Finding myself standing on yellow footprints with some crazy man yelling worse than my father not to move ... I wondered what had I gotten myself into. Growing up in a large, baby booming Irish Catholic home with the Ard Ri of martinets made it easy to just shut up and do as told. I found out fast they were not going to kill me, and my father hit harder. So boot was a breeze for me.
Now you meet lads from the hills that had no clue what a 'head' was. Ever try to teach what the commode was for to adults? Then the Jewish kid who never had shoes with laces or used a razor if it was not electric? Bad enough he was teased mornings heading for chow - pork sausage was the main entree - but he dang near sliced his throat shaving and forget tying up his boots. We took turns shaving him and lacing his boots, as in Marine boot all suffered if but one fouled up.
I will skip over most of what was experienced. No Marine will ever forget; the need-to-know, however, is ours. Then as we were getting salty in our 7th or 8th week, neatly pressed and running on the rote system for early chow [when it seems like midnight] I am leaving the utensil cleaning area as some newly - like just a few hours ago - arrived recruits were being badgered to stay in line, etc.. Then I saw a neighborhood buddy.
Laughing to myself, thinking I must have looked like him just a few weeks ago. Trousers too long; yellow sweatshirt too big; cover too big; belt wrapped around twice; what belongings he had in a laundry bag tied to his belt; and gym shoes shuffling along. "Hey, Dogs!!!" I yelled at him.
'Yes, sir! Yes, sir!' he kept yelling as he saluted the darkened sky turning in circles. Seemed like a lifetime ago. "Hey, Dogs! It's me, Cunningham!"
"Oh, Frankie! what have I done?" I laughed and told him not to worry, they would not kill him and his ol' man [a Chicago cop] probably hit harder. I did not see him again until he got out four years later and we were safely back on the Sout'side.
Not sure what happened to the hillfolk. But in my time served I came across his cousins many times. I still think of them flushing the toilets, amazed. The Jewish guy had two college degrees. He was into computers before any of us knew what one was. No way the Marines would let him go .... They did not, but the lad could do his pull ups, push ups, jump the ditch, climb the ropes, tie his boots and even shave by the time we graduated from boot.
Still hard to believe what they made us do ... and as much as I do not want do-overs, I would not change a thing.
W.F. Frank Cunningham III
USMC 1966-69 [RVN 1967-68 TET]