Exactly 40 years ago today, November 3, 1969, I was dressed in this blue suit. I had only one stripe on my sleeve then. After waiting around most of the day and finally getting paid, I was at last on the way back to the airport in San Antonio, Texas, where I had landed on August 15, 1969 to begin basic training in the United States Air Force.
After waiting an extra month for orders because my background investigation took a little more time (having been all over Europe the summer before, my trail was longer), I was on my way with fellow Airmen to become part of SR9-11-69B. That is,
Training category 9
Class starting in the month of November (11)
Year of starting classes, 1969
Language instruction level: B for basic.
We flew from San Antonio to Atlanta by daylight. In Atlanta we changed planes, flying the last leg from Atlanta to Syracuse on an Eastern Airlines DC-9. It was a nice ride, unlike the thunderstorms I had flown through on my way into San Antonio back in August. Enroute, I had a good conversation with seat mates. I think I paid the two or three dollars and had a beer.
We arrived in Syracuse after 10 PM, collected our duffle bags and boarded a chartered bus. I remember driving through Syracuse once we entered the city and seeing beautiful hardwood trees, so unlike the pale chartreuse mesquite trees we had left behind in Texas.
Someone a couple of rows back remarked upon seeing the brightly colored leaves of November in Syracuse, "Wow! It's actually fall here!"
So it was. And so began the next phase of my training that would eventually lead my path in life to that of a young woman named Jean Beth Robson from Buffalo, NY, the following May 23.
And that's the way it was, November 3, 1969.
Today I wore this uniform again, the first time publicly in 36 years. I went to Milwaukie High School's Living History Day. I heard a few vets tell their stories. I added a few comments from four decades ago.
40 years. Just like that.