:: Friday, November 19, 2004 ::
Talk about speechless. I have no idea what to say. It's been a long five months since I posted last (actually six months) and there is so much to write about. But no words come to mind. Just BLEH.
The Army? Oh it was...um....the Army. Yep, good ole fun. Alright, it sucked. I will never forget any of it, no matter how hard I try. From the plane ride that took two days to Atlanta and then the four hour bus ride to Fort Jackson, seeing the "Welcome to Fort Jackson, United States Army" (thanks for the warm welcome), getting the REAL welcome from the drill sergeant on the bus, the week of reception, day one of Basic Combat Training. Oh all, so vivid. I can still smell the barracks at reception, the drill sergeants shuffling us around, everything. I can remember every detail about that first day at Basic. Everything that was said, everytime I had to push-ups. I can still feel the rain. Man alive, what I've been through.
Now, I'm not tooting my own horn. I'm not asking for pity or sorrow, I'm just saying, Oh my goodness. It was crazy. Of course, now that I'm home and sitting comfortably in my chair with my computer listening to the radio inside my warm house, I can say that it was fun and somewhat (somewhat) enjoyable. Did I think that as I went through it? Absolutely not. Day three of Basic, I called home. Wanna know the conversation? I remember it.
Mom: "Hello? Ben?" (and the tears started)
Me: "Mom, let me talk to dad."
Mom: "Okay, hold on."
Me: "Dad, are you proud of me?"
Dad: "Of course I am, son. I'll always be proud of you."
Me: "Even if I quit?"
Dad: "Yes, I will always be proud of you."
(lots of crying on both sides)
Me: "I'm sorry, dad. I just can't do it."
Dad: "That's alright son."
Me: "My time's up. I got to go."
(long silence...and crying)
Dad: "I love you, son."
Me: "I love you, dad."
Dad: "I'm proud of you."
Me: "I know. Bye."
Yeah, it seems like a weird conversation. But there was a reason. Day two of Basic I had a little chat with my drill sergeant. I told him that I wanted to quit. Of course, he asked why. I said that I can't do it. I can't do the PT, I'm not meant to be a soldier, I don't want to be a soldier. He asked, "You don't think you can do it? You don't think I can do my job and make you do the PT? Make you into a soldier?"
I replied, "I didn't say that. I'm just saying..."
"Are your parents proud that you joined the Army?" he cut me short.
"Of course they are."
"Would they be proud of a quitter? Did they raise a quitter?" he inquired.
"I guess so," I sputtered through tears.
"Great. Great parents you got. Call them and ask them if they would be proud of you. If so, I'll let you go." he said.
I just walked away.
The next day I called.
The next day I got called on, by my first sergeant. I don't know if you know much about military structure with rank and such. I'm and E-1. (also called a buck or an E-nothing) First Sergeant is an E-8. Difference of only seven, but about 30 years. He's the enlisted commander of a company. And he called for me.
Of course, when he called my platoon was being "smoked" (remedial PT). So I jumped up and ran around to see him, without a buddy. One thing about Army training, you got to have a buddy. "No buddy, soldier? Do some push-ups until one comes and finds you." So I got to first sergeant, without a buddy. I said about two words and then I was in the front leaning rest (the push-up position). He told me to go get my platoon and get a formation behind the company building. So I got up and got them.
He pranced on over (I hated that man) and pulled me out of the formation.
"This soldier wants to quit," he began. "Now, I don't know who to blame. Him for being a quitter or you, his fellow soldiers, for letting him want to quit. You are here to build each other up. That's what buddies are for. Too late for this soldier. He wants to quit, I'll let him quit. But it will be with another company. I'm gonna restart him to another company four weeks from now and let them mess with him. Let this be an example to the rest of you. Want to quit? Don't."
Wow, such a stirring speech, First Sergeant. Jerk.
