I was 18 years old and this was the last day of my adolescent life. I wake up and give my little sister, and girlfriend a hug. My step Mom dropped me off at the recruiters office in Fridley, MN so I could drive to MEPS in Fargo, ND. Ssgt Klukus is there waiting for me as I gave my mom a hug for the last time. I was shitting my pants thinking “why am I doing this”? “What the fuck did I just do”? “I can still turn back”. Then I thought about some of the people I know and how they are going nowhere. I wanted adventure, I wanted to be a part of something, I wanted a purpose in life. I get in the car and lean forward so I could see my mom and wave goodbye. She was waving and I could see tears in her eyes as we pulled away. I was terrified.
It was a long drive to Alexandria Minnesota. We drove out there to picked up more people that were on their way to MEPS as well. I get out and sit in the lobby of a hotel waiting for the other new trainees. I remember watching a family sitting down at a diner connected to the front lobby thinking about how I will no longer have my family to lean on. I felt alone in a crowded lobby. About 20 minutes go by and the rest the trainees show up in a 12 passenger van. I hop into the van filled with 18 and 19 year old boys and girls. Not one word was said on the drive from Alexandria to Fargo. When we rolled into Fargo, it was foggy, and dull. Nothing more depressing the foggy and wet weather when you are already feeling alone. MEPS is the long drawn out medical screening you go through before Basic training that takes a whole day. You go in with a bunch of other folks and stand there in your underwear. You do the crab walk, bear crawl, lunges to make sure your joints are ok. The worst part is when you go in the the back office and the old guy tugs at your balls and poke your butthole. At least I hope everyone else had their butthole poked...felt kind of awkward, the Dr. was a creepy old guy. Then after this crazy underwear olympics you go into a separate room where everyone is sworn in. Your last chance to run.
I remember sitting in the room talking to Red after we got done with MEPS on the 14th. Red was about 6’2’’ with blaze orange hair and eyebrows with a crooked smile. He was a little larger, about 225 lbs of well...not muscle. He was pounding a gallon water jug and taking a bunch of niacin and I asked him why. “Bro I smoked a shitload of weed and I want to make sure I pass the drug test in basic”. He did end up passing. We went and met up with the rest of the group that was in MEPS together for dinner at the shitty restaurant attached to the motel. We all did a toast (with water because we were all 18 and 19) and stayed there until about 9 or 10. There was an eerie silence at the table at the end of the night. There was a tv on and we all just sat there together in silence watching a news story about Iraq. One by one, someone would leave and go back to their room until it was just me and Red. We didn't want to sleep because early the next morning, reality was about to kick us in the face.
The next day we all load up on a bus to head to the airport. There was a mix of men and women on the bus and we were all headed to San Antonio, Texas. Lackland Air Force Base is the only place where the Air Force has basic training. The Army that has a few locations, Marines have 2, and who cares about the Navy, they are all just splashing around in a pool somewhere. I remember the flight being long and wishing it would never end. Once we got off of the flight they brought us to the San Antonio airport USO. It was quiet filled with people watching tv, talking on their phones, and sitting in recliners. You could cut the tension in that room with a spoon. The looks on some of the faces in there were straight fear. One girl looked like she was about to throw up, there was one kid in the corner rocking back and forth, people chewing on fingernails, restless leg syndrome all over the room. I remember sitting there staring out of the window when I sat down at a table with Red. I felt massive amounts of pressure in my chest, my stomach was churning. I was profusely sweating while I kept replaying the basic training scenes from “Full Metal Jacket”. I look off into the distance and I see a yellow school bus driving towards us. A very large guy, about 6’4’’ absolutely jacked, gets out of the bus wearing the smokey the bear hat and BDU uniform. I felt like a frog just jumped out of my throat and the room was dead silent. He walks in and yells “EVERYONE ON THE BUS, NOW”! I felt as though I was being kidnaped. We pile on the bus back to front squished in like sardines in a can. It was about a 30 minute bus ride to the 321st basic training squadron. The terrifying site of 6 drill instructors standing there, arms crossed, uniforms perfectly pressed, smokey the bear hats tilted forward so you could barely see the scowl on their faces, had all of us shitting our pants. My life was about to change, and I would never be the same.
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Thanks for reading.
The last picture of me as child with my mom.
Veterans sharing their experiences