Monday, September 17, 2007

Caitlin's Story Part VI

The processing station was three weeks behind schedule. We would be stuck in this hell for another three weeks? After you complete the in-processing, there is nothing to do. You don’t have a job assignment to help occupy your day. You don’t have a place to be, and you are wrong for whatever you do. You can’t lie on your bunk, but you certainly can’t stand up all day. You can’t clean, because the guy right behind you will totally violate all you just accomplished. Not only that, during our first weekend, an epidemic started that swept through all our barracks. In only a few days, our entire group of 2,000 became very ill with the flu. I saw many of those boys taken to the hospital with pneumonia. I absolutely hated my existence and began to wonder if I had heard God after all. I have nothing but admiration for the Apostle Paul as he wrote about joy and contentment from a prison far worse than mine.

We were allowed to have no books other than the Bible. I would spend my time reading my Bible as I sat on my footlocker. Before long, I had a small Bible study group going. Most of them were just bored, but I took advantage of the situation. I went and saw the Chaplain and asked him for some Bibles to help with my studies. He told me that I wasn’t authorized to do any studies, and that any inquires I received to refer to him. Honestly, I appreciated his concern. All he needed was to have some hotshot in the barracks quoting scriptures and confusing people. I respected his position, but stole about four Bibles from the chapel. Actually, in the Army, you appropriate, you relocate, or you obtain, you never steal. (Don’t worry, after it was all said and done, I returned the Bibles to the Chapel.)

We had a good thing going. I had an atheist, a backsliden youth pastor, and two people that had never heard of Jesus outside of swear words. I hammered these guys with basic doctrine and exposed them to simple truth, such as God loves you, Jesus died for you, there is a Heaven and Hell, Satan is real, God is good, man is bad, the only way to God and eternal life is through the blood of Jesus… I told the story of the Bible to them as if I was introducing it to a tribe of natives in the farthest reaches of the jungle, never before seen or approached.

It worked marvelously. They refused to go to chapel services with me, but couldn’t wait until we had enough free time to do a story. They loved Daniel and the lions, Joshua and the conquest of Israel, Elijah and the fire, Noah and the flood, and the resurrection of Jesus. Night after night, I read them stories. We talked about everything possible; stale religion hadn't tainted them and they were eager to learn. They didn’t know that you were supposed to end a sermon with “Just as I am” sung quietly in the background as the pastor pleaded for one more soul. They didn’t encounter organized religion, but they encountered God! Slowly, I saw their lives starting to change. Even after we moved on into boot camp, we still met for our studies. On days that were important, such as rifle qualification days, we would circle into a platoon of 52 men and pray for God to be with us. Our Drill Sergeants would watch us and shake their heads, but God was working, despite the Army. I was humbled when one of the guys came to me and asked when we could schedule his baptism. God and I had gotten over our fights from the past issues between us, and it felt good!


Wait, let me back up a little, as I’m too far ahead in chronological order. I was still stuck at the Processing Station and had yet to receive orders to the boot camp, or “down range” as they called it. I hope my letters home aren’t boring any of you too much.

11 November 97
Ft. Benning, 30th AG Battalion
Dear Sarah,
Hello Sweetheart, how are you doing? This is Veteran's Day, and we are supposed to have a slow day. Our drill sergeants said that we would get to watch TV and have some true personal time. I'm not holding my breath. Even if it happens, we have 2,000 men and very few TV’s. Actually, I haven’t seen the TV’s to know if they exist. On Friday, about half of my platoon will be shipping down range to boot camp, but they haven’t identified which one of us will go. The wait is maddening. How long must we wait to go to boot camp? I have observed, from the people I know that have already left, all have Airborne in their contract. So I expect to be here another few days. A lot of the guys in our platoon have been placed on dental hold. I only hope that I have no cavities. Shoot, by the time you read this, I’ll either be on dental hold or down range, at least I hope so. We received our BDU's yesterday and our ID cards. However, they won’t let us wear them until Wednesday or Thursday. Oh well, I guess I will wear my sweats a few more days. Nothing else is happening except that I have something of a sore throat, but I think most of it is sinus drainage. The biocillon shot they gave us should take care of that. There seems to be some kind of epidemic running through the barracks. I hope I haven’t gotten whatever is circulating.

