More Than a Way Out

“Like a priest to a church, I wanna do my part…I want to serve my country.”

Produced by Perry Lerit.

Transcript for More Than a Way Out

I went into the army at the age of 17. I was still in high school when I signed up, they would have a delayed entry program. So, I signed up. I still had to wait 200 something days, then I graduated and I left.

Coming from a big you family you know the parents couldn’t afford college. So, try to find a humdrum job or go into the military and, uh, see if they can help. I didn’t just join the military for a way out–a way for financial assistance–it was like my calling. Yeah, like a priest to a church, “I want to do my part” you know? And uh, during that time I think Desert Storm was just happening. You know, I wanted to serve my country.

You take a test. So it’s called the ASVAB test and you get a grade on it. And once you pass it, they take that score and they send it to the MEP station. I don’t know the nomenclature, but you get a schedule to go to the MEPs and what that is is a huge building. For mine it was in Boston. And it’s one test after the other, you know, the bubble tests, then you go to one of the biggest physicals I’ve had in my life. All types of blood work, all types of x-rays. You strip down to your underwear in a room full of other guys and they see how you walk, they check all your joints, and then do more tests. It’s an all day affair. And at the end of the day you meet up with your recruiter, and he drove us back to Worcester.

Right towards the end you sit down with another soldier and you pick what jobs are available. I wish I knew this back then, so there was five jobs portrayed out in front of me: a tanker, a scout, a cook, a mechanic or something like that. You get to see videos of what they’re all like–I didn’t want to see what a cook or a mechanic was, so I picked the calvary scout. They offered two different types of college assistance–the Montgomery GI fund and the GI bill is what they were. So if I was smart, I would have picked a job that I wanted to do not on their list and go to other schoolings like the Airborne Air Assault, but you know a 17 year old kid didn’t know.

Hopped on an airplane to Louisville, Kentucky and a big ol’ bus picked us up to Fort Knox, Kentucky, where all my training was together–Oset, one unit station training, it wasn’t just a basic. Then I got to go home and go to AIT, it was all together for 17 straight weeks, August to December. So I got the heat of Kentucky and the winter of Kentucky. I got a little break after that, and during that time that’s where the war ended–Desert Storm. So they cut me orders to Schweinfurt, Germany. I came home for the holidays for two weeks then I–first unit station was in Germany.

There was conflict going on at that time with the genocide in Yugoslavia between the Croats, the Serbs, and the Muslims. So, and we were pretty close to the Czechoslovakian border. We actually were on alert two or three times and actually, they call it “Ralehead,” in the middle of the night, MPs knock on your door. My two years in Germany, we lived out of a bag of military gear. We load all that up, go to the motorpool, get our Bradley and load up our Bradley onto the trains. Getting ready to go into another country, but we never did. Probably the best time in the Army I ever had was two years over there. I met a lot of good people, my friends of mine.

I thought the Army would be just like it was more as in being in Germany. Cause we trained all the time, I mean we went to the field for a month at a time. Y’know, we had all fired all the weapons, wore all the gear, it was nothing but training in my specific job. When I returned to Fort Knox, it was the opposite. It was a support role. Actually, I hated it. Had I known what I was getting into, I would have extended into Germany longer than the two years. I wanted to do things. I wanted to jump out of airplanes, I wanted to blow shit up, I wanted to be the elite soldiers, not just the humdrum soldier like–that we all were when we came back to Fort Knox.

All of my training stopped and it was showing other soldiers how to be trained, like the wannabe lieutenants, the NCOs moving up, this, that, and the other thing, so. And that’s all we did. So, I, I tried be all I could be, one the military slogans. I signed up for all types of schools. I signed up to go to Airborne Air Assault, Ranger, and Special Forces Assessment, and every time the orders got kicked back–rejected: “We have no money, we have no money.” It left a real poor taste in my mouth. When you have about six months left on your enlistment, you get reached out from a retention NCO. The only thing that he ever offered me was Hawaii, station of choice. I told him to stick it up his ass and I was done.

After I got out of the military and I was bartending, I went to college here in Indiana at one university for a year. I stopped going to school because life happened: you start a family, start a job, then another kid comes along. Time just wasn’t there. But, eventually I took a class here, took a class there, took a class there. Then 19 years later all those classes added up.

I’m very proud to complete the military service and to be called a veteran, and college. Now, that’s something I promised my mom that I’d do and I finished it while she was still alive. So my mom knew I graduated. That was very fulfilling and rewarding to me.

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