In 1959, we had just lost our first child, Cindy Lynn, at birth, and I immediately was drafted into the army and sent to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic training.
Bess and I never had been apart, so my dad moved Bess, our 8-foot-by-35-foot Great Lakes mobile home and our 1957 Ford pickup to the nearest city of Rolla, Mo. Even though we weren’t supposed to be able to see family while in basic training, Bess came to see me almost daily. While the cadre and the other trainees were eating dinner, she shined my boots while I cleaned my rifle in the pickup. The army didn’t do anything about it as long as she didn’t interfere with the training. She even would come to the rifle range, and the cadre would listen to ball games on our pickup radio during break time. When break time was over, she would leave. Many times, when I returned from a day of field training, Bess would be waiting for me in the mess hall, having coffee with the cadre.
Bess got a job in the service club where she made friends with the cadre from my company D-2/3. They would give me permission to stay in the guest house with Bess on weekends. Living off base and having a pass for our pickup, she was able to smuggle liquor to the on-duty cadre on base.
On weekends, the chaplain would send someone to pick me up and take me to the church where Bess was waiting. Then we were able to spend the day together.
When we were on bivouac (camping out in tents) for a week, we weren’t supposed to be able to see each other. Bess was visiting with one of the cadre in the service club, and the sergeant told Bess that if she wanted to see me, to go to the bivouac area and tell the sergeant in charge that she came to get my paycheck. She followed suit, and of course, the sergeant would allow me to see her. When she arrived on the last day of bivouac, almost everyone was drunk. Since I hadn’t eaten, Bess loaded me in the pickup and took me back to the service club where she served me a nice hot dinner. Then she returned me to the bivouac area; I had not been missed.
After completing basic training, I was immediately sent to the engineers division on the same base where I trained for eight weeks to be a U.S. Army Corps Engineer. During this time, I was trained to build and blow up bridges, roads, buildings and airfields.
After completing engineer’s training, I was sent to foreman engineer’s school on the same base to become a foreman engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After graduating, I was to be transferred to a duty station overseas.
While waiting for transfer, my dad had a heart attack, and because I was the only other partner in our company, Cutter and Dad Drilling Co., and son, the army gave me an immediate leave of absence to return home to manage the company, and assist my father through his recovery. I later was issued a hardship discharge, and released from active duty.
I hated every minute in the army. However looking back now, I received great training and discipline, and I cherish those memories today. I think some time in the military would be great for all young people today. ND
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