Memories of my Induction


In the spring of 1965 rumor had it that the draft was going to get all of us no-account punks who roamed the streets, off of the streets of the factory town I grew up in, Kenosha, Wisconsin. Well they weren’t just whistling Dixie. The good old US of A went and got itself  militarily involved in some God forsaken place in Southeast Asia known as Vietnam, and needed bodies, young male bodies, and I qualified. I received my “Greetings” (draft notice) letter from Uncle Sam in April of 1965  and was instructed to report at 6:00 AM, June 17th, 1965, to the local draft board at the KYF buliding, also known as the Kenosh Youth Foundation, downtown Kenosha, Wisconsin. Being quite familiar with the location, I had no problem finding it since I was once a member of the Kenosha Evening News Golden Gloves Boxing team in 1962 and 1964 and our training facilities were in the basement of the KYF.

            So after a series of goodbye parties, hugs and kisses from my family and a thought to be romantic farewell from my fiancé, myself and a host of other conscripts who’d been rounded up off the streets of Kenosha, reluctantly reported in the early AM to the KYF for the purpose of induction into the armed forces of the United States. On that morning of the seventeenth of June, 1965 we boarded a Milwaukee bound bus that would take us to the official Southern Wisconsin Induction Center for our physical, and if healthy, our formal induction ceremony. Well as luck would have it, I was fit as a horse, a small horse but nonetheless fit. They wanted me; they really, really wanted me.

 Nothing terribly remarkable had yet happened that day and before I knew it, I had been sworn in as a Private in the U.S. Army. Terrific! Shortly after the swearing in all volunteers and draftees were bussed to the train station in downtown Milwaukee where we caught a train that took us Southbound to Louisville, Kentucky, twenty miles from our final destination of Fort Knox, Kentucky. Talk about whistling Dixie.

            Within a short time I came to realize my life had changed, and not for the better. Chaperoned by MP’s, we weren’t afforded many liberties, and as a free spirit I found this aspect troubling. As we passed through the cities of Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana, it became apparent from our assigned seating arrangements that we’d only be afforded a passing glance of what the cities had to offer its visitors. It had also become apparent to me that we weren’t visitors who were passing through, but instead, cargo. That’s right, just United States Military cargo, in assigned seating, passing through. Apparently the possibility of conscripts going AWOL was a concern for those in charge. The MP’s kept a tight leash on us.

            At approximately 9:00 PM that evening, our group of soldiers to be arrived at the train station in Louisville, Kentucky, where we were met by a few surly and burly NCOs  from the Fort Knox training center, our destination. An astute observer, hell, even a moron could tell immediately that these guys weren’t all that friendly. The welcoming staff of non-coms unsmilingly guided us toward awaiting Greyhound busses for transfer to Fort Knox. In the late PM of the seventeenth, we finally arrived at our destination, the infamous army basic training center. Terrific.  Up to that point, all in all, things had proven to be a bit unpleasant, but uneventful.

It was at the moment of arrival at Fort Knox for us new guys that our lives were changed forever. Not to be left to wonder, we were greeted by a handful of informative but snarling, screaming DI’s who excitedly fell into character the moment the busses arrived. The DI’s paced back and forth, like hungry lions in a cage, in wait at the bus stop, so all on board could see. Anxious as any thespian whoever longed for the curtain to rise, these anxious DI’s couldn’t wait to perform their tough guy, tough love role and cherished every moment of their performance. I’d like to say the same, but can’t.

Once we disembarked our more than comfortable mode of transportation, the Greyhound, unaware it was to be our last comfortable moment for some time, the DI’s started to scream at the top of their lungs. Without seeming to care they abused their vocal cords and voice box to the point of hoarseness.  Bulging veins in their necks testified to the damage being done by expanding thrice their normal size. Smokey the Bear DI hats were fully tilted to a point where the brims balanced on their noses, only enhancing the intimidation effect.

Intimidation ruled. Proverbial chickens with their heads cut off came to mind as the intimidated green recruits tripped and stumbled, try as they may to obey the command of the screaming heads, to make a straight-line formation. The voluminous, vocally enhanced cadre bestowed thought to be humorous names upon the new recruits, like “f*^*-up,” “s**^-head,” “s_*^ for brains,” “lard-ass,” “maggot” and “faggot,” to name some of the not so clever monikers used by the intimidators. It became clear as a bell to those with half a brain why these guys were in the military and not writing for the “Tonight Show.”

With order attained and the tripping brought to an acceptable level, we marched off to supply where we were issued brand new army threads, also known as fatigues. No military themed wardrobe would’ve been complete without matching hats, socks, underwear and boots, and to top off this smart new ensemble, a matching duffle bag to put the crap in. Clothed to the teeth, we were then marched off to our new housing facilities, also known as barracks, where we were assigned sleeping quarters. In the Vietnam-era, army barracks were state of the art facilities, nineteenth century state of the art that is. Long, narrow, yellow wooden firetraps with two lines of double bunk beds covered by extremely thin mattresses.

  It was now a little after midnight; in fact it was now June 18th. Thinking to myself, wow, what a long day a long day! Time sure does fly. Funky and unappealing as the sleeping arrangements were they looked awfully good to a weary bunch of conscripts and volunteers. Following a little more harassment from the cadre, we were finally allowed to get some much-needed sleep. Around 12:30 am on the eighteenth, we put those weary bodies to bed. No sooner did my head hit the pillow and I was out like a light. Bad analogy. It couldn’t have been but 3:15 am, less than three hours since I laid my weary but fit army body down, only to be rudely awakened by a blinking, unshaded 100-watt light bulb directly over my head. That, coupled with the annoyingly loud voice of one of our DI’s, screaming for us to, “rise and shine, ladies,” caused me to think, oh-my-God!

 The humor was killing me. Well, that and the fact that I’d only slept about two hours and forty-five minutes. It wasn’t the longest day of my life, but the shortest night of my life. Come to think of it, I guess you could say it was the first of many to come of the “longest” days and “shortest” nights of my life.



2 Responses to “Memories of my Induction”

  1. Great story, one that hits home! I travelled by bus from Detroit to Fort Knox getting there about midnight. Of course, it is by design, the first of many days to confuse, unravel, and removal of all thoughts/emotion. Action, thereafter, was a reaction to training, without fear, emotion and remorse. Those DI’s followed the same script regardless of training depot. Thanks for the memories!

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