I’ve been through many hard things in my life, and when asked to write about the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, I wasn’t able to pick just one. There are three events that come to mind that were very difficult for me. These events are Army basic training, the death of my father, and witnessing my son’s struggle with a life-changing illness. For brevity’s sake, I will only write about one.
Army basic training took place around the summer of 1978 or 1979. I don’t remember exactly. It was the first time I had ever been away from home, and it was the first time I ever flew! I was a poor college student at the time, and I remember seeing an advertisement in the school newspaper about how I could earn $100.00 a month tax-free. In those days, $100.00 a month was a huge amount of money. A broke college student could buy books for four college classes with $100.00! It was worth checking out. It turned out to be an advertisement for the Army ROTC program on campus. Since I had already completed two years of schooling, I could get into the two-year program by attending basic training to make up for the two years of Military Science classes I had already missed. And, I could do all of this without signing a contract! As I spoke with one of the Professors of Military Science on campus (in this case, an active duty Army Major) my biggest concerns with attending basic training were, “Will I be able to blow dry my hair every morning?” and “Can I wear makeup?” Of course, the answer to both of my questions was yes, and he DID NOT lie to me when he said so. He did; however, fail to mention that I would have to get out of bed at 3:45 a.m. every morning in order to do those two things! But I am getting ahead of myself.
Telling my parents that I was thinking of joining the military was not an easy thing. As mentioned in my last post, my mother was “old school”. Born in Italy in 1931 and raised a Roman Catholic, she spent a lifetime mastering the fine art of “feeling guilty”. She immigrated into the United States at the age of 15, and lived with her parents until she married my father when she was 23. As I grew up, I was always told that being married and having children was the ultimate thing to experience, and if I did, I would not want for more. Or….SHOULDN ‘T want for more. In spite of all of her beliefs about a woman’s role in life, NOT going to college was always out of the question. But joining the military?! When I finally gathered enough courage to break the news to my parents, the first words out of my mother’s mouth were, “What? What do you mean? Only whores and lesbians join the Army!” My mother was a piece of work. She insisted on meeting the Army Major with whom I had spoken. The Major agreed to a meeting.
After the meeting, my mother’s concerns were somewhat alleviated. In the meeting, she discovered that his family and hers were somehow “paisans” (compatriots) from the “old country” and everything would be okay. (The Major was Italian! Thank God for small miracles.)
I flew off to Louisville, KY the following summer to endure six weeks of basic training in Ft. Knox, KY. A place that would be sheer misery, agony, and heartbreak (famous hills in Ft. Knox with which every trainee is familiar because they are either road marched or run) for a short time of my life, but unbeknown to me at the time, a place where both of my children would enter this world, and a place I would call home for five years of my adult life. (A different story!)
I remember eating breakfast before leaving home that morning and not eating again until 11:00 that night. I was given all of my combat gear that day. Once stuffed into the standard issue olive drab duffel, I carried it on my back to the barracks I would call home for the next six-weeks. For me, this was no small feat. A standard issue Army duffel bag weighs about 100 pounds and stands approximately 3 1/2 feet tall when filled. In my twenties, I weighed around 115 pounds and I stand 5 feet tall. So I am sure you can envision that I was bent double at the waist as I carried that bag. And to top it all off, I had never done anything physical in my life until I arrived in boot camp. (This was a time of firsts in my life.)
I awoke the next morning to shower, wash my hair, and put on makeup before “falling in” for first formation at about 4:30 a.m. I remember doing my first PT (physical training) and thinking I had died and gone to hell. The humidity in Kentucky is so high that when I was finished, the make up on my face had been sweated off.
Sleep in basic training is a precious commodity. It did not take long to learn that lesson. In order to get the maximum number of minutes of sleep each night, I took to showering and dressing for PT the night before. On day two I remember waking at the sound of the bugle’s reveille, and the only body parts I could move without hurting were my eyeballs. I rolled out of bed already dressed for the morning’s PT no makeup, no freshly washed and styled hair, not caring what I looked like. “God; help me make it through today.”
I really wanted to go home. But I didn’t. I had made a deal with my grandfather, before leaving for this place. He told me to do it to the end, whether I decided to stay with it or not. He said, “Don’t quit. If you quit, you will always wonder.” So, no matter how stinkin’ hot and humid, how bug and mosquito infested, how prickly-rashed, how sun burned, how poison ivied and poison sumaced, how athletes footed, how butt-chafed, how snake infested, how dog-tire, how home sick, how agonizingly grueling it got…I DID NOT GIVE UP! Even though there were millions of times, I wanted to. Grandpa was right.
In the end, my Drill Sargent said that on the first day he looked at all of us and asked himself who would be the first to go home. He said he had me pegged as the one, and he was surprised when he realized I would make it through to the end. You know what, Drill Sargent, I was surprised too!
Today I am sharing a Christmas card that I made using Festival of Trees and Endless Wishes.
I used the emboss resist technique on this one too. Since I’ve learned what it is all about, I think I am hooked! In order to make the snow mountain at the bottom of the card, I tore a piece of paper and lightly attached it to the white card stock upon which I was planning to stamp. I then inked my tree stamp with Versa Mark ink and stamped, gradually allowing the stamp to overlap onto the mask I had created with the torn piece of paper. This gave the effect of the trees getting smaller. I then heat embossed using White embossing powder.
Hope you enjoyed your visit here today. I am adding one last photo, but not of my card. I found a photo of the three hills I mentioned in my writing and wanted to include it so you can see why they are called what they are called. Thanks for stopping by today. Until next time…
Here is the website from which I obtained the photo of Misery, Agony, and Heartbreak:
“M14 Forum.” M14 Forum RSS.N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Sept. 2014. <http://m14forum.com/army/139287-figure-will-stir-some-memorie-knox-2.html>
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