It took a little over seven hours to get home as I had a layover in Atlanta before I could make it home to Fort Wayne. Atlanta was a huge airport, it almost freaked me out. Leaving home just as I had done in the past was turning into a real experience. I had already done more and had been through more than any of my friends or my family ever had. When I got off the plane at home I was so proud, and there I was all decked out in uniform, spit shined and wearing my Sharp Shooters medal. I was in the best shape of my life and I felt like I owned the world.
I walked down the stairs from the plane and saw my family. My mother was full of hugs and kisses, my father shook my hand, and I hugged my brother and sisters. I went around to all of the places I liked to hang out at and even back to the school to see a teacher that I liked. I was in uniform and trying to look tough. In the next couple of days I visited a couple of bully’s in the neighborhood. I showed them what a Marine could do. I look back and I find it hard to forgive them. I felt and still do feel that they had it coming. They chased me to school and beat me up several times. Now I was a man, not just any man, but a Marine. I took care of business.
I had two weeks leave and then I would have to return to California, to attend training aboard Camp Pendleton. This training was what every Marine had to do. This was the training that taught you to fight in a war setting. I was glad to leave home; it hadn’t really been all that long that I was gone while in boot camp. The two weeks went by quickly. Training was to be only a couple weeks long then we would all get our orders. Mine was to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I was to become a combat engineer. I was going to learn how to build bridges and how to blow them up. It seems that blowing things up was what I excelled at. I was good at construction too.
School went on for four weeks and at the end of the four weeks I was promoted meritoriously to Lance Corporal. Only the top two or three in the class got promoted. I was motivated, I was adapting to a new way of life, and I was overcoming my past. That’s what Marines do, they adapt, they overcome and they improvise. This lesson is what I grabbed on to throughout my life. I would of course have to adapt and overcome many obstacles if I was to succeed. My first obstacle was to get a G.E.D. After all I had not finished high school.
I studied, took the test and passed. I couldn’t believe it. I passed! I overcame! I was assigned to a new company and platoon. Head Quarters Battalion. I was with a platoon of engineers. Some of us were new and there was a few more that had been there for a year and then there were the ones returning from Vietnam. A lot of these fellows had attitudes and a few brought back from Nam something that I saw for the first time. Marijuana had a sweet smell and was smoked in a cigarette form or put in pipes. I discovered this stuff when I was along for a ride to town with another man that was in my engineer school and a vet who had just returned from Vietnam.
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