The first train ride of my life took me from DuBois, Pennsylvania, to San Antonio, Texas. Lackland Air Force Base was where I received basic training, sometimes known as "hut, hut, ho-dee-oh, left, right, left…" At our first assembly a nice looking soldier with bird-do on his hat visor said a few nice things to impress us. "When this training is over you will hope to God you never go through it again, but you will always be glad you did." Then he introduced us to Sergeant Tenny. I remember Sergeant Tenny's words, "You are now under my command. You are assigned to Flight 4018. Now you can give your soul to God, because for the next 90 days, your ass is mine!
Basic training reminds me of a couple good true stories. I can't make up stories better than the true ones. The only stories of mine that are not truthful are the ones I can't remember right.
One day the whole camp marched to a large field about two miles from the barracks to be entertained by people from Hollywood. My barracks, Flight Forty-eighteen, was lost in a sea of tan uniformed airmen. Most veterans know that when you march in formation, especially in basic training, nobody talks and nobody squawks. I used to have frequent nose bleeds when I was young. It was routine. When my nose started bleeding, I stopped what I was doing and waited till it quit. It gave me a chance to paint things red, like rocks, bugs, grass...whatever was handy that needed painting. Remember now, we are marching in formation on a hot Texas day in our best parade uniform. I felt it coming! Blood ran down over my lips and dripped off my chin. Then it started dripping on my tie, then the shirt, next my pants and shoes. I had to keep marching. I thought, 'The sergeant will see me and pull me out of line.' We arrived at the entertainment site and sat down on the grass. There we watched the show for about two hours and then marched back to the barracks where I was able to clean up. From time to time the sergeant and I had looked each other right in the eyes. Not once was a word spoken about my bloody uniform. The sergeant and I both did what was expected and we both knew it. That was the last of it.
On our last day in the barracks before leaving Lackland AFB, I saw a side of Sergeant Tenny that hadn't shown in the last three months. Sergeant Tenny was a hard man, but as he shook hands with each of us, there were tears in his eyes.