I was on a flight to Philadelphia, en route to basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. On the landing, we came through a thick dark layer of clouds into a steady rain. Depressing. That summed up my next six weeks. It's hard to believe that it's been that long ago, but the calendar doesn't lie.
I can't say that I have fond memories of New Jersey. Fort Dix was a rough place; even the chaplains snarled at you. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one. Ironically, my military career also ended at Fort Dix, where I outprocessed on my way home from Berlin in 1989. It was much nicer being there as a sergeant than it was as a buck-private.
My memories of basic training aren't that sharp, since it isn't something I've thought much about in a long time. That's human nature, of course. We don't dwell on unpleasant experiences. Mostly, I remember that several of the guys in my platoon were screw-ups, and so we never got an off-post pass while I was there, unlike some other platoons. I never got to experience the pleasures of fabled Wrightstown, alas. The worst screw-up was a guy from Panama named Laguna, who spent a lot of time pumping out pushups while saying, "One drill saryen', two drill saryen', three drill saryen'..."
Anyway, today I'll raise a glass to the memory of my younger self, setting out on what seemed like a great adventure...