Well, paperwork in the Army takes forever. Restart papers take about a week to process, assuming that your paper pusher remembers them. Luckily, First Sergeant passed my papers to someone else who had more crap to do than worry about me. So the next day or two, I went to my drill sergeant and apologized and asked him to stop the papers. He told me, "What?" He didn't even remember. Great. So I reminded him and he said, "Oh, those. They never got started. Enjoy your stay." Thanks.
So after that I just learned to get used to the yelling and PT and all the craziness and suck it up. Drink water. Drive on. Man alive, the lessons I learned from just those first two weeks. Moral, life, and Army lessons of course. We did unarmed combat. I whooped my opponet. Not to toot my horn, but Beep-Beep.
The rut got deeper and I was beyond depressed most of the time. Just downright hated it. Everything. The uniforms, the "discipline", the classes, everything. It just drained me. I had to turn somewhere. And I turned to the good Lord. May sound like something you would watch on TBN, but its true. I turned to God when I was so lonely and desparate and he helped me. I read the good book, I read Psalms. David was a king that went through so much. I'm just a lonely soldier going through what seems a lot to me. But God showed me how real the likeness was. Two people of God, brought together across thousands of years by one....well...one God. One being. So different, yet so alike. And God showed me that David made it through much more than just Basic training. And that was like a...I don't know, a fire in the artic. Kept me warm and going. One more day down, one more day closer to seeing Anne.
Before this, the longest I had been away from home was a week. True story. The longest I was away from Anne was a week when she went to Mexico. I was on week three of Basic, four weeks from home and Anne. It was killing me. But God kept me going. And Anne's letters and mom's letters, and everything was so...just crazy. I caught myself constantly thinking of Anne and home. We had talked about marriage before I left but never really in depth. And then our letters to each other where just about missing each other and such. I just had to.
Will you marry me?
Your love in God's love,
That was one of the letters I sent to her. Some call me crazy, some call me romantic. I just want to marry her. All I could think about was how much I missed her and never wanted to be away from her ever again. (except when she goes to basic in June 2005) I love her so much. I prayed about it and thought about it and I just...yep. I just couldn't go another 4 months.
So, two months later and all of Basic over with, Mom, Tiff, Wendy, Jodi, Keli, Grandma, Dwight, Rhonda, Abby, Garry, Ashley, Tyler, and of course, Annikins all drove the daunting 20 hours or so to Fort Jackson to see my graduation. Oh my goodness, it brought me much joy. I was only expecting Mom and Tiff (yes, not even Annikins because she told me that she wasn't coming) but then I saw everyone and I was just like, "Err......." It still makes me happy to think about it. Hugging everyone and squeezing Anne so tight.
So those were some fun two days. Well, not even a full two days. Just more like, one day. Man, it broke my heart to see them leave that last day. Like you cannot imagine. But it meant that I was three months closer to being done and I was on my way to AIT in Fort Lee. Yippee.
Fort Lee was a hoot. Everyone told me that it was going to be like college. Yeah, if you go to college in Hell maybe. It sucked too. Not as much. But still, it wasn't the best ever. We didn't get "smoked" as much, but it was still miserable. I think it was more miserable because the drill sergeants expected more out of us and pushed us harder, but also we had more freedoms for them to take away, which they did. I got to call home every night, and when I got my cell phone the second week, it got even easier. I bought a cd player while I was there and that made things better, getting my music. The drill sergeants were nicer, sorta. They joked around with us more, but still had to instill discipline (which they did, often). We had class every day, 0800 to 1700, Monday through Friday, and man were they boring classes. Our first class was over paperwork (told you), which forms do what, why they look like they do, how they work, how to fill them out, all that jazz. Three weeks. Lectures over forms. Yay.
The second class was a computer class. Taught us how to do the forms on computers. Apparently the Army is going automated. Who'd of thunk it? The third class was a class over small arms. No, not midgets, but small arms as in weapons. Which is ironic because some of the weapons we worked on weren't so small. Like the .50 caliber machine gun. The MK-19 automatic grenade launcher. M60 machine gun, M249, M16A2 rifle. The small arm was the 9-mm semi-automatic pistol. Which had a bit of an attitude. I wouldn't call it small. However, it didn't bite me like the .50 caliber did. Stupid spring shot back and smashed my thumb. Stupid soldier, I was doing something the instructor did advise against. Oh well.
