I was tired. On that first Texas morning of basic training, I was very tired.
It's no wonder. The three previous nights of hometown revelry afforded me only six hours sleep combined. So, by the time the dust had settled from an all-day, exhausting induction, I was little more than zombie. It was almost 3:00 A.M. by the time we finally bedded down in the squad bay and, like throwing a light switch, I lost all awareness and quickly plummeted to the deepest level of sleep, vulnerable and unprepared for fierce arrivals.
Shock. First, my right eardrum was blasted by this screaming maniac with a Smokey-the-Bear hat, "GET UP!!!" I woke up, fast; yet my insides were reeling in a panic of confusion. I had to realize this was really happening. I had to focus gum-covered eyes, fast! Everyone else, an entire squad, were minutes ahead of me. That was bad. It got worse.
This stone-faced sergeant then heaved my mattress, covers and all, into the aisle. "Make your bed!" he thundered. Clearly, this person had escaped from somewhere. Running mostly on adrenaline, I frantically dragged my mattress back and made my bed, all the while being buffeted by a tirade of hate.
If basic training was an attempt to break you into slivers of sniveling helplessness, then I was strained very close to the point of fracture, for my bedding was flung from its frame three times by this Tasmanian Devil dressed as a drill instructor.
After I had built my bed for the third time, everyone was dressed but me; I was still in my shorts, and the harangue continued. Later, down on the patio, I was the only one who forgot his flashlight. God, what a morning--all this, and the sun hadn't even come up.
But I made it through all the weeks of basic training, drawing on my grit and determination. The first morning was a nightmare, and my ear echoed for three days. Looking back on it, I view it as a medieval exerpt of military madness, when my mattress kept flying through the air, and I had to keep fetching, like a dog after a stick.