Do or die

That's what they called us at basic training. The majority of the troops at Lackland A.F.B. San Antonio, Texas, were destined for Viet Nam. Us "Air National Guardsmen" (you can guess what the "F" stood for), were less likely to be activated. In my senior year of high school, I saw a lot of the seniors from the year before me, had graduated, and immediately been drafted, and most of them were sent to Viet Nam, and a few were coming back, killed in action. This terrified me, and I can't believe my government can force me, a free American, to go and get my ass shot. I wouldn't call me a coward, but I am terrified! The guys headed for Canada, have my blessing. My dad was an officer in the Air Force, and he always wanted me to follow in his footsteps. We didn't see eye to eye, so I had to find out on my own, that, if I passed an aptitude test, and, depending on where I scored the best, I could choose my own branch of service, and rather than be a ground-pounder (grunt) and carry an M-1 carbine, I could pick my career field. My recruiter gave me the test, and I scored high in everything, after being a dumb-ass in school, and I always pretended to know more about electronics than I really do, so I dazzled my way into a radio repairman career field. He swore me in, on the spot, this was, like, late June, and I had a job at Buse Mill, as a stripper. He told me I could tie up loose ends, and leave for basic training, in late fall. It's hard to remember how long basic training was, I think it was six weeks, but I ended up, being there for Christmas, New Year, and my birthday. I may have had my birthday at Biloxi, but it's hard to remember, 'cause it was uneventful. I left my girlfriend behind, and while I was away, she wrote to me every day. She was due to start her senior year in September, and I missed her horribly. It would be six months, before I would see her again.

San Antonio

Basic training was easy for me. I was in excellent physical condition, and I came from a military family. I hated it immediately, and I learned what S.N.A.F.U. meant. Marching came easy, and I really felt for the ones that were so inept, that they were sent home. I wasn't accustomed to being awakened at all hours, and I had to stand, to stay awake, in my classes. The obstacle course signaled the end of basics, and as we crawled beneath live fire, and held our breath in the tear gas house, we knew graduation wasn't far away.



     Done with basic training! Time to drink! (Joe Saucedo my left)


I wanted to go home, real quick, and see Pam, but the bus took us farther east, and the terrain, and the weather started to change with every mile passed. We have orders, in hand, so when we arrive at Keesler A.F.B. in Biloxi, Mississippi,


 nobody has too much trouble finding where to go. We are still fangs, and we are doomed to the crappiest barracks on base. I soon found out we got K.P. duty our fair share, and somebody else's fair share too, and my second day on base, I pulled K.P., and I was not pleased. When I got back to the barracks, I had dorm guard duty, and when I got was relieved of duty, I had the pleasure of rasseling one of those enormous floor buffers, you see in the movies. I am, instantly homesick, and wishing I was in Viet Nam, getting shot at. At the chow hall, I see these guys with ropes on their shoulders, all different colors, and styles. I'd seen this before, and it was the Air Police then. Now, I was informed that the green ropes meant "drill team", and the blue ones belonged to the

"Drum and Bugle Corps.",

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Dr19nPCgpA    (’68 Drum and Bugle Corps)

and my interest was awakened. I found out where the barracks were for these guys, and my first spare minute, which came after electronics class, and troop change, which they performed for, and then when I was dismissed for the evening, I followed them to their barracks, and the drummers kept this really cool cadence, that made the short hair on my neck, stand up. I grabbed the sleeve of the drum major, and he directed me to the auditioning airman, A1C Thomas Ynez. Tom was a soft spoken, latino, and a refreshing change from all the three stripers that always were hollering at me. He asked me what I played, and I asked him, "what you got?", he replied "No, really." I said that I could play the piano, and the guitar, and if he would rescue me from my predetermined fate, I would learn to play any instrument he chose. I was thinking that I was doomed, when he smiled and said, "I need a glock player." I asked, "What the f@#* is a glock?"  "Glockenspiel", he said. "That's a effin' xylophone" I said.



 I passed a really simple exam, poorly played a sheet of music, and Tom told me to go get my stuff, and while I was gone, he processed orders faster than I have ever seen anything done by the military. I spent that night in my new room with two roommates, who were so friendly, and they took care of me until I earned my rope. I went around, bare sleeved, until I passed a room inspection (very rigid) and a musical audition, and I carried my glock’ with pride, and always had a sympathetic smile for the guys on K.P. duty in the mess hall. Classes are interesting, and the material is simple. The teachers are, generally, exceptionally qualified, which is a surprise, and even without studying, I aced every test, and excelled in every class. I met my first Iranian friend, Esmail Dustmard, and he was impressed with my rope. Almost as soon as I joined the corps., we were assigned to march in the Mardi Gras parade, something I would have never done, had I not joined the corps..

