After boot camp I took a Grey Hound bus to Millington, TN. It took a few days for me to get all checked in. I don’t recall everything I had to do but I do remember being taken on a tour of the drill team barracks. I never thought I would be the drill team type. That sounded like extra work and it would take away from my weekends and so I was not really interested. The tour was just a formality, something that was standard stop on the base tour. Once we reached the home of the Crackerjacks (they were named after the traditional navy uniform) I was a tad intrigued. I was told that while being on the team did require some of your personal time, there were major perks. All students in A school had to meet up early in the morning and march in large groups to school, team members did not. All students had to have monthly uniform and room inspections team members did not. I was sold!! I had gone from nah this is not for me to sign me up before we made it past the front hall way. I was not the get up early and march around type. Nor was I the keeping my room and uniform in order type. I was, and kinda still am, a slacker. I do what I need to but not a lot of extras. Oh! And if I can avoid some of the stuff that I deem noncritical, I definitely will!
There was one other interesting thing that happened on the tour. This was the day I met Adrian, who would, at some point, become my husband. No there were no violins. No fireworks. No butterflies. No nothing. Hell, I could only see his face from the nose down, he had a big chrome pot on his head that concealed most of his face. He was standing at attention with his back against the wall and was apparently not allowed to talk. I remember David (our tour guide and soon to be friend) laughing as he explained why Adrian was in the state we saw him in. I can’t tell you any of what David said, those words were not stored. I just remember that I wondered what the guy with the pot on his head looked like and what it would sound like when he spoke.
I would find all that out soon enough, because I was moving in! I was sold! Like I said they had me at no inspections!! Being on the team was cool. We went to class in the morning practiced for an hour or so after that and got to be bums after that. Most people think being in the military is like living in a perpetual state of boot camp but it’s not. We wore uniforms, had a few extra rules, and the other barracks had inspections. That was about it though. No intense workouts every day and no people yelling and cussing you out. It was just like going to a college with uniforms.
I will admit the rules were a bit tougher that those for college students. I never gave them much thought, I just did what I was supposed to. Go to class!! Of course, there were others like you couldn’t just decide to take days off, you couldn’t live off base, and you couldn’t break the law. I would listen to people complain about how it sucked that we had to do this or that but none of that ever bothered me. The only thing that got to me was that I didn’t really like learning about electronics. This was kinda bad seeing as how I had six months of training and three plus years that I would have to work as an electronics tech. I loved the title, it made people think I was smart. I just didn’t like doing it. I went to classes and took notes, but I really didn’t study much. I really didn’t know how, in high school everything came to me easy. For the most part this was the same, I would see Adrian in the lounge with his flash cards reading them and doing all kinds of study stuff and it made me want to study stuff too! But not really.
I had finally seen his face and heard his voice the day I moved in. He was right at my same height muscular build with a super deep voice. Nothing spectacular, but I was attracted to him right away. He was quiet and was almost like an invisible person. No one called on him during meetings and he never spoke. He was like a ghost. He rarely went to practice and only did performances when he had to. Me on the other hand always got called on and was asked to participate in everything. One weekend as we were getting back from a performance I saw him laying on the couch watching a movie or something. I was annoyed! He was getting to slack more than me!! I rose through the ranks of the team and soon became BC (Block Commander). I was now the one in charge of practices and was one of the people who ran the meetings. I would make sure he did stuff! I was such a hater. During meetings I would call on him all the time. Before we left for practice, I would make sure someone went up to his room to make him come down, and when we had parades or performances, I always put him on the list!
Looking back, I can understand why he was always annoyed with me. On top of all the pestering I was super goofy and just a pest in general. We had fun though, we got to travel to small towns for festivals and parades. We did color guards for interesting events. And when we were done we partied! This was how we all became friends. We lived together, went to school together, practiced together, and played together. There were always pranks and dumb jokes happening we were all just kids really. Adrian and I were older than most at twenty-one, everyone else was around eighteen. Young and newly free, well freeish. We were in the military after all.
We all came from many different places, but I would learn that most came for the same reasons. The hope of being something more. Most came from low socioeconomic environments. Their families had low incomes and social status. There were a few that came from well off middle to upper middle class, but the vast majority were not. Another reason they came was to escape something. There were those who were given the option of jail time or military time. The judge believing that a military tour would get them some discipline, a job, and benefits. Making them a productive member of society. I belonged to the group escaping someone or something in their life. Running away from whatever darkness they had to endure. Attempting to be a creator of their own light. Yes, there was often an overlap between these. We were all broken, an army of misfit toys (well technically a Navy). This environment builds strong life long bonds. No one really talked about their issues directly. Just being in their presence and looking into their eyes when they spoke would tell you everything their words didn’t.
In the mean time we drank! Well I drank a tad. I had heard too many stories to allow myself to just be uninhibited. I was more of a supervisor or mother hen. I saw these folk as my people! My tribe! No, I was not comfortable enough to show them the real me and share what I was running from. I didn’t have too. It was just understood. I would always lookout for them especially on the good days when the drinks were many and good decisions were few.