It was lunch time on the rifle range when we were told to line up for chow in the summer of 1986 at Fort McClellan Alabama.
Yesterday my son, Sean, left for boot camp in the winter of 2014. He's headed to South Carolina. I doubt they'll get much snow there, but it surely won't be like an Alabama heat wave.
Sean joined the Army National Guard, like his late uncle Scott. I was about twelve years old when Scott came home from boot camp all lean and fit. He had stories that he told me about it. I was impressed with the six mile cross country run that he told me about. At that age, I didn't really understand what cross country running was. I imagined it was something like Motocross racing on foot. In my mind, it was all back country trails with ditches to jump and trees to hurdle.
I was in the Army Reserves. On the rifle range our drill sergeant was handing out MREs. That's Meals Ready to Eat, not my Jill's home cooking for sure. They are non perishable high calorie meals for soldiers on the go. Some MREs were okay. Some were barely edible, like the beef patty. The beef patty was a freeze dried piece of mystery meat that was supposed to be softened by water from your personal canteen. It was actually more like a beef puck. Getting an MRE was like getting a lottery scratch off. You never really knew what you would get, unless you took a moment to read the camouflage on camouflage print which revealed the contents.
That day on the rifle range the drill sergeant was acting like a comedian. I reckon she didn't get enough laughs watching the trainees learn to shoot M16 rifles at human-shaped silhouette targets. (Yes, "she"! Female drill instructors can be just as mean and even uglier than males.) Many of the mostly seventeen year old split option high school recruits had never touched a firearm before. As each one passed by for their lunch, she would ask, "what's your favorite MRE, Private?", as if she was going to dig through the box to find that particular one. Most said "beef stew", "spaghetti with meatballs" or one of the other edible selections. Then she would verify that the MRE in her hand was NOT the favorite before handing it to him with a smile.
My turn. "What's your favorite, Brasfield?"
"BEEF PATTY, DRILL SERGEANT!"
She looked at the beef patty meal in her hand, placed it back it the box and gave me some thing else. No way was she going to give me my "favorite".
Sean, I love you and am proud of you. I pray you have a safe journey. You will do well in the National Guard.
PS. Write and call your Momma.