There are many phases to basic training in the military. In the first, you are wearing your civilian clothes and are getting yelled at by everyone. After a few days of this, after they’ve decided that they’re going to invest all that money in you, they fit you for camouflage uniforms and the dress uniforms. During the second phase, while you learn to march with “snap and precision,” you wear the camouflage.
The camouflage uniforms are called BDU’s or battle dress uniforms. They are baggy and have lots of pockets. They are comfortable whether you are crawling through the mud or marching at the commands of a loud drill instructor. You’ll wear these during the second phase of your basic training.
I loved my battle dress uniforms but really couldn’t wait to get into the dress uniforms because that meant that I was closer to graduating from basic training. During basic training, the days consisted of running, marching, exercising, polishing things and more running and marching. When we were standing around waiting, we had to read our manuals.
When the day came to put on my dress uniform, I was really happy and felt as if I had really accomplished something. That first day in dress uniform was special. It was a clear, beautiful day in Texas. We were marching to the cafeteria, chow hall, and I saw the flag flapping in the breeze. It was high above me. I had never seen anything so admirable.
The flag symbolized to me all that was good about our nation. It symbolized our unity despite our differences, our hopeful attitude and inflexible will to persevere. I was happy to be in the military and happy to be me.
While a teen, I had struggled, trying to be someone that I could admire. It turned out that all I had to do was stop trying to admire myself and focus my attention on something else. As a teen, there didn’t seem to be anyone admirable. The teachers were strange, my father was dead, my mother did the best that she could, but she didn’t ever understand the United States. She was from Cuba. My peers were great, but we were all trying to be cool. We were, though.
Anyway, in that instant, marching in my new blues beneath a radiant, blue sky, I knew who I was and where I belonged.
Memorial Day is this month. There were millions of people that went through similar experiences connecting with Old Glory, but they are not here with us anymore. Many never felt that great about their time in uniform, many just responded to the call and hated every minute of it, but they kept on keeping on. It’s the time to honor those who went before with their stories. I am a lucky one because I knew some pretty amazing people in and continue to meet great veterans every day.