Military Life - The United States Air Force
On August 25, 1960 I was shipped to San Antonio, Texas for basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. Upon arrival we were sent to the barber shop for a haircut. I remember the person doing
the hair cuts asked me how I wanted it done. I was foolish enough to believe he meant it and
gave him some instructions, and then he immediately proceeded to calmly cut my hair until there was only nubs left all the way around. After getting out of the chair, going outside and rejoining
my fellow inductees I noticed that we all had the same haircut, and the barber had a great laugh. Then we were marched over to the supply area and given our uniforms. We were then marched
to the barracks we would be staying in where we met the sergeant who was in charge of our training. He had everyone snap to attention at the foot of their bed and then issued a challenge. He said, "Is there anyone in this room that thinks he can kick my butt?” A rather large recruit stepped forward and said, “I believe I can sir.” The sergeant looked at him and said, “Good,then you can be my dorm chief.” That was my first day intro to the United States Air Force Basic Training camp.
Basic training was different then than it is now. There was no nonsense and everything had to be done just right. We had trunks at the end of our beds, and we were required to roll our underwear a certain way and line them up in a certain way. Same with our socks and any other such clothing items. The trunks were to be kept neat and ready for inspection at all times. If they weren't we
were certain to find out in an abrupt and rude manner. The physical part of basic training was tough. You either could “hack it” or you would find yourself getting plenty of extra opportunities to learn to. It was rough on purpose to teach us self-discipline. We went through dust, bugs, the
gas chamber,drills of all kinds, and ridiculous requirements to keep our shoes and dress hat brims shined so well that we could
use them as mirrors to shave. It was probably, in some respects, like some of the basic training of this generation. There was also classes to attend and kitchen duty consisting
of peeling hundreds of potatoes and doing preparation work for meals that fed tens of thousands of people each meal and finally doing dishes for that many people. By the time basic was over you were discharged or assigned to tech schooling at Amarillo
Air Force Base based on how you responded to the training.
Some fun things happened during basic training.
I remember when we were standing at attention and one of the recruits thought the sergeant wasn't looking. A fly landed on him,and he killed it. The sergeant turned just in time to see him. The sergeant immediately walked over to the recruit and said, “Go to your dorm and find a match
box and a ball of cotton and get back here as fast as you can.” When he returned the sergeant had him dig a 6 x 6 x 6 hole in the ground, put the
fly gently on the cotton, put the cotton and the fly in the matchbox and bury the fly and fill
in the hole. After the recruit was done, the sergeant asked the recruit, “Was that fly a male or female?” The recruit said that he didn't know, and
the sergeant told him to dig it up and find out. After he got done with that he was required to
bury it again and fill in the hole.
Another time I walked out of the barracks and forgot to put my hat on. The sergeant who
saw me ordered me to come over to him immediately. "Where is your hat?" he bellowed! I quickly grabbed it from my back pocket saying, "It's in my back pocket sir." He told me that I was not supposed to be outside without my hat on. He then told me to give it to him. Then he said; "Open your mouth wide!" I did, and he said; "Open your mouth wider!" I did, and he jammed
hat into my open mouth and told me to bite down
on it. I bit down on it and he tried pulling it from my mouth. He then told me to bite down harder. When he was sure I had it firmly in my teeth so that he could not pull it out he told me to march back to the barracks with the
hat in my mouth.
done in front of a full formation of new recruits and I was embarrassed. I don't think I ever
left dorm without my hat after that. In today's military he could be facing a lawsuit.
One tragic incident that happened during basic Training
Lackland Air Force Base was located in San Antonio, Texas, and the Mexican people living there hated the airmen. One night one of the airmen went into town. I don't know anything about how
it came to pass, but when we woke up the next day and went outside the barracks we found him lying on the ground dead with a knife in his back. I don't know if that case was ever solved or not.
I went through basic with flying colors. Some of the physical drills and exercises were very difficult for me in spite of my good physical condition, but I made it through. Now it was time to graduate and move on to tech schooling. I selected the supply field so technical training was centered around that. There is not much to say about tech school. It was considerably more humane
than basic training and was the next step to prepare us for our first assignment.
