about getting a state flag for our DI, when I noticed that he was opening a manila envelope with a return address of Austin, TX-State Capitol. He withdrew a plastic state flag that measured about 7"X10" and immediately looked up to see me watching him. I commented, "Yeah, your dad is really important!"
As it turned out, his father really was important in Texas, having been elected to the House of Representatives the previous year. His father was George H. Bush and he was George W. Bush, destined to become our commander in chief.
President Bush is standing to the right of Sgt. Onacki, our DI, and I am on the second row just over the president's right shoulder.