Lawrence Valdez, age 17


First haircut

I was drafted in the Army in September 1944 at the San Francisco Induction Center. The next day I was put on a bus to Camp McQuaide in Monterey, Calif. There I got my first haircut – and I mean a haircut. Almost bald! I sat in the chair and watched my full head of hair, falling down as the machine purred on, cutting my hair down to almost nothing I felt so bad, but I sucked it up and swallowed hard. I felt sad, but also proud that now I was in the U.S. Army When I heard the barber say “next,” I slid off the chair and went out the door to join the others. Some of them were trying not to laugh, looking at each other. The next three days were spent lining up for physicals, shots, intelligence tests and dental work, if needed. I had two teeth extracted. It seemed like we were in a production line - producing soldiers. All day was waiting for something besides eating. There I learned what the meaning of the words “hurry up and wait” meant. Finally, we were issued uniforms. Mine fit pretty well. Others weren’t so lucky. My dress uniform was a little different in color and material. My pants and coat were a little more grey than green. All of my time in the service I had trouble at inspections, convincing higher-ups that these really were my service-issued clothes. There were many experiences during my start in basic training. The day before I left Camp McQuaide we were lined up for a cleaning detail. The Sergeant asked if there was anyone who could drive a truck. I quickly raised my hand, and the sergeant motioned to another soldier telling him to bring the truck around the corner. He came, pushing a wheelbarrow. Now the sergeant barked out to me, “Ok, here’s your truck!” Everyone started laughing and calling me names. I was so embarrassed, but again, I sucked it up and followed my orders. I quickly learned that never volunteer unless you understand what is really happening at the time!

Lawrence Valdez, age 18, graduating from Basic Training, Camp Roberts, Calif., 1944
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