|This week Jinny’s article will be written by her daughter, Adele Anderson.
I am a veteran of the United States Army. People are always surprised when I tell them this. Probably because I’m a very small person and I look more like a veteran of a cheerleading team. Little do they know that I would never have chosen to be a cheerleader during my teen years. Not that there is anything wrong with cheerleading; it just wasn’t my style.
The neatest thing about being a veteran of the armed forces is other veterans. It does not matter what branch of the service you were in or what the era in which you served; if you are a veteran you have an instantaneous bond with other veterans. It is kind of like two people from the same country meeting each other in a different country where they are both outsiders. It may be that they would not necessarily have a particular bond if they met in their home country, but when they meet up in a place where they are both foreigners, they have a unique connection.
All veterans share an understanding of a world and way of life that is unique. It has its own language, culture, and social structure. Boot Camp is an experience that is never forgotten and, despite the march of time, has remained more or less unchanged through the years. Every veteran has Boot Camp stories, and the stories are remarkably similar, no matter how long ago you may have served or what branch you were in. Push-ups are still push-ups, Drill Instructors will always be Drill Instructors, polishing floors and cleaning latrines (or heads) has not changed much over the years, KP is still doing the most menial chores in the mess hall, and everyone has spent time policing the grounds and on tedious guard duty.
The first time on the firing range is always a good subject for shared stories, along with 10 or 20 mile marches in full combat gear and going through the tear gas chamber. The Navy never marched or did the tear gas thing, of course; there is not a lot of need for that kind of training on a ship.
Veterans always laugh about eating K Rations and C Rations; an experience that defies description. They don’t call them that anymore. They are now MRE’s or something like that, and instead of having to be choked down cold, they are in plastic bags that heat up whatever is in them when you squeeze them for awhile. They tell me that they are a gigantic improvement over the rations I had to gag on. I hope, for the sake of all those who are currently eating them, that this is true.
There are other things that have changed since I was in. Fatigues are now called BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniforms) and are pixilated for better camouflage in the field. Evidently, someone finally figured out that the old green, black, and brown combat uniform was not such a good idea because, oddly enough, the black showed up too much during the day or night. This is because there is no true black in the wilderness or jungle, even at night with no lights. It would have been nice if they could have come to that brilliant conclusion earlier. Of course, pixilated fabric was not something anyone even dreamed of when I was in.
The uniforms have changed quite a bit across the board. The dessert combat boots are beige and do not require polishing, which must be nice. The navy no longer has their cool traditional summer white and winter navy sailor suits with the midi-blouse and neckerchief. I find this kind of sad in a way. Probably because I am such a history fanatic. The Army isn’t even going to be wearing drab green much longer. They are going to the blues of the Union Army during the Civil War. This isn’t a bad thing, believe me. We knew we had the ugliest uniform of all the armed forces and we were a little sensitive about it.
When I first thought about joining up I went to a recruiting station where all the services were together. When I walked through the door I was instantly accosted by every recruiter in the place. The Marines, Navy, and Air Force all started their sales pitches by telling me that I should join them because they had the best looking uniforms. I must have appeared to them to be the kind of girl who would care desperately about such things. The Army recruiter didn’t even try going down that road; instead, he told me that the uniform was incredibly ugly but the Army offered more jobs to women than any other service. That was all I needed to hear.
So, I had to wear the ugly uniform, but I went to school at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California to study Russian and had the adventure of a lifetime working in Military Intelligence. Not a bad trade as far as I’m concerned.
Today, I work at a school where part of my job is being the senior officer in a military preparation program. Easiest promotion I have ever had. My two comrades in the program are a retired Army National Guard Sergeant Major and an equally retired Navy Petty Officer First Class. When we first met to build the program from nothing we had an immediate understanding of each other and what we wanted to accomplish. It saved a whole bunch of time and talk and got us started a lot faster. I wear the green uniform on the occasions when uniforms are required, but I don’t mind. I kind of like it. We have a cadre of recruiters from the various branches with whom we work on a regular basis. They are a lot younger than we are; I could have given birth to a couple of them, but it doesn’t matter and there is no generation gap. We all speak the same special language and we understand each other perfectly.