“THIRTY-FOUR!” My chest pressed to the cold concrete as I strained to lift myself. “THIRTY- FOUR” he shouted again as I struggled to do another push-up but collapsed in a heap, exhausted.
“Your mom must be real proud of you” he sneered
“Get up” he yelled
“Yes Drill Sergeant!” I shouted as I snapped to attention.
My entire company was present, almost 200 soldiers in formation on that cold December afternoon.
“Not only are your sideburns too long, but their fucked up” he spat
He was inches from my face.
The brim of his Drill Sargent hat loomed over me, his face contorted in disgust
I couldn’t help it.
A smile slowly crept it’s way across my face.
I pursed my lips in a vain effort to suppress it.
“Your gonna smile in face!?” he shouted
His eyes were little beads of black fire.
That was my FIRST day of bootcamp.
Everyones experience in army bootcamp is different. I was in Fort Jackson or “Relaxing Jackson” as they called it. There was nothing easy about it. Your Drill Sargent owns you. If he HATES you, he can, and will make your life Hell.
I had just turned 21. I was a immature, lazy, and I didn’t like following directions. I slept 10 hours a day..IF I was feeling productive.
This was all going to change.
I was the very first person in my platoon to get written up. By arguing, my punishment was upgraded by my commander, Captain Smart, a bald man with a pear shaped body. I was put on two weeks extra duty for failing to shave. My punishment, cleaning the barracks while everyone slept. Doing so, limited my sleeping to a meager 4 hours a day. As a result my absentmindedness was exacerbated. I had NEVER been so exhausted in my life. I’d have micro dreams while standing in formation. My reality blurred in a way I couldn’t distinguish dreams from reality. I fell asleep Standing up.
Let me stop for a second and let you imagine that. Have you ever been so tired that you literally fell asleep…while you we standing?
Well I did, the result was me falling forward into another solider and being awoken by shoving and cursing. “Fucking Evina-Ze”
Despite being punished with various forms of smoking as it was called . I never improved between my contempt for the dim-witted idiots in my platoon and my sleep deprived delirium. It wasn’t until the day of the gas chamber that really changed me. It was January and it was FREEZING outside. I had came out of the gas chamber having just recited the soldiers creed in a room full of CS gas. I was doubled over, coughing with never ending snot streaming from my nose. Walking outside, slowing regaining my composure, I put my hands in my pockets. They burned as warm blood rushed to my frozen finger tips
“Oh Evina-ze want’s to put is hands in his pockets… Everyone form a circle around him.”
“Evina-ze, just keep standing there with your hands in your pocket.” he said with condescension.
“Everyone else, push ups… front leaning rest position.. Move”
Say “thank you” on your way down and “Evina-Ze” on your way up.
I never been that mortified in my life.
I was not smiling
Now everyone HATED me. People wanted to fight me and or threatened me with a “pillow party” (putting a bar of soap in a pillow case and hitting you while you sleep” Even the Drill Sargent was going to me have me “Recycled”
I don’t know how made it. I guess I had some strength inside me which belied my soft exterior. I was changing, by the time bootcamp was over. I was shooting expert with my rifle and helping others work on there accuracy, I had the highest physical fitness or “PT” score in my platoon and surpassed everyone in sit ups and the two mile run. I had done tattoo drawings in my spare time for almost half the people in my platoon for 20 dollars each. When I finally graduated I was a different person. When I look back at my life I consider boot camp when I truly started living. I was awake. Although it was the hardest thing I ever went through, I wouldn’t have it any other way.