Thursday, January 10, 2013

And So It Begins...The Air Force Years 1968-72 pt 1

Much of the snow has melted...about a foot or so has been on the ground since the day after Christmas....the seasonable cold had kept it on the ground and pretty solid, the past week it has begin to warm and with rain on the way and temperatures to approach 60 by Saturday afternoon, it appears it will all be gone by the end of the weekend...seasonable temperatures are to return by the beginning of next week, but no major storms are headed for this area, at least not according to the "Global Warming 24/7 Network"...also known as the Weather Channel, owned by the Obama Lapdog Network, NBC.  So we will get rain, and then mud, and it will probably freeze back up by the middle of next week.

A handful of the guys in charge of our baseball/softball umpire association met at Fricker's in Van Wert last night to discuss plans for the upcoming high school season...even though our first official meeting is a month away, it was good to get back to discussing the season, just 10 weeks down the road...tonight and the rest of the week is to be filled with basketball.  Here in Celina tonight for a Freshman Boys game, tomorrow boys at Delphos Jefferson, and then on Saturday a Girls Junior High double in the morning, and a boys JV game at Lincolnview that night...I almost dread what my feet will feel like come Saturday night, a couple of cold ones and ice on the injury will almost certainly be required.  I am truly looking forward to the end of roundball for the year...by far my least favorite sport to officiate, and truthfully probably the one I am least skilled at...but it's also the one that I have been doing least, time-wise, but it does keep me somewhat in shape and on the go during the slow winter months...so we will "leg" it out for the time being.

US Air Force Days...The Beginning

I have written many times about my Air Force days on this blog...usually it is about the year and the people I knew in Vietnam, and those I have hooked up with since those days...the other 3 years pale in comparison to that year, but they are still fairly clear in my mind, even to this day....I will attempt to pen them down as best as I can over the next weeks, in bits and pieces...so here goes.

I graduated from Celina High School in late May of 1967, and there was little doubt that I would not be heading for college.  I hated school, and although I would eventually attend college with success after my Air Force days, there would be no doubt that I wasn't ready for college at 18 years old.  I headed off to work at the Huffy Bike plant in Celina, realizing that sooner or later I would be called by the draft board...after-all this was the Vietnam era, my family wasn't rich, I wasn't, at that time, college material, had no plans on getting married, let alone having kids, and sure the Hell wasn't going to Canada to avoid the draft, I might have been a 5'9" 130 pound runt at the time, but I wasn't a gutless coward..aka Draft Dodger.

So me, along with several of my running mates lived the good life for a solid year...drinking, dating several girls, usually one or two dates each, never anymore than that, driving and occasionally wrecking cars, and making it to work, whenever I wasn't too hung over...it was a good year!

All good things come to an end...by the early Spring of 1968 I received my "Draft Notice"...I was to report to Columbus for the pre-induction physical.  Bob Jones, Eddie Bonifus, and several others headed down on a bus from Celina, took our physicals and were told to "stand by", the draft would be calling...of course we had options, and five of us decided to look at those options.  Bob, Eddie, Muhlenkamp, another guy whose name slips my mind, and me went to Lima one afternoon to visit the Navy Recruiting Station in that city...A slick talking black recruiter quickly had three guys signing on the dotted line...Eddie and I opted to walk down the stairs to check with the Air Force recruiter before we made our decision to join anything.

We were quickly greeted...after-all this was 1968, we had passed our physical in Columbus and we each had a pulse, we were Air Force material.  That very afternoon we took our tests, got the results, made our picks for career fields on a 'Dream Sheet" and signed our next four years away.....we were in the Air Force, on the delayed enlistment plan, we would get about 90 days to party away, get our present lives in order, and come Summer 1968 we would head to Basic Training, either at Lackland{San Antonio} or the newer and smaller Basic Training site of Amarillo AFB in the Texas Panhandle.

The next couple of months, Eddie, who I had known casually, became close friends...after-all, we had joined on the Buddy System, they promised we would head to basic as a pair{the first of many Air Force lies, which I soon came to expect}, so we worked at the recruiting station stuffing envelopes on Saturday mornings, part of another lie, they had told us it was part of the duties of the delayed recruiting system..we didn't mind.  On weekends we did our best to drink every ounce of beer in Mercer County, at that time 3.2% beer was legal, the regular stuff and the hard booze wasn't for a 19 year old, but that never stopped us...we did our best, as we partied on weekends and watched as individuals or small groups headed off to military service, some like Eddie, changed forever, others, like my cousin Jack Poling, and my brother Mike's best friend David "Kim" Deeter, never to return alive.

I got a call from the recruiter around the 20th of June...I had to go, Eddie would follow later, but it was required of me that I leave the next week...I would head to Columbus, get inducted, and fly to Amarillo, Texas...that story in the next installment.

back later>>>>

Photos-The mug shot on the day of the "hair cut" at basic training Amarillo AFB, Texas, complete with the old Military ID #...if you can use that, go for it....our numbers were soon switched to our SS #, that change came within a year of my entry.  My skinny ass, sitting on Dad's Dodge Charger, in the Summer of 1968 I believe, shortly before I enlisted...this one at my old stomping grounds on Grand Lake's southside, Windy Point.  Bob Jones and me, the Christmas break of 1968...I was at Dover, Bob was with the Navy off the coast of Washington State, we would both be in Vietnam in less than a year....and me outside our tar paper shack barracks at Amarillo, the drawing in the background was of Joe Prokop, our T.I.  Joe and I would be reunited in Vietnam as Security Police, after his two years tour as an instructor came to and end....sadly Joe passed away a few years ago, before I could make contact with him....Great Guy, although when I first met him, as a drill instructor, he scared the Hell out of me!

No comments: