Monday, August 31, 2009

Where Are They Now?

The photo you see here is Flight 728 of Basic Military Training Squadron 3704 at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX. It was taken in mid July, 1973 as we drew near the end of our six weeks of Basic Training.
The Viet Nam War was still going on at that time, and when Basic Training was over, we didn't even have a graduation ceremony. Our ceremony consisted of tossing our duffel bags into the cargo hold of a Greyhound Bus that took us to our next bases, for Technical School training in our various career fields. A couple of these guys traveled with me to Keesler AFB in Biloxi, MS for Tech School. Others were assigned to places like Shepherd AFB, TX and Chanute AFB, IL for their own continued training. After Tech School I never saw any of them again. I have often wondered what happened to each of these guys.
We came to Lackland as more than forty individual who were mostly strangers, but soon were molded into a unit that was as close as family for a period of six weeks. We ate, slept, worked, drilled, and studied together. One young man had a nervous breakdown and left our flight. He was eventually dismissed from Wilford Hall Medical Center and sent home with a medical discharge. Three of the original guys ran afoul of our Training Instructors (TI's) and were "set back" in training to another flight which meant they would be required to spend an extra three weeks in training. One fellow was set back from another flight into ours and he eventually finished training with our flight.
There were several of us who travelled together from the Recruiting and Entrance Center in Ashland, KY, to San Antonio on May 30th. There were a couple of guys named Litz and Humble, from Wheelersburg, OH, a fellow named Tackett from Greenup, KY, Steve Herring from Pikeville, KY, and an unforgettable character named Cary Grant (honest) from Frazier's Bottom, WV who made the trip together with me from Ashland. The other guys came from Michigan, Texas, New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, Kansas, Montana, Washington, D.C., and Jamacia.
After our Tech Schools, I'm sure that some of the guys were sent to Viet Nam. I never left the USA. My active duty time after I left Keesler AFB was at a place called K.I. Sawyer AFB near Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, between Lakes Michigan and Superior. The winters there were brutally cold with lots of snow, but the summer was wonderful - both days of it! My time was spent "flying a Remington typewriter" as a "70250" Administration Specialist, working for the Chief of Maintenance at the 2001st Communications Squadron at K.I. Sawyer.
Richard Nixon was still President, and the Watergate hearings dominated the news. My oldest son was 3 months old when I enlisted. His first birthday was celebrated in the frozen north. There were no cell phones or personal computers. If microwave ovens existed, I didn't know about it (and we sure didn't have one!). 8 track tapes were the hot item for your car, and video tapes were becoming popular, but no one knew if they should get VHS or Beta. Remember those? Hank Aaron was still belting Home Runs out of Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, and Seals and Crofts, Simon and Garfunkel, and John Denver were regulars on the radio, along with Helen Reddy, singing "I Am Woman" (hear me roar!).
Looking at that old photo that I just came across last week brought so many memories flooding back. Seeing those long forgotten, but all familiar faces, gave me pause to wonder. Where are they now? What have they done with their lives? How many may have already passed on? Only God knows.
The guys in most military basic training photos usually have very serious expressions on their faces. You'll note that everyone in our flight, including Tech Sgt. Rivard, were smiling. One thing I do know is that when that photo was snapped, we were nearing the end of Basic Training and we were all glad. I won't tell you here what the photographer said to make us all smile like that, but smile we did!
By the way. That's me on the second row, fourth from the right, standing next to Airman Kotula in the glasses.

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