My mother always said, there was nothing more handsome than a man in uniform. I find that amusing, since her husband never served in the military and never wore any kind of uniform. When my man decided to fill his obligation to serve his country, he chose to enter the Air National Guard. He went through all the yuck of basic training, became an aircraft mechanic on C-47 Gooney Birds – the military transport planes.
He learned some important life lessons during his time in the service. The breaking of these young men to prepare them for the difficulties ahead, at times seemed ridiculous yet necessary. Many of them didn’t have a clue about discipline, respect, hard work, honesty or integrity. Going through basic, soon took care of that.
They soon discovered how to spit shine their boots, have a spare pair on hand for inspection, clean toilets, cower to intimidating drill sergeants and follow orders. When one fellow had his underwear on backwards, the sergeant took full advantage of the situation. First he asked the kid where he was from. “Georgia, Sir,” he replied. The officer then asked if they made boys different in Georgia.
Being subjected to humiliation seemed to be the order of the day, but in the end it made for a unit which was bonded, united and a force to be reckoned with.
Even though he was just a weekend warrior after basic training, he had an anxious time of it when he was called at 2 AM to report to the base and prepare to go to war. He was told to get there on the double, go through stop signs and exceed the speed limit if necessary. The Bay of Pigs was their destination.
They boarded one of the planes he’d probably worked on, donned with parachutes, sat and waited – and waited – and waited. Their waiting was probably as intense as those who approached the beaches of Normandy many years before. The anxiety of the possibility of battle and possible death was fierce. To have in the back of your mind, that this may be your last day, gives you a whole different perspective. The plane never took off, but during that time of waiting for a nineteen year old young man, it left an indelible imprint.
This experience added to the man in the making. His next step would take him to the Art Institute of Chicago, where he’d learn a whole new and different way of life. Coming from a history of attending Christian schools – a short stint in active duty – and on to a world in one of the most corrupt cities in America. Was he ready?