I had to go down to the basement Antique Room and pull out my folder of old Air Force records just to make sure.....I remembered it was late in June of 1968, .....and sure enough after a gander, I saw the date: 27-06-68..June 27, 1968 for those never blessed with Military BS.
I had signed up with my friend Eddie Bonifas from Coldwater, and we were selected to go into Basic on the "buddy system"...first thing the Air Force teaches you is..."Don't believe a damn thing we say"...I ended up going in 2 weeks before Ed, although we both did end up at the overflow Basic Training facility in Amarillo, rather that the main basic roundup at Lackland AFB in San Antonio...some "buddy system".
My first ever airplane ride was out of Columbus, Ohio, to Amarillo via stops in Dallas and Lubbock. Arriving late at night, we were whisked away to these wood and tar paper barracks on base...finally getting to bed around midnight or later....I am sure of the time we got up though...SSgt Joe Prokop, my Drill Instructor(or TI, Technical Instructor, as the AF called them), came rolling though the sleeping quarters at 4AM...yelling some macho crap akin to...."Drop your cocks and grab your socks"...and smacking his sawed off pool cue on the metal edges of the bunks.....needless to say, this 19 year old country boy had no freaking clue as to what the Hell was going
I was 19, stood about 5' 9" and weight was maybe 135....I grew 2 inches and 30 lbs over the next 14 weeks between arriving at Basic and finishing up Security Police School later that fall at Lackland.....I would never be the runt of the litter again. Basic Training at that time seemed like Hell, of course looking back 40 summers later, not so much, after all I could have been at Paris Island or some other Hell hole, if I had chosen to let the draft take me....Army or Marines? and the choice would not have been mine....I faced 4 years of orders and bullshit, most of which I ignored or fought, but at least I had a bed and 3 squares a day...even in Vietnam, I still had at least 2 hot meals a day....
all in all, despite chicken dung and the so-called 'Mission"(or as we used to chant).."Mission?, Mission?, F**k the Mission"....my 4 years could have been worse.
My cousin, Jack Poling was killed with the 101st AB while I was in Basic....he chose to take his chance with the draft.....I'm still glad I took the "easy" way out, and no, I never thought of hiking to Canada...the old man would have kicked my ass....and I would never have been able to look at myself in the mirror....Cowards, whether in the Military or out, are cowards for life....'Draft Dodgers' are cowards, slice it anyway you choose. I remember many a 'jock' and 'bad ass' that ended up nothing more....funny how all that macho stuff went away when they had to make a decision......all respect was gone.
Basic, then regular military life, changed us all....we were never the same, some grew, some regressed, some still claim to have been destroyed....not me, I served, I honor those I served with....but I'm no BS artist...I hated the military life, and military rules...I fought them every step of the way for 4 years.....I got out in May of 1972....received my Honorable Discharge, with the stipulation I was not eligible to re-enlist(thus no 2 years inactive duty in the Reserves)....I have a certain First Lt, and a CMSgt to thank for that.....a Hell raiser I was...but I survived with my stripes and regret not one day of service.
Some of those I served with in Vietnam, Harry Bevan, Marc Payan, Johnny Claflin, Bruce Thompson, Phil Lange.. and Bruce Dei and Bruce Kohli fellow Buckeyes, from my days at Griffiss, I still have contact with today...others, like my TI Joe Prokop(whom as a SP I was in Vietnam with), Jack Friedl my best friend from Griffiss AFB, Marvin Bussey, and others have passed away....most?, I don't have a clue to as what happened or where they are..... where you be? Jack Gates, Carroll Marcelle, Aceavedo, DeJesus, and George Hundley .... then there are some others?(see previous first louie, first shirt, Smilin' Jack Adkins, Joe Gomez, and a couple others), well let's just say we are better off not knowing where each other are.
All-in-all, I have no regrets about my service or actions during that time.....It all began 40 years ago this day....June 27, 1968
photos----Prokop's Pups I'm 4 rows up second from left....or somewhere around there....me in front of the Prokop sign attached on our fire trap barracks on a hot July day in 68, and my original Military ID...issued after that sweet GI haircut.