My First Assignment
My first assignment was K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette, Michigan. I tell people Marquette is so far up in Michigan that you can look South to see Canada. The same problem existed in Marquette that exited in basic training. The men from the base were taking all the girls from the local boys, and that created quite a bit of friction. There was never anyone discovered dead though, in spite of some random battles fought on the streets during the weekend outside
of bars. I was there about three years or so before being reassigned.
Marquette sits onLake Superior, and in the Winter it is very cold there. The average Winter temperature was about 26 below zero. The local people had a polar bear club and when it was
ten degrees above zero they would cut holes in the ice on the lake and dive under the ice and swim around. The residents were so used to the cold weather that they walked around in shorts
in ten above weather. The worst snowfall ever was supposed to have been seventeen feet.
According to the stories, the men had to climb out on the roof and walk down to the dining hall on snowshoes following a path that was previously made by many other trips. The worst snowfall
that I ever experienced while I was there was between six to eight feet with twelve foot drifts. The worst temperature I had to deal with was a wind chill of 50 below zero. I had enough clothing on for three people including much insulated clothing and could still feel the wind piercing every inch of my body.I will never forget that Winter. The story was told that one man refused to put his hood up and when he went outside his ear froze and fell off. Then he picked it up and took it to the hospital where they sewed it back on. Whether that is true or not, I can vouch for the cold weather there. The Summers rarely got above the mid seventy degree range though, which was nice. I can say that I was very glad to leave there.
While I was in Marquette I was trying to live like a good Christian boy with my new found salvation experience, but didn't know how. I had a chance for a vacation during my stay there so, at the tender age of 19, I went to a Baptist conference inAsheville, North Carolina.
Two powerful events happened while I was there that strongly impacted my life. The first was when I decided to go horseback riding with some young people. There were riding stables near the camp, and I had never been on a horse before so I decided to try it. When we got there the guide told us we would be going up a mountain over 1000 feet and then we would come back down. It was a scenic tour. I was given a beautiful young pinto horse, and we started up the mountain. When we reached about 1000 feet up my horse suddenly took off and started running straight toward a cliff. I had no idea how to stop the horse, and he evidently didn't understand when I said whoa. He came near the edge at full speed and then planted his feet and my feet left the stirrups and I was flying over his head into space. It is funny now to remember that in a few seconds of time I saw several things. I saw the trees and rocks below and the horse's mane as I was flying through space, and the next thing I knew was that I had a grip on the mane and was staring into the horse's face holding on as tight as I could and hanging 1000 feet in the air. The trail guide rushed over and tried to gently pull the horse back from the edge, but the horse would not move, so the guide kept punching the horse until he did move and back up enough for me to be on the ground again. I was never so glad to feel the earth under my feet as I was then! The guide wanted me to get back on the horse and ride it down the mountain but I told him I would walk first. Gradually he was able to convince me to take his “gentle mare” and he would hold the reins. That was the last time in my life that I ever rode a horse. It was many years later that I realized that God, in his infinite mercy protected me and saved me from a terrible death.
The second event left some powerful scars on my heart for a long while. While I was at the conference for young people, I meant a beautiful girl. Her name was Juanita Crumbliss. She was so beautiful that she entered the Miss Florida pageant and took second place. I fell head
over heels in love, and she returned my love. The conference only lasted a couple of weeks and we parted out of necessity. We wrote back and forth for a while, and then one day she stopped writing. I kept on writing until I finally received a letter from her mother. It turned out that her dad was shipped to Germany and she met a young doctor while she was over there and married him.
I was never so hurt in my life. I was so hurt that I turned to alcohol for the first time in my life, and I went on a four month drunk trying to drown out the hurt. I got into the habit of stashing a bottle of Barcardi Light rum in the inventory bin where I worked on the base, and I would sneak back and drink, off and on during the day, and then at night I would continue getting drunk. After about four months of that I suddenly thought about how stupid I was and put her memory behind me. The problem was that I now had a strong taste for liquor, and every weekend was a party. I soon learned how to soft talk women and entered into relationships both in Michigan and everywhere else I went. I forgot all about Christianity and became sold out to the party life on my time off. I went to bar after bar, one time getting so drunk that I could not stand up and had to be carried to my car and driven back to the base. One other time I can remember was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when I drank all night while waiting on a bus and drank myself sober. Yes, it can be done. I didn't personally believe it could be done before then.
I want to say here that I am not proud of my wickedness. I was foolish and blind, young and ignorant at the time, and I thank God that he kept me through all this. I drove at ridiculous speeds while drunk, picked up a girl that gave me sexually transmitted disease, had sex with married women and filled my mind and heart with sexual images through reading and looking at Playboy and other magazines of that sort. I was so bold or stupid that I went into a man's house and had sex with his wife while he was sleeping in the next room. I was filled with lust blind to it, and Satan had his way with me for 12 years. From the time of what I thought was my salvation at the age
16 to 19 until I was 31 years of age I was a very foul mouthed,drunken, drug using whore monger who cursed Jesus Christ many times every day and took the Lord's name in vain without thought as to what I was saying. I would tell people every day to go to Hell, and didn't even understand what I was saying. I hated my father and swore that if he showed up at my door I would beat his face in and hurt him all I could without killing him. I learned to dance and became filled with pride over my ability. I could sing in a wide range from baritone to falsetto and was very proud of that. I learned to shoot pool so well that I could run seven racks of 14 balls without missing and take money from people doing that, and my pride was even worse. I played ping pong well and boasted about that. It was like a crazy merry-go-round of victory after victory feeding my sinful nature and my pride! The amazing thing was that I had many friends and was even very popular in my wickedness. The Bible says that the world loves her own, and I found that to be true. One national event of significance that occurred while I was stationed in Michigan was the unexpected assassination of John F. Kennedy. All I remember about that was that I was walking around in
the office and suddenly I heard that the radio announced the assassination. I don't recall what
my reaction was then because, at that time, I wasn't into politics and had no particular interest in John F. Kennedy as a president or as an individual. It was very surprising, and everyone in the office was talking about it, but it passed quickly and life went on.
Germany, Holland and England
After Sawyer, I was assigned to Weisbaden Air Force Base in Germany. Considering my lust for women, I am surprised when I remember that I never picked up a prostitute even though they were legal and plentiful in Germany. I did learn how to play foosball and get drunk on beer. In Germany the beer is much more potent than in America (21% alcohol compared to 6%). I just adjusted to drinking it anyway, and it was in Germany that I learned to love drinking wine in a
place called Rudesheim where there was a street called Wine Alley. I went there from time to time to get drunk and party with the German people. Germany was beautiful, and there was the autobahn where there was no speed limit. The autobahn led to Holland, and I went there once and the fields of tulips were in full bloom and the windmills and canals and tulips were incredible blend of beauty and culture.
I had a roommate in the barracks who was from Chicago and was brought up with fighting on the streets. We would go out drinking and he would go out looking for someone to fight with. He was very strong and very fast with his hands and feet. His one mistake was arguing with the police outside a bar one night. The police in Germany don't have the restrictions our police have in this country. The policeman hit him and the guy he was arguing with over the head and threw them bodily in the police wagon while they were trying to explain their side of the story.
Germany was another stop over for parties, women and drinking when I was off duty. I learned to love some of the German food, especially the meats and bread. I almost lost my life in Germany because my appendix was about to burst. I was eating the meal of the month in the enlisted men's club, and it was free steak. My meal had just been delivered to my table, and I cut a few pieces to eat when all of a sudden intense pain hit me in my stomach and I doubled over and could not get back up right away. The pain would not relent so I got up quickly and headed for the base dispensary. I walked in doubled over in pain and found a couch to lay on and lay groaning and holding my stomach. I tried to go and sign in and was able to just do so and then go back and lay down. Nobody seemed to know or care if I was in pain or not. Suddenly a Colonel came into the area and when he saw me he yelled out very loud, “What is this man doing here?” Now everyone was looking at me and the office staff snapped to attention and they began to run in my direction as the Colonel hollered loudly once again, “Get this man into my office immediately.”
