My “Instant Enlistment” – 1971

It was really my older brother’s idea to join the Marine Corps. He said he wanted to spend a couple years not making any decisions for himself. And he didn’t want to get caught in the draft and not have a choice. I just tagged along for company. Not like I was going to enlist or anything.

Meanwhile, MY life went on as planned, or not planned, as the case may be. Between the time my older brother signed up and the day he actually reported, I got into a bit of a mess.

There were some of us “off roaders” that could ride motorcycles all over Milwaukee using the access trails provided by the freeways and power lines. It was all small trail bikes. First you had to get past the chains, and then you had to deal with crossing open terrain.

I was riding the motorcycle ON the road a short distance between trails, and I get “blue lighted”. A squad car was right behind me with it’s lights going. I pondered hitting the gas and making for the trail just down the road. But I didn’t think I’d make it. I pulled over.

I already knew it was all over, but the cop had to play “catch up”.

“I pulled you over because you were riding without a helmet. Can I see your license please?”

“Um – don’t have one”

“Okay, can I please see the registration for the bike then please?”

“Er – it’s not mine”

“Could you put your hands behind your back please Sir?”

Didn’t take long for him to catch up…

So on the day my older brother reports for the Marine Corps, I am resting peacefully on my mat, on the concrete floor of the cinder block garage basement. There’s a single light bulb with a wall switch at the door. The corners of the room are damp and musky. The garage belongs to a friend and I have chosen to live here rather than at home.

My friend comes out to tell me there’s a phone call for me, from my older brother. Seems he’d been talking to the recruiter about my situation and the recruiter had a possible solution. If I was to enlist, he could get the Judge to dismiss the charges. Hmmmmm I was going to be serving some kind of sentence anyway. All the reasons my older brother was enlisting for still applied. AND I’d be joining under the “buddy plan”, which meant my older brother and I could go through training together. Okay. I guess.

It was about 10 AM when I got the call from my older brother. By 10 PM I was standing on yellow painted footprints at the San Diego Marine Corps Recruiting Depot. While my long beautiful hair was unceremoniously chopped off, I began to wonder about the wisdom of my choice.

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