Monday, May 26, 2014

And Into the Fire...

Braniff Airways (now defunct) flew us from Philadelphia to San Antonio, Texas. It was an interesting flight. I somehow managed to sit between two guys. Mind you, I had lived the majority of my life in the same house, a farm house, on an extended family farm surrounded by relatives. I had gone to the same school district my entire life, grew up with the same kids and been stuck in the same social hole, never able to quite figure out how this enigma called small-town society worked.

Then, all of a sudden, I was on a plane, surrounded by strangers and placed between two attractive guys who both wanted to talk to me. Quite frankly, it was weird. And so describes most of my military life, weird. To be honest, I don't think I ever quite understood any of it. I used to joke that when I passed my E-5 Staff Sergeant exam, any answer I didn't know, I picked the least logical answer. Yes, I passed the test, but it was just another example of how I never "fit."

But I digress, the plane ride. This picture gives you an idea of what the interior looked like, though when I sat in them, the seats were faded and the model was long gone. As for my flight, to my right, the window seat was taken by a mundane college-graduate, tall with dark hair and glasses. He was nice, but hid behind his shallow intellect.

I guess I found him boring, because after minutes of conversation, I turned toward the other guy, on my left, isle seat. He was cute, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, made me laugh, and in the world I just came from, I don't think he'd have even given me a second glance. But in this world, this new world, I was the focus of his attention and quite frankly, I was scared too death.

I didn't know how to act. I'd never been popular in school. Had always been a wall flower, the only boyfriend I'd ever had was an older man, a summer love. So, not knowing what else to do, I followed my instincts and completely enjoyed the flight down to San Antonio. Later I would find out that my new friend was just as nervous as I was, surprise! But, yes, he was a good kisser.

So, we arrived in San Antonio and that wonderful plane ride was over. The next thing I knew we were all unloaded and somehow managed to claim our baggage. Don't ask me how, that part is a blur, but what I do remember was suddenly finding myself in this big room, low ceiling, and it was jammed full of strangers, not only the kids from my plane but a zillion others. Okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it sure felt that way.

Oh, and there was a bus ride in there somewhere, I think between the airplane and baggage claim. I only remember the bus ride because I spoke to a girl about my age who had just enlisted into the Marines. She looked tough, but in those days few women entered the Marine Corp. I remember thinking, why on earth would she want to be a Marine? But I think my Marine Corp readers could respond to that better than I can.

Just a side note, on the test that everyone takes before they enlist, the ASVAB (Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery), my scores were high. I had chosen the Air Force because my older brother had enlisted years before and he seemed to enjoy it. The only other branch I had considered was the Navy, but decided against because I wasn't strong swimmer. Interesting, how we make our choices in life.

Anyway, back to the sardine-can-like dark room with its fluorescent glare. The nervous energy of all those people was palatable. It seemed to hang in the air like mist surrounding the lights or maybe that was the humidity. San Antonio in July is hot and humid, but I got news for all you Texans, it's got nothing on southeastern Pennsylvania where the humidity levels usually stay in the high 90 percentile.

As I stood there, just as nervous if not more than most of the people around me, I took comfort in the presence of my new friend, let's call him Cherry Hill, to protect his anonymity. He was nice and made me smile, but all too soon, that was yanked out from under me as people in uniform seemed to explode into the crowded room taking charge and reminding us in not so polite terms why we were there.

The next thing I knew names were called and we were all separated into buses, more buses, old, school buses painted blue. The sky was dark on the way to the base. It was like being dump into a new world, very foreign with it's wide open space, palms and sage bushes.

I found this link online, yep, pretty accurate, though we arrived at night... Arrival at Lackland Air Force Base.

Thanks for reading and more to come...


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