May 19, 1981. I was in West Palm Beach, Florida, staying at my father's condominium. I'd been there for about six weeks just sort of hanging out until it was time to report for active duty. I walked to the recruiting station early in the morning, and got on a bus for Ft. Lauderdale. There was some kind of larger processing point in Ft. Lauderdale. I remember going over all of my paperwork with some clerk. At some point, I got on another bus for a quick flight from Miami to Columbia, South Carolina, the home of Ft. Jackson and one of the Army's Basic Combat Training Brigades. It was dark by the time we got to Ft. Jackson, so other than issuing some bedding and heading for our temporary billets, not much happened. I do remember seeing a bunch of drill sergeants in their iconic campaign hats waiting for our buses as we pulled up. They went easy on us that first night, just sort of directing us to the billets and letting us know what would be happening the next day. At any rate, that's what I remember from 35 years ago today, the day I went on active duty in the U.S. Army.
The picture below is from a few years later. I'm getting sergeant's stripes up at our intercept site on Teufelberg, Field Station Berlin. That was my fourth and last promotion, having started as a buck private with no stripes and barely any pay.