Bourbon Street

The march was relatively short, probably two miles, give or take. At one point near the end, a guy stepped off the sidewalk, and asked me if I had been in Newfoundland. He looked familiar, and when he said his name, "Ray Lowman", I remembered, and when I got home, I looked him up in my yearbook, and there he was. Now I am looking for his picture to insert it, I am unable to find it. I will continue to look.

Added 9-2-2017

This is from the 1962 “Rocket” yearbook

ray lowman

 Now that the instruments were on the bus, we are free. I had a total blast, and I collected several hurricane glasses, and several kisses, and I had to go get on the bus. I don't remember the bus ride home, and I was sorry the only thing I had to remember New Orleans by, was a blinding hangover.


                                            mardi gras bourbon st

Things went smoothly, and I made friends with the drummer of "The Kings Men", Mike Mitchell.



 I had been in a group called the “Night Beats”, and we soon formed a little group with me on guitar, and we won a little trophy for first place, in a talent contest. We played "Watermelon Man", and a couple guys from our horn section made it sound really good, in spite of the "Kingston" guitar I had bought downtown.

 Mike was an amateur photographer, and he talked me into taking some pictures, which we later developed at the base hobby shop. I only have precious few of them left, and I cherish them, the way I cherish those memories.

 It isn't long before Dean Handy transfers out. He was the other glockplayer, and Tom informed me that he was phasing out the glock’s. I borrowed a bugle, (a trumpet with one valve), and a drum, and started practicing. I was too uncoordinated for the drums, but I am able to make some pathetic farting sounds with the bugle. With the threat of K.P. looming, I turned those miserable sounds into something, barely acceptable, and I am reprieved.


                                bugle one valve

I volunteered to carry the long bugle.

Image result for herald bugle  horn

There are segregated rest rooms and drinking fountains, and I have a black friend. He took me to his house, and introduced me to his family, and his sisters are adorable, and I could have a crush, but I had to crouch down when he drove me, and that made me really nervous, so we eventually stopped seeing each other.

 I take several fishing trips on the bayou, and all the stories about water moccasins, and alligators seemed far fetched, as I only saw a few turtles, and dragonflies. To top it off, I never caught any fish, so I spent my off duty hours, drinking in the hotel bars in Gulfport.

                                     gulfport miss

 I missed Pam awfully, and time passed so slowly, when I found out the beginners classes were over, and we were allowed to take leave.

 I was dead broke. I couldn't even manage to save a few dollars to make the property payment on my lot, on the Pilchuck River. Pam’s stepdad talked us into that, and if I had payed for that, it is worth a large fraction of a million dollars, today. I am left with choosing between staying there for my leave, or borrowing some money. I was never able to save any money, but a lot of the guys could, and Robert (Bo) Baumgardner loaned me one hundred dollars, and with that, I went home to visit Pam. When I got there, she had just gotten home from her high school graduation, and she had drank a gallon of slo gin fizzes. She was glad to see me, but she kept throwing up pink foam. I enjoyed every minute home. My dad had gotten a promotion, and became the base commander in Sioux City, Iowa, so I stayed with Pam and her mom. Al had provided me with a car, an old '50 Plymouth, with that semi automatic transmission. the one you could stop without stepping on the clutch. He was gone, most of the time, and Pam's mom was desperately poor, and I remember one time she sent me to the store for birdseed, and cigarettes, and there was no food in the house. She still managed to feed us, the first time I ever had fried green tomatoes. I felt guilty for being broke and having nothing to contribute, and I was almost glad to start back to school.

Back to School

The second half went slower than the first, and I am able to challenge some of the classes, and I skipped a block of study, by barely passing the test. I wish I hadn't done that, and I settle down and finish school. I was always strapped, and I never paid Bo back the hundred he loaned me and I regret that to this day. I wish I could find him now, I would pay him back, tenfold.


There has been a devastating hurricane (Harvey) on the gulf coast, pounding Texas. It reminded me of hurricane Betsy of 1962 which struck Biloxi shortly before I returned home. It was very powerful, and we were ordered to leave our barracks, and march to a shelter in the eye of the storm.

 When I get home, Pam's mother passes, and we are forced to marry immediately, so that we can live together, without raising eyebrows. We are poor, and when my parents returned from Iowa, they help us as much as they can, while teaching me a set of values. Bo came to visit me, and I had to tell him that I couldn't pay him back yet. I was so embarrassed, and he was so congenial, it made me feel even worse. I needed to find work, fast and get out of the rut of poverty I have fallen into. I went back to work for Buse Mill, but the job had no future, so I applied for a job at UCC in Redmond, Wa.



         aaUnited control Corp

                                                         My first job after military was with “UNITED CONTROL CORP.”

  Go to              http://www.autoiran.html