The year was 1962. Ft. Jackson, S.C. in August seemed to be the hottest place on the face of the earth, especially to a 17-year-old who was away from home for the first time in his life. Not to mention, having to listen to Drill Instructors (DIs) screaming at us all the time or having to adapt to this harsh new way of life called the Army. And home was missed so very, very much. Yes, reality and homesickness were setting in, and our ever-watching DI, seeing this, had a unique way of dealing with it.
One afternoon after a hard day of marching, our DI separated the young from the rest of the Company and took us behind the barracks to share words of encouragement with us. He told us the following story:
“A young recruit was having a real hard time and was getting so homesick he was at the point of giving up. To make matters worse, he had received a “Dear John” letter from his girlfriend. That did it. He saw no hope, and he had to end his miserable life. He took his M1 rifle and went behind the barracks. As he placed the gun barrel in his mouth, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him not to give up, to continue on, and before disappearing the angel admonished the young recruit to ‘cheer up; things could get worse.’ And, you know, he cheered up…and things got worse!” grinned the DI.
Hearing this silly story was just the medicine we needed. We all had a good laugh, and later, when things really seemed to get worse, we would remember the story our DI told us. We had been given the right “pill” which was just what it took to encourage us to continue on to graduation.