Sunday, September 6, 2009
Sixty-Being in the Air Force
The thing about starting school when you're five is that sometimes you're still seventeen upon graduation. Such was the case with me. I graduated on May 31st, 1966 and wouldn't be eighteen until October 21st. There's a lot of events one is unable to do at seventeen, one being I couldn't join the Air Force until I turned eighteen.
I wanted to go to Auburn and enter their Pre-Med program. I was accepted and everything, but unfortunately, but my desire to become a heart surgeon wasn't going to happen at that time. The money was the main issue. I was prepared but situations at home changed and I wasn't able to go.
I'm from a small town, population in 1966 was around 800. The main belief of women's role was to get married, have children and stay home to care for the children. There's nothing wrong with this, it's an important role, one that at times I wish was the mainstay today, but in 1966, it wasn't what I wanted to do, so I decided to join the Air Force.
My mom was all for this idea, but we had to convince my dad that it would be okay. He really didn't want me going into the Air Force. But he finally gave in and agreed.
Sargent Hope was my recruiter. My first task was riding a greyhound bus to Nashville, Tennessee, at the governments expense of course. I had never ridden a bus or gone off on a trip by myself. It was an experience! I look back today and see how being young allowed so many experiences due to having an open mind. Just being interested in people and wanting to find out about them. I realize today girls don't have the same freedom I had in 1966. Today they'd be afraid to talk with strangers, and a wise decision too. From Huntsville to Nashville was at least a two hour trip, if not more. Someone met me at the bus station and delivered me to a hotel where I would stay for two nights so that I could go through the recruiting process. I remember walking along the streets. The hotel was located near the old Grand Ole Opry, I didn't get to go in but I did pass the entrance. I don't remember who my roommate was, but we went to a club to eat and listen to music. She had a drink, but I was raised Baptist and at that time wouldn't drink. I think I was tempted, but too embarrassed about not knowing what to order.
The first day was exciting, going through tests and medical examinations. I was asking all sorts of questions about what it would be like. There was one girl who didn't weigh enough, she lacked about two pounds, and I remember one of the techs telling her to go home and eat as many bananas as she could tonight and in the morning, come back and he would reweigh her. He said bananas weigh exactly the same before and after they were eaten. I've often wondered if she made it. I'm trying to remember if it was then that we were sworn in or a few weeks later when I came back to Nashville to catch a plane and fly to San Antonio, Texas, Lackland Air Force Base.