I was half carried and half walked into his office, and laid down on a table. He walked over to me and asked me what was happening. I told him about the pain and he pressed his thumbs in my stomach and let go quickly and I went through the roof. The pain was unbearable. He said, “Get this man over to the emergency room immediately and prepare him for surgery.” I was put in the back of one of those old war ambulances and on a cot hanging from the side, and the truck took off speeding down the cobblestone streets of the city. One of the rods in the cot came loose and dropped on my thumb, and I kept hanging on. When we got to the hospital they got me prepped as fast as possible and rolled me into the operating room. I could hear the nurses and doctors and the clinking noise of the surgical instruments, and I got worried. A nurse had given
me a shot earlier to put me to sleep but it hadn't worked to that points so I called out, "Nurse!"
One of the nurses came over and I said, "I thought you were going to give me something to," and then I was out. When I woke up the pain from the operation felt like a fire burning inside me, but
I was safe. I later found out that my appendices were one hour from bursting, and if they hadn't
gotten me there on time to do the operation I would have died. I am very thankful for that because I hadn't made it right with the Lord at that time, and I knew I would die and be eternally damned.
I don't think I even considered that at the time.
While I was in Germany I would go to various bars to drink, and in one of those bars I met a
band, and I would sing along with them, and they asked me to go awol and travel with them as their lead singer. I was more afraid of military justice than I was wanting to become a singer with
a band and refused the offer. On my tours of bars I developed a taste for the German version of pepper stake. I would get drunk and then eat two or three of them to help soak up the booze in my stomach. One night I met a woman named Ushi, and we danced all night and she took me to her apartment where I spent the night. We went together for a while and then I stopped seeing
her or it was vice-versa. I don't remember how it came about.
Another time I made the mistake of saying “mach schnell” to a taxi driver,which meant that I
want to get where I am going extra fast. I remember that he took my request to heart, and we went down the street at 75 miles per hour on soaking wet cobblestone. If my memory serves me right I was there for a total of about 18 months, and despite the near death taxi ride, I would have liked to stay longer. Germany is a beautiful country! The next stop was to be Mildenhall
Air Force Base in England.
Mildenhall Air Force Base
The main attraction for me there was London,known to the military as "the big smoke." England's weather lived up to its bad name with damp weather and fog daily and cool to cold weather at night. I went with a beautiful blonde girl there for a while and I got a fractured hand fighting for her in a bar when someone wanted to break a bottle over my head. I hit him first to protect myself. We eventually broke up and then I dated another girl for a while who took me home with her to mum and dads house where I learned to understand how many times a day English people have tea. You wouldn't believe me if I told you! Her mum made some very delicious beef dinners with potatoes and vegetables and Yorkshire pudding – which is a kind of baked bread and was very delicious. We also broke up before I left. The one thing I left behind there was a book full of drawings that I did as I was growing up. There were some very good drawings of super heroes among them. I really regretted not being able to recover that!
Sometime during that tour of duty I met and had an affair with another married woman. Her husband didn't pay attention to her and she got really attached to me to the point that when she divorced him she wanted me to leave the military and come to live with her promising to provide for me whether I worked or not. There was no way I was going to let a woman be my source of support, and I turned her down. I have no idea what happened to her. I've prayed for her and her husband that they would come to know and love the Lord. I also had a thrilling ride hitchhiking in England. A man driving a Bentley picked me up as I was hitchhiking. In short order he was traveling at a high speed and there was a truck in front of us and one heading toward us in the other lane. This man went between both of the trucks so close that I could have easily reached
out on either side and wiped the dirt of either of the trucks. I remember being very thankful to get out of that car alive!
Other things that I remember about England were riding the “tubes.” The tubes were the cross country railroad cars that were kept inside of building before you boarded them and then released out into the sunlight. I also was on a bowling team while I was there and had to travel from the base to a town I don't remember anymore to participate. It was on my way to that bowling league that I got the exciting ride in the Bentley. The next assignment was one that I could easily have done without; Tripoli, North Africa.
Tripoli North Africa Sitting Right On the Mediterranean Sea
I'll never forget Tripoli. It was nighttime when our plane flew over the base and we came in low because we feared the Arabs might try to shoot our plane down. There was daily tension between the Arabs and the American military at that time, and we were not allowed to even go of the base. One couple went to town prior to our arrival, and the Arabs surrounded their car, and battered the car until they could get them out and then they killed them.
