April 23, 2014 — We were tired, sleepy and perhaps a bit scared about 1 a.m. when that chartered Greyhound bus rolled into the U. S. Army Reception Station at Fort Knox, Ky.
The bus had made what seemed like a dozen stops as we collected new Army recruits and draftees with orders to report for basic training.
The tension was broken when a big farm boy lumbered down the steps and walked over to a drill sergeant who looked like a recruiting poster.
He put his arm on the shoulder of the DI’s starched, pressed uniform and blurted out:
“Hey, ole buddy, where can a feller get one of them Smokey bear hats?”
As we marched away, we could hear the new soldier learning to do pushups in the snow and mud.
We were six weeks into our training when the platoon sergeant asked if we would trade a pint of blood for a weekend pass.
We nearly trampled him running into the barracks to change into a dress uniform for the short bus ride to a nearby church.
Two hours later, we headed back to the post, full of orange juice and cookies and proud of ourselves for giving blood needed by the real soldiers fighting in Vietnam.
Basic trainees usually didn’t get weekend passes so we were making plans to visit all of the “fun” places in Louisville.
We were about to turn into our company area when the platoon sergeant stood up by the bus driver with a PA microphone in his hand.
We just knew he was going to tell us where to pick up our passes and to be careful in the city.
I’ll never forget what he said, barely suppressing his laughter.
“I’d like to see the hands of all you geniuses who believed that part about the weekend pass.”