From the Frying Pan – Philadelphia

From the Frying Pan – Philadelphia

As I emerge from the sleep of early morning, taking eager sips from my coffee cup, the one with an antiquated Mickey Mouse waving on the front, seriously, that mouse is far too happy in the mornings, my mind wonders back to the post of yesterday. Now, please keep in mind, my memories of my adventures in the US Air Force are not necessarily happy ones, so fair warning, these tales at times will be dark.

My first recollection was of the Military Entrance Processing Station in Philadelphia. Now I’d only been to Philly a few times in my life, all as a small child either going to Germantown to see relatives or on a school field trip. Never on my own and never as an “adult,” and the other thing to consider is growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had never experienced racial discrimination, at least not to my knowledge. Well, the first people my own age that I encountered in this massive, government building took an instant dislike to me and since I was friendly and had good hygiene, the only thing I could think of was they didn’t like the color of my skin. You see, they were black and they made it very clear that I was not their “kind.”

Talk about a rude awakening. These girls were mean, especially in the weeks to come, as you see during the next twenty-four hours, most of the girls in civilian clothes like me, that I came across, was going to the same place, Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonia, Texas. And worse, these particular four girls, were to be living in the same open-bay dormitory with me for the next six weeks. Fortunately, their existence would mean less and less to me as the weeks went by, especially as my survival became more questionable during the first three weeks.

Oh, I forgot to mention, the last words out of my father’s mouth when I left home, “If the Air Force doesn’t want you, we don’t either.” Not a particularly kind send of, and those words truly set the stage for my start in the USAF. For me, a country bumpkin, and an insecure and socially-awkward one at that, succeeding in the Air Force, indeed meant survival. I had nowhere else to go. As far as I was concerned, it was either make it in the Air Force or end up on the streets. No pressure there.

And so, I did it, me and a handful of other high school graduates, stood inside a dark, faux-wood paneled square room, under the glare of florescent lights and before a flag of the United States, and swore to serve and defend the United States and it’s Constitution. It was July 14th, 1981, and it truly was a day of firsts for me. First plane ride, first complex relationship (yes, sat next to him on the plane,) first negative racial encounter and first time I’d ever been yelled at by people paid to yell at me, but all that’s for another day.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned. 🙂

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