Military, from Childhood to Adulthood


The Judge gave me options: school, reformatory(a prison for kids) or go into the military service.  I opted to go into the military.  My mother signed papers that I did not have a birth certificate and was 17 years old.  So, three months before my 16th birthday, March 1954, I joined the Air Force.  Actually it was very good for me.  Not as disciplined as the army or marines, they still did not put up with my disruptive attitude or behavior and I very quickly became a model airman.

Waco, Texas (my introduction to giant cockroaches) was my first assignment and my beginning of southern discomfort.  I was neither Black or Mexican, but dark from the Texas sun.  It was the mid 50’s and the south wore the badge of prejudice proudly.  Separate drinking fountains and restaurants for those of color was the law.  When I went to the movies I was always stopped and asked what race I was.  I was not sure myself, but being of mixed Filipino descent was not helpful.  So rather than argue I would go upstairs where Negros and Mexicans were allowed to watch the movie.  Next, I was stationed in Big Springs Texas, which was like living in a constant sandstorm. Needless to say I was very happy to be re-stationed in Fairbanks Alaska, so I thought.  Although I did not get into any trouble in the service, I boxed a lot, and this allowed me to vent a lot of free floating frustration.  Being stationed in Alaska for two years was like being in another dimension, where the sun shined day and night for six months and then disappeared leaving darkness and 40 to 60 degrees below zero for the other six. It was my first introduction to what going crazy meant.  It was so isolated, cold and lonely during the winter, that a number of airmen cracked as if their brain froze.  A few went to the top of the barracks, three stories, and dove into the snow as if it was water.  They found others, frozen like popsicles, after having sat out all night in their underwear.  One guy, in our barracks, started shooting at an imaginary polar bear trying to eat him.  He was about 5’ 7” and 140 pounds.  It took six of us to tackle and control him until the medics came.  It showed how insanity could change a small monkey into a 600 pound silver-back gorilla.  It was really scary.  To stay sane, other than boxing, I used to cut down trees with a Tommy gun from world war two, and collect a bounty on wolves ears that I and some other adventurists accumulated from dropping hand grenades out of a air/rescue helicopter into wolf packs following the migrating reindeer.

I was transferred to Florida, icebox to an oven, where I had my second introduction to southern unhospitality.  This time I was lucky, because I hung out with a number of guys from Hawaii, who looked like me or me like them?  The local population tolerated us as not black or white.  However they became upset when we would drink out of both water fountains and laugh that they both tasted the same.  Or, we split up and would ride at the back, the negro section, or up front in the white section.  Since they were not sure if it would be OK to hang us, they finally complained to the base commander that we were insulting their sacred customs.  So, we quit irritating them, but agreed amongst ourselves that the south would make a perfect testing range for the atomic bomb.

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