Bootcamp Memories

NEWS FROM THE HUT by John Hamilton

On Monday mornings, the veterans from Post 142 gather at the Hut about 8:00 AM or 0800 hours for the 20-year veterans who would rather fight than switch. We also get together on Wednesday mornings at the Daylight Donut Shop on Highway 99 in Hominy. During the course of these two events, many stories are shared between the members. There are Air Force stories, Army, Marine Corps, National Guard, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine stories, and once in a great while, a Navy story. Most of the members that are veterans of the other services, other than the Navy, have 20 plus years of service to draw their experiences from. Even though I was enlisted in the Navy Reserve (USNR) for eight years, I only served two years active duty aboard ship. Consequently, the number of stories I have to share are few and far between.

But that being said, I do have a few stories about when I was in the USNR on active duty. The first story is the one where I went to boot camp twice. When I say that in a group of seasoned veterans, they usually reply, “Twice?” And, of course, I reply, “Yes, twice!” Then a lengthy explanation ensues. The explanation is when I joined the USNR I was still in high school, and the recruitment officer told me that I would be required to do two weeks in boot camp in my first year in the reserves. He told me I could serve those two weeks at the Naval Training Center at San Diego. After completing my two weeks training, that mostly involved attending classes, marching (which I never did again after boot camp), rifle range, and exercises. The most enjoyable part of the entire two weeks was the train ride from the San Francisco Bay area to San Diego along with the one-day liberty on the weekend that my dad was able to talk the base commander into. Normally this is not an occurrence granted to any recruit. I guess it was because he was a veteran of both WWII and the Korean conflict.

When I got home, I returned to high school until I decided to sign up for my two years active duty. When signing the papers to be deployed on active duty the Yeoman asked me, “Where do you want to go to boot camp?” I exclaimed, “What? I already went to boot camp for two weeks in San Diego!” The Yeoman explained that there was no record of my attending boot camp in San Diego or any other training center. He then asked me where do you want to go to boot camp, San Diego, or Great Lakes Naval Training Center? Once he explained that currently there was an outbreak of spinal meningitis in San Diego it became a no brainer, “I guess I’m going to Great Lakes.” Everyone told me that I was lucky to be going to Great Lakes in the summertime because the winter in Great Lakes is colder than a witches personality wrapped in brass. When I arrived, they assigned me to a prior service unit. This was much better than a total recruit unit. This prior service unit was composed of prior Air Force, Army, Marines, a group of Annapolis washouts. The Annapolis washouts all washed out because they couldn’t get a passing score in navigation. This made studying such a fun process. These Annapolis washouts were not educationally inhibited. I quickly hooked up with these guys in their study group and it really made the learning process fun. We mostly attended classes, since we were a prior service unit, and didn’t have to participate in many of the normal recruit activities. Again, because we were a prior service unit, we were all granted weekend liberty. At that time, I had a girlfriend staying with her grandparents in Pell Lake, WI and we planned to meet at her grandparents hotel in Pell Lake. I had to take the train from Great Lakes to Chicago, and then I had to take a bus from Chicago to Pell Lake. I had never been to Chicago, so I was totally lost after getting off the train. I was able to get directions to the bus depot, that was just down the street. Just four blocks to the south and the three blocks to the west. On a good day, under normal circumstances, it would have been a piece of cake, but in the windy city, trying to keep my raincoat on and my white hat from blowing off my head, it was a challenge. On top of that I was very worried about getting back to the base on time since it seemed like it was taking forever to get there. Well, I got there, saw her, and was able to return to the base on time, with her help. That entire event is another story for another time.

At the end of boot camp, we were granted leave before reporting to our next duty station. I opted to spend that short leave with my father in San Diego. I took a Greyhound bus to San Diego and again, when my visit was over, another Greyhound to Philadelphia, PA. It was a great visit, but shorter than I would have liked. The Greyhound bus trip from San Diego to Philadelphia is another story in itself, for another time. I finally reached my ship in the Philadelphia Shipyards. It was undergoing retrofit. We finally left Philadelphia and steamed south to our new home port in Norfolk, VA. Please stay tuned for another thrill packed episode of how the sailor sailed to parts unknown and found the way home.

Until further notice, our regular Legion meeting will be the third Thursday of each month. Our next meeting will be on Thursday, September 16th at 7:00 PM. The Sons of the American Legion meetings have been suspended until further notice, depending on the future COVID-19 situation. We have resumed the having dinner at monthly meetings now on the third Thursday of the month although not every month. The Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings have been resumed at 8:00 AM. If you are a veteran, or currently on active duty, come by for our monthly meeting, and/or the Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings. If you have a good story, it may end up in print. Also, keep up with us at the Post 142 website “americanlegion142.org” and Hominy Legion on Facebook.

About American Legion Post #142

Authors the weekly article "News from the Hut", about local American Legion Post #142 in Hominy, OK. Read his weekly articles in the "Hominy News Progress".
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