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Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Youthful Patriotism

By James J Henry Jr

It was a bitter-cold, early, winter morning in 1950 at the U.S. Navy's Great Lakes Naval Training Center. I was a very raw teenager. They didn't call us teenagers then, but I was still raw. Recruits they called us, or "boots."

We had been training about six weeks and I had never experienced such order, discipline or cleanliness before. I remember standing in the hot showers for what seemed to be hours, symbolically purging all of my previous life experiences. I felt tall, in shape, and "squared away." It was exhilarating and I loved it!

One early morning, we were in a huge airplane hangar-like building. Drill Halls they called them or was it a grinder? No, that was outside. Whatever, it was a long time ago. There must have been 30 or 40 companies of 60 "men" each, and there was a reviewing stand filled with important officers displaying gold on their hats and uniforms.

We were taught to salute anything with gold on it, but only if we had our hats on. Announcements were made and a band started playing military marching music. It was loud. It really got your attention.

Each company had several flags at their front carried by the shortest guys held horizontally, but never touching the deck. Most of the flags indicated what honor that company had competitively earned in the training regiment competitions. We, in company 19, had the "I" flag. That meant we were smart!

Commands were given and the companies started marching to form a reviewing line. Loud synchronized thuds of our boots echoed. We marched to the beat of the military music listening for commands, following the companies ahead and the "man" in front while at the same time watching everything around us.

"Eyes Left!" the command came as we passed the reviewing stand, as our heads swiveled and the flags went up. Now, if you've never experienced this, well, let me tell you: it impresses you forever! Sounds, sight, testosterone, internal confidence are all there in abundance. Up in front the flags were now up in the air: The American Flag. The Company Flag. Several others and the "I" Flag - that was our company's alone!

You own the world at that point, and as hard as it is to believe now, if there were any enemies of the United States that needed killing, I would have done so gladly.

[EDITORIAL NOTE: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. Instructions are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

An old boyfriend of mine was at the same base in 1959, and it can't have been much different from when you were there.

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