Monterey, California is, as anyone who has been there knows, a remarkable place. I had the good fortune of being stationed at the Defense Language Institute in the heart of Monterey for about a year and a half beginning in August of 1981. After a fairly typical middle-of-the-summer basic training experience at the Army’s Fort Jackson in South Carolina I got on a plane for the much cooler West Coast. I spent a couple of days in Oakland with my brother and his wife before mooching a ride off of them to DLI at the Presidio of Monterey where I was sent to learn Russian. I reported for duty (needlessly in uniform) on a Sunday, checked in at Company C with the weekend CQ, and was shown to my temporary quarters just down the hall. That day, and over the next several days, I met some men and women who have been a profound part of my life ever since.
People like to talk and write about bonds formed through hardship. Those who served in the military together often enjoy a special bond borne of special hardships. I have to admit, however, that duty in Monterey was no hardship. The course of study was demanding enough; it consisted of six hours a day in a classroom learning Russian. And naturally we had to stay in shape, a requirement that was more fun than difficult given our physical surroundings. But to my way of thinking, the bond we formed had as much to do with where we were as what we were doing. There’s a timeless American romance about the place that is simply infectious. Since we were all quite young, we were willingly susceptible to its enduring charms. Now, more than 30 years later, whenever Kerry and I travel back there, as we leave California’s inland heat behind us and head for the coast, as the Monterey Peninsula comes into our view from the Pacific Coast Highway, we are transported back to a time and place full of energy, youth, and promise, a place like no other.