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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A little bit of my military history

I joined the Army at the age of 17, two weeks after my high school graduation. My mother told me to get a job or get out of her house. I did both. My plan was to spend three years in the Army, get out, go to college and have a "career." My "career" as it turns out was the Army. I loved everything about the Army. I retired in 1994 with 18 years, two months 14 days, 8 hours & 47 minutes time served. The year was 1994. I was able to retire early with full benefits due to the downsizing in the mid-90's. I was a Military Science (ROTC) Instructor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, University of Illinois - Chicago Campus & Northwestern University at the time. I had been transferred to Chicago on a compassionate reassignment because my mother was terminally ill. When she passed away, my heart was no longer in teaching. When I realized I couldn't give my all to my students I knew it was time to retire. I didn't want to hurt my students. It was the right decision. Had I stayed til 20 years it was only a difference of $100 a year. I wasn't going to sacrifice my students for $100 a year. They were future Army Officers who deserved more than I was capable of giving them at that time.

I went to WAC Basic Training at Fort McClellan during the months of October & November 1976. Alabama was very different from the city of Chicago where I grew up. That was the first time I saw racism. Schools in Chicago had been integrated for years. I was in Alabama in a platoon with women from the South who were full of hate. Our Platoon was integrated. I didn't get it. I had friends of all colors and I'm sure I made a few enemies because of it. I've only recently learned I may have been exposed to Agent Orange while I was there. I have to do more research on this topic.

I went to Ft Jackson, SC for AIT. I was a 71B, Clerk Typist. That was not my first choice of jobs. I wanted to do something like medical or legal clerk but had I taken those jobs I wouldn't have left Chicago until January of 1977. I wanted to leave at the end of the summer. The only jobs available to me in the time frame I was looking at (or so they told me -- I know better now after serving 7 years as a recruiter) were clerk typist or truck driver. I didn't have a drivers license so that left me one choice.

I had some really wonderful assignments over the years. Not a single one to complain about. In chronological order after AIT:

HQ/A 205th Trans Bn, Hanau, Germany Jan 77 - Oct 79
USA MEDDAC, Ft Leonard Wood, MO Oct 79 - Dec 81
HQ, 7ACATC, Vilseck, Germany Dec 81 - Mar 84
HHC, USAG, Ft Carson Mar 84 - Mar 88
Peoria Recruiting Bn, Peoria, IL Mar 88 - Mar 90
University of New Mexico ROTC BN Mar 90 - Jun 93
University of Illinois - Chicago ROTC BN Jun 93 - Sep 94 (Retired)

I had a lot of TDY's in there. I spent two entire summers at Fort Lewis, Washington. I went to PLDC, BNCOC, ANCOC, Drill Sergeant School (I blew out my right knee one week before graduation and was unable to finish.), Recruiting school, School of the Cadet Command. My favorite TDY was the 60 day TDY to Heidelberg, Germany. When I was reassigned to Fort Carson, my first duty section there was to the REFORGER Planning Group. I almost blew a gasket because I'd just returned from Germany. However, it was a special duty assignment and apparently, the Colonel spearheading the project had been screening 71L 201 Files. He picked mine for an interview. We met and he assured me it would be at least a year before I'd have to go back to Germany. When I did go back, as I said, it was a 63 day TDY. We stayed in the Holiday Inn and had rental cars while the field troops were in tent cities driving through the mud in jeeps.

I got married and divorced while I was in the Army. I realized I was a lesbian while I was in the Army. Of course, there was no "Don't Ask Don't Tell" back then so I hid very deep in that proverbial closet. I wasn't about to sacrifice my career for anyone, man or woman. My career was more important to me than my love or sex life.

I still miss being in the Army. It's just not the same in the civilian world. Friendships are different. Nothing personal against my civilian friends. I love them dearly. I have some that will be there for me at a moments notice. But my Veteran friends will ALWAYS be there for me. They don't have to check their schedule. They will drop everything to help me. I will drop everything for them. That's just the way it is with Veterans. They always have your back. It doesn't matter if they live next door or half a country away.

Until the next time ...
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  1. Wow, fascinating! I had no idea you joined the army just after high school or that you were ever married. And I love hearing you talk about your army experience, so different from anything I've known. Do you think you're the only one from our class who went into the military?

  2. Kathy Ritter also joined the Army. I ran into her in Basic training and then some years later somewhere else. Might've been Germany. There were a few others from our class who went into the military. I remember talking to some of them about it at one of the reunions. 10th? 20th? It might've been Mark Peoples. For some reason that name sticks in my head.

    The Army was a wonderful life. I wouldn't have done it any other way and I don't regret a minute of it. I'd do it all again, the same way.


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