I decided I didn't want to be a 11B enlisted Infantryman so I applied for Officer Candidate School. I went through a number of interviews, more mental and physical testing and was accepted, subject to prior completion of both basic and advanced individual training. I was enlisted upon graduation from college in early June and received a delayed entry report date of September 23d, thereby allowing me a final summer to relax and get my "ducks in a row". Asking for this delay was probably a big mistake but, then again, hindsight is always wrought with pitfalls.
One thing that was quite ironic was that after I received my acceptance papers I got a draft notice from my local Selective Service board. When I called them I was told that I had to personally bring them the evidence, so I spent a day driving back home to present myself. You see, the government wasn't any less incompetent back then than it is now. Do you really think that Selective Service didn't know who enlisted and when? I highly doubt that.
My final summer of freedom was spent in Richmond, Virginia and I found a job driving a route truck for the Coca-Cola Company, servicing their vending locations throughout the area. It was hot and laborious work but it's the best I could do since I was marked as a "temp" just marking time until getting ready for war. The pay was pretty good, however, and I had the weekends off so I spent a lot of time by the pool at my apartment complex and, unfortunately, worrying. I read each day, and watched on TV, reports of the continuing struggle in Vietnam and the mounting list of casualties and deaths of Americans in that seemingly god-forsaken place. And this is why I said my delayed entry was a mistake; it gave me time to think about what was ahead and too much time thinking about the unknown soon to be faced is never a good thing.
The summer flew by and the next thing I knew it was the morning of September 23d. Dropped off at the local Greyhound station in my Eastern Virginia hometown, I boarded the bus for Richmond at 5:30 a.m for the two hour bus ride. Upon arrival in Richmond, I reported to the AAFEES station in the Federal Building for more tests and long lines, spending most of the time amongst young men like me in our undershorts and T-shirts being herded through stations like cattle in the chutes at the stockyards. To say that all vestiges of individuality were quickly being taken away is an understatement.
Finally, at about 4:30 p.m., we were dressed in our civilian clothes, marched into an assembly room and sworn into the Army in a mass formation. Then I was given an envelope with records to take to my training location and a bunch of us were bussed to the train station to await the overnight train to Camden, New Jersey. This was the first time we became aware that we would be taking our Basic at Fort Dix, New Jersey, not Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
I took a moment to call home for one last goodbye because I knew that the next time I would talk to family would be anybody's guess. And as I boarded the train, I thought back about the day just completed and knew that it is one that I would never forget. I knew there was much ahead of me that I knew nothing about, but I decided it would be best to treat it like an adventure, kind of like a game, albeit a game with serious consequences. Frankly, that attitude is what made it okay.
Looking back, I can truthfully say that my military service was good for me. It taught me much about rules and their consequences and why they are so important. And I got to see parts of the world that I would never have experienced and I met many new friends from all over the country. And I was proud when I completed OCS and received my commission as an officer and am proud to this day to be a member of the largest fraternity in the world: the United States Armed Forces. Young men who did their duty and served their country became a part of something bigger than themselves and could look forward to finding fellow brothers wherever they went for the rest of their lives. And I find some more of them every day and salute them as my Friends at Arms.
I thank God for protecting me during those years, for giving me the strength to do my job, and I will always trust Him and honor my country. It's too bad many today don't feel the same day about Our Lord and the most wonderful nation every created. America is a bastion of freedom which takes sacrifice and hard work; let's strive together to never give her up.
God bless you all.