#PTSDDaddy Memories of Mike and ROTC… Part I
This is not edited yet, but I know many who will get a kick out of it. It’s also quite late here so I will continue this story tomorrow and post the part II. It’s just simply too long to write all of it tonight. Mike, I hope you enjoy this LOL I enjoyed writing it!
One of the first trips I went on with dad was to go pick up my oldest brother, Mike, from his ROTC graduation in Ft. Knox, Kentucky. This was not a planned trip for us boys. Of course my father was going to attend and pick up my brother but my little brother Chris and I were not on the scheduled drive. Mike had been gone awhile and I did not fully understand why. Dad was packing up a few things and getting the car ready to leave. I had no idea it was a long trip I just knew dad was going somewhere and I wanted to go with him. I partially did not believe I would get an “ok” from my father. It was getting dark which meant it was bedtime soon. Usually mom would tell us no if dad was running somewhere that close to bed time. I asked dad if we could go and he looked at us and smiled and said “ya know what, why not? Go get packed.” What? He said yes? Mom did not seem so sure about it but agreed.
Funny thing about my mom is she knew the times which she should just say ok, and she did. It was one of those odd situations as a kid where dad says yes and I really expected a no and mom said yes because dad said yes. I felt I needed to pack my shit and go before anyone just realized what they agreed to. This was our first “real” trip with dad. Traveling across multiple states, even at nighttime. Dad even let me sit in the front and taught me how to use an atlas! I also got to realize that after one coke, the rest go straight through you and nature calls much more often then it did before I sat in a car for hours. I am certain this was one big “downside” for dad bringing us kids, but he never acted like it was an inconvenience. We also didn’t have a tape player in the car so dad brought his boombox and had Chris in the back playing DJ for the trip. Dad was driving, I was navigator, and Chris was a DJ this was fantastic!
I am certain that nobody realizes this but for me, this trip to pick up Mike in Ft. Knox, Kentucky was perhaps the biggest learning experience, most life changing trip, and most self discovery I have ever had all packed into one trip. (With the exception to deployments but that’s much later in life) I felt like a boy becoming a man being able to sit in front that long and learning to read a map. Dad would have me calculate how far until the next turn and tell him when it was coming up. For a time before GPS, dad really did put alot of trust in my and my brand new navigational skills. We made it to our hotel the next evening. Prior to that we only stopped once at a rest stop to try and sleep a bit. Nobody could sleep though there was a lot of “shady” going on at that rest stop. Looking at rest stops today they are so much cleaner and secure than I remember on this trip. Dad woke up and realized nobody could sleep with the crap going on around us and we took off again. It was a short nap but it’s amazing how wide awake you become when sleeping feels dangerous.
I remember before the hotel we drove onto post at Ft. Knox to go see Mike. It was strange to me seeing all these “real” Army guys walking in formation just like on TV! The weather was overcast and raining some, I noticed this as I watched Army road guards “post” in their BDU’s and ponchos. They would step into the road, one facing us and one facing the opposite lane’s traffic, with one hand behind their back and one hand up in a “stop” motion. Traffic would stop while Soldiers would cross the road in between road guards. If the line was long enough, new road guards would run up and take their spot while those road guards went back to the front of their line. I was amazed with how methodical and planned this was. All of these people were acting as one complete unit. I have never in my life seen such grace in moving so many people from one point to another. The wheels were turning in my head and my eyes were recording every move of these Soldiers.
We pulled into a parking lot and searched for the building we were supposed to go to for this graduation. I was so confused, every building looked the exact same. I just followed dad he sure seemed to know where to go. I thought the graduation was supposed to take place outdoors and asked dad but he pointed out the rain and said they moved it inside because of it. We got into the building and stood waiting for what seemed like forever. At this time I really wanted to see what was going on inside the room. Getting into the room dad gave Chris and I a seat while he stood behind us. The room was packed tight and dad was letting other have a chance to sit. All of the sudden a video started and the song in the background was Bob Seger’s “Like a Rock.” The pictures in the video much like a slide show, nothing was moving other than different pictures of events these ROTC Soldiers have completed throughout their course. Mike did not realize it but he just became a hero to me second only to my father. I watched these soldiers crawl through mud, I watched them at the range shooting their rifles, I watched them helping each other over a HUGE wall! It was amazing and the song really hit home with the pictures for me. I started to understand that what Mike just did was no easy task. I decided right then and there that instead of being a police officer when I grow up, I want to join the military. Of course I would have to join the Marine Corps because dad was a Marine and Marines are harder than Army. (I bring this up now so that later you can have a good laugh at me and my way of thinking)
After graduation we got to join Mike in the chow hall for lunch. Mike introduced us to what the Army guys all called “bug juice.” I’m not sure exactly what it was, my guess is green Kool-aid but it was very green and very sweet and I could only imagine why they called it bug juice. The chow hall food was fantastic but I could not tell you what I ate that day. I do not remember what I ate I was lost in all of the real Armyness eating around me. These guys were huge and in shape and tough and they shot guns! This was an amazing place to be!
#PTSDDaddy Memories of Mike and ROTC next up Part 2