The heat was oppressive there as we were situated very close to the equator and the base sat right on the Mediterranean Sea. I believe it was 120 degrees in the shade there. On top of the heat there were the lizards, cock roaches, and a host of other bugs, many of which I never saw or heard of before. We also had scorpions living in the wall of the barracks. During the day it was incredibly hot and at night the breeze off the Mediterranean Sea was cold. During my first few days there I made the mistake of going outside with shorts on. I wound up with second degree
burns on both legs, an excruciating experience considering we were required to wear the green fatigue uniforms which were very uncomfortable and stiff with the starch used to wash them. I walked around the base bent over holding the pants away from my legs for a while.
While I was there I went to the enlisted men's club and play slot machines a lot for a diversion.
I did something then which I deeply regretted for a long time , but I never had the guts to go to the person and admit it. One of my fellow soldiers was saving money so he could buy Christmas presents for his children. At that time I was so addicted to the slot machines that I used to spend my check and borrow against the next one. When I saw the money in the jar I thought, "I'll just borrow it and win some money and then put it back." The problem was that I didn't win at all, and
I lost all the money he saved for his kids. I have never since forgotten this and prayed often that God would return what I stole and more and that God would bless his family with salvation and a wonderful life.
On Wheelus we had F4C Phantom fighter planes that could reach 1600 miles per hour speed,
and our supply team would get the parts and store them. On one day we received the drive shaft for one of the planes,and instead of bending at the knees to lift it, I bent over to pick it up and immediately did something in my back and could not move. I went to the hospital and eventually
my back returned to normal. I still have back trouble to this day.
The flies on the base were terrible. I remember walking out to catch the base shuttle bus and
while I was standing there flies would cover me from head to foot. I would whack them with
my cap and kill a bunch of them at a time, but they would still land on me. I discovered why they were so
plentiful after watching an Arab sleeping under a tree with his mouth open and seeing a fly walk on his
tongue and face. I found out the Arabs believed in kharma, and they would not swat a fly for f
ear of killing it and bringing bad kharma on themselves. So there was an amazing thing that happened to the Arabs. They would squint and make faces to try to get the flies to move without hurting or killing them. Because of the heat, after a while their skin would get wrinkled from doing that and stay wrinkled so that a man in his twenties or thirties would look much older than he
really was. We had one man come into the barracks and everyone was guessing his age at 60
or more. He was only in his thirties.
One of the ugliest memories I had of this base was the cock roaches. We would return from the enlisted men's club at night and go to our rooms and turn on the lights to get ready for bed. The floor was a black carpet of cock roaches, and they would scatter when the light was turned on. I could never figure where all of them went, but after we went to bed and turned the lights off they would come back out while we were sleeping, and I would cover my entire body with my bed
sheet including my head because I could feel them running up and down the sheet at night. It
was a very disgusting experience! When I was ready to leave Wheelus Air Force Base, I had to go through all my clothing and everything else I was packing and get all the cockroaches out of
my pockets and etc. I can't tell you how much I hated that experience! Thank God my stay there was only about three months.
Scott Field in St. Louis, Missouri
This was my final stop in the Air Force before I was discharged. The most significant thing as you enter St. Louis is the beautiful archway known across the country to those who travel and have checked St. Louis out. The base was pretty much just another Air Force base with good, clean
accommodations, tasty food, and a job to do.
I don't remember much about Scott Field in my short stay there except I somehow made friends with the chief of police and would go to his house to play pinochle which I had become good at. One night at his house as we played I suddenly looked at the clock, and I had ten minutes to get back to the base or I would be AWOL (absent without official leave) which was a grave offense then. The chief of police told me not to worry. “I will get you there on time,” he said. I was about
to experience my third thrilling ride, this time at 150 miles per hour sitting in a police car with
the lights flashing and the siren blasting as cars were pulling over everywhere. We were moving so fast that the trees by the side of the road looked like big blurs. We made it easily in under ten minutes, and I am sure that I left my fingerprints on the seat of that car.
On April 5, 1968, with no regrets, I received an honorable discharge under hardship conditions based on my need to go back home and help my mom who was struggling financially. I went
home with every good intention to do what I came for but the devil had
other plans, and I was willing to go along with them.
The Photo on the left below was taken to make Air Force life look glamorous to potential recruits. I never wore that scarf and jacket again. The hat was standard Air Force gear.