I was a Christian boy in U.S. Air Force basic training. They used cuss words I had never even heard before. They treated us like dogs. We never got enough rest. They showed us the base chapel, but we never got time off to go to the Sunday services.
I felt the need to talk to my God. One night after bed check at 11 p.m., I sneaked down the back stairs of the barracks. I went through the woods to the base chapel. I tried the front door, and it was locked. I went around the building and found an unlocked door around back.
I looked around, then went in. The altar was lit. There in the quiet of that house dedicated to God, I knelt and prayed for an hour. I felt better, then sneaked back to the barracks and went to bed. If they had caught me in the chapel at that time of night, all alone, I would have spent the next three months in the stockade.
The flight chief called us all together. “Our training instructor wants to go home to Baltimore for the 4th of July weekend, but his car needs some repairs first. If we all donate a dollar apiece he can go, and we will have three days off and can do whatever we went to for this holiday weekend.” We collected the $60 for him, and he left Friday evening.
Saturday morning came. “CLANG-CLANG-CLANG” went the artillery shell at 4 a.m. A new training instructor had been assigned to us for the long weekend. We had no classes, but he marched us all day — for three days.
He caught a man scratching his ear. He grabbed his arm, twisted it behind his back, and we heard the bone snap. He told us, “You tell on me, and I’ll kill you. I know where you live, you bunch of Jeeps.” We kept our mouths shut.
At the age of 18, you could drink alcohol in New York State. I was 17. We started getting half a day off on Saturday. The Service Club was full of drinkers. Later that night we younger ones poured them into their beds. One guy kept falling out on the other side, so we just let him lie there in his vomit. All those who drank on Saturday night had a hard time marching the next day.