WordPress’ Daily Prompt for today is Come Fly With Me. We’re supposed to write about the furthest we had ever traveled from home. So my story is about December 4th, 1972, the first day I ever rode in an airplane.
I had finished two years of college and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I decided that I needed a complete change. I needed to see new things. Young women in 1972 didn’t have a lot of ways to support themselves. Since I tend to spill my food and knock things over, being a waitress wasn’t a good option. I could try being a secretary but I couldn’t type, didn’t know how to make coffee and hated wearing dresses. (Things were a lot different back then, remember.) So I decided that I’d join the US Army.
The United States was still heavily involved in the war in Vietnam, and the Army was happy to get an educated woman. They tried to talk me into going to translator school since I had studied Russian but that didn’t sound too interesting to me. Instead I opted for meteorological school and learned about the weather.
But I’m getting away from my story….
So here I was, a kid that had grown up in a small German town in the hills of Pennsylvania. I’d never been to a big city. Never been on a plane. Never really been out of the state except for our family’s yearly trip to Olean, NY for school supplies. And yet I found myself in a car, in the pre-dawn hours, being driven by an Army sergeant into Pittsburgh, PA, to raise my hand and take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.
I didn’t know what I was getting into. Unless you are raised in a military family, I suppose you wouldn’t know. I did know it was something not many people did voluntarily, especially back then in those anti-war days. As we were driving into Pittsburgh that rainy winter morning, the radio announcer said that he had just watched a bus of people go by and they all looked so sad and depressed you’d think they were joining the Army that morning. That is the thing I remember most about that day. Not the busy airport, or the scary thrill of the takeoff, or the gentle bumping as the plane landed in Atlanta. No, I really don’t remember that. What I do remember, though, is that radio commentator’s quip about people joining the Army. The other thing I remember is raising my hand and taking that oath. To preserve, protect and defend. I was just a youngster being asked to take on that responsibility.
I would say that was the furthest journey I’ve ever taken. Not in miles, but in how much I grew up that day. The lessons I learned during those years helped shape the adult I am now. They taught me how to lead, how to be decisive, how to value human life, and how to care for those under your command.