GETTING SWORN IN—— AND SWORN AT, 2/23/66

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Soon a group of strangers were standing together in a room with our right hands raised, and after pledging to “defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic, and to obey the orders of the president of the United States and those officers appointed over us”, we stepped forward-— and into the United States Army.

There would be much forward-stepping and much marching after that. The first place we were marched was to get a haircut and to be issued our army uniforms. As a group of us stood outside, eager to defend the Constitution, a regular army sergeant asked if there was “anyone who had ever been in the army before”. I thought it was a strange question. But a slightly older-looking fellow, in front and off to my right said that he had. “Pop” Wyatt was put in charge of our small mob and immediately stepped forward and took his place in front facing us. 

“Ten– HUT!”, he said.

There was an almost imperceptible “straightening-up” of each slouching person in the formation. At the words,

“Fo—waaaad…..HARTCH!”, we began to move together as an organized mob off in one direction. After a few minutes, we came in sight of a small building where we would be getting our haircuts. 

“Hut…..two…..three…. four…..one…two….three….four…..” said our leader.

I had actually taken two years of R.O.T.C. in high school, so I wouldn’t have to take P.E. (physical education. i.e., “sports”, and therefore I would not be expected to take my clothes off in front of others in the gym). Consequently, I did have some experience marching in formation. I was just beginning to think,

“Hey—this isn’t so bad….”, I was really enjoying marching along with a group of other guys, actually beginning to experience a new-found sense of belonging– when sudddenly he ordered us to stop. 

“Muthafuckkas……..HALT!!” 

“Mother Fuckers???”

I had never heard THAT word before. It literally stopped me in my tracks. And, as a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach quickly overtook me, I thought to myself, “Oh… my God…..what kind of people am I in here with?” 

In just over two months, I would be back home on leave after basic training, and finding our Persian cat, “Blue” up on the kitchen counter, standing next to the freshly-baked turkey my mother had only recently removed from the oven, and set down to cool before serving, I turned to my Mom and inquired,

“What’s this fucking CAT doing up here on the stove….?”

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