Well, now I am ready to get the show on the road. Is certainly miss you very much. I wish that I could see you again, and I will soon, but not soon enough. If I get placed on dental hold, then I won't be home until January. Oh well, what comes will come. I do have some good news! After all of my B.A.Q. and allowances, I will take home $1059 as an E-1. When I get E-3 I'll take home (after taxes, of course) $1350 or so. We will be all right as far as money. I'm so ready to get this over so we can live together on a fort somewhere. They asked where in the world wanted to be stationed, and out of all the places they gave us a choice between Texas, California, New York, Washington, Nebraska, and one other state. For some reason, I chose Colorado. I don't know why, but I did. Then they made us choose three overseas locations: they where: Alaska, Germany, Panama, and Korea. I picked Hawaii, Alaska, Germany, in that order. So did everyone else. I'm not going to hold my breath over any of it. Well, I'd better close his letter off. I'll see later.
I love you,

13 November 97, Ft. Benning Processing Station, 30th AG
Hi Baby!
Things are moving fast around here. We finally finished processing today, squeezing four days into a period of seven days. Our drill sergeant told us tonight that we were shipping out down range tomorrow. I'm ready to get started, but my back, neck, and shoulders hurt like crazy. It will be hard, but I will make it, as I have nowhere else to go.
Today, we received our class A uniforms, except for our suit coat. They look really sharp and are tailored to our size. We looked very good. Tonight we will be up all night because we have to repack all of our equipment, it will be fun to get started. We saw a video of boot camp today, and it looks like a great challenge.
I think everyone here has had a bad reaction to the flu shot. One day hardly anyone had a cold, now after the shot, everyone has it. I'm coughing all day long. My throat is really hurting, and it has been raining for the last two days. There's no doubt that I have a cold. I'm hurting so bad, and the have to be up all night and then ship out early. Well, that's final; our drill sergeant just told us that I'm on list. Gotta go.

14 November 97, 14:00
Well, it's been an interesting night. We packed up a ton of stuff and hauled it down to the bottom level (we are on the third) and get it all organized and spread out. Then, our drill sergeant told us that we weren't going. So, we had to repack all of it and haul it back upstairs. I was real disappointed to realize that I had guard duty until 11:00 PM. I was sick and very tired, but that was last night. Now I'm glad that I didn't ship. I was so sick I would not have made it. Now I have a few days to recuperate.
Today you're moving from Cloudcroft to Snyder, and actually, you have already moved by the time you receive this letter. I hope all went well. I haven't missed helping you move, but I do miss being there.

Things are looking up for me. A little earlier our drill sergeant caught lots of people sleeping in their bunks and smoked as hard. He dumped out our 50 gallon trash can a kick the trash all over the entire barracks. Our barracks is huge; it has over 110 bunks in it. And he made us do about 50 push-ups, plus he kicked over about 15 bunks and made us cleanup everything again. It took us about three hours to get everything squared away. Then he told us to go and standard in formation, but forgot that we were there. It was 1/2 hours before another drill sergeant, Jamison, came back, but we were already filing out on our own. One of the orderlies came and asked for volunteers to clean headquarters. This meant that we would set in an easy chair and watch TV for three hours! I can hardly wait! They have a Coke machine, and I have a handful of quarters! It will be fun. From the way our drill sergeant talks, we will probably be assigned to a tank unit called Bradley tanks. It's part of the infantry MOS, but I can't figure out how. They will teach us how to drive them and fire them. Plus, we could be assigned to a TO&E missile group that operates out of the back of a Humvee. Whatever happens...
I'll bet you are having a good time at home, with a new roommate and all. You probably don't have a job yet, do you? Probably going to the movies every night while your husband suffers in the Army. Anyway... well, not too much is happening, except an entire platoon failed to show up for count. The drill sergeant was pissed off and sent a guy to find them. He said, "If anyone happens upon my Army, would you asked them if I can borrow them for awhile?" He found them later and we walked past them while they were doing push-ups in the rain. The poor guys were brand-new also, they had been told to report. ….I'm going to get this letter off. I wish I could see you again soon, I guess will be only a few more weeks and then we will be together again. Well, I'll talk you again later.
I love you,
Tell everyone I said hello!

Check out this link:

1 comment:

Alison said...

Still more interesting insights into that unique time. The waiting time must have been maddening, but it sounds like you put the empty time to good use.

The link was interesting, too--I won't pretend that I understood it all, but my time spent watching "Mail Call" is now coming in handy. =) (David thinks it's amusing that I enjoy shows like that and "Dogfights.")