What a hoot, Fort Lee. Some good memories. All the buddies, all the craziness. Log warrior was fun. It was the week long field training we did between the computer class and the small arms class. We did stuff like tactical eating (one person eats, two pull security), tactical moving, squad movements, field maintenance on weapons, convoy ops, MOUT training (urban warfare), and we also got "attacked" by an enemy force called OP-4. That was a hoot. On day one I was MIA for about two hours because I got separated during an attack and had to meet up with my platoon at chow. I was worried that my sergeant would be mad. He didn't even know I was gone.
But it was fun. My lieutenant, 2LT Freeland, was quite impressed with our platoon that she took control of for the week. Not to toot my own horn...again..., but I was awarded the "Warrior of the Day" award for excellence in leading and tactics. Something like that. I was quite proud. All my buddies were like, "Why Walcutt?" Thanks guys.
So that was a hoot. And I was the Honor Graduate for class 04-097 with the third highest average. Hey, its better than nothing. I got my own special little paper thing and such. The reason I'm tooting my horn lately is because Joey 1 (hahaha) told me that if you don't toot your own horn, who will? Good point, Martin.
So then I was all ready to fly home and one night I got a mysterious phone call from my parents after lights out one day. Like three days before graduation actually.
Dad: "Hey, son. I was just calling to tell you something. IT'S NOTHING BAD! Just call me back when you can. Love you, dad."
So I called them back...totally freaked out. Mind you, dad was just in the hospital about two days before and my grandmother was in the hospital at that time. Thanks dad. Scared the poopy out of me.
All they wanted was to tell me to cancel my plane tickets because dad was coming to get me.
I just agreed and went back to sleep. The next morning it hit me. So I called mom.
Me: (no hello or anything) "Mom, is dad really coming to get me?"
Mom: "Well, hello to you to. Yeah, why?"
Me: "Just checking. Thanks. I got to go. Bye."
Mom: "Love you, bye."
Me: "Love you, mom."
I was just totally flustered. So I cancelled the tickets and called mom the next day to tell her some information. Noone was at home. So I called her cell-phone. I heard a car.
Me: "Mom, are you in a car?"
Mom: "Yeah, I'm with your father, why?"
Me: "Is he not coming to get me?"
Mom: "Yeah, we're on our way. Everything okay?"
Me: "WE'RE on our way?"
Blew me away. I haven't seen my father for five months and then I find out that he's driving some 2000 miles to come and get me. And then I find out that my mom is coming too. Blew me away.
The trip home was long. We stopped off in Tennessee to see grandma and grandpa. They were okay. Grandma was in the hospital but they were talking about letting her go home soon. Grandpa was as dumb as ever. And the sad thing is that I'll be just like him in 40 years. Dad's getting closer every day....
We finally got home at 2330 Saturday night. We left at 1300 on Friday. What a long trip. Then I had Tiff, Jodi, Heather, Richard and Godman waiting for me at home. How cool is that? My buds were waiting on me. Totally wickedly awesome. Then I got to see Anne the next day because she picked me up for church and we had breakfast together. And then we spent the whole day together.
Then we had dinner with her parents and that was a hoot. They really like me which makes me really happy since I'm marrying their daughter and all. You know how that goes.
All the craziness of being home really got to me on Monday when I actually got to sleep in and didn't have to put on a uniform or do any PT. Just downright crazy. Lots of coolness. Now, of course, here we are, two weeks later and I still haven't PT (bad benikins) and I'm sleeping in later and later everyday. Ouch.
But, its all good. I'm finally home.
Home. Who knew I would miss this place so much?
Home. Sweet home.
God is good.
:: Ben 11:03 AM [+] ::