On Graduation Day, we finally shed the fatigues and donned the more formal 1505s which were tan with short sleeves, and instead of the usual cunt hats (Garrison or flight caps), we wore service caps, the kind bus drivers wear.
There were thousands of us out there on the parade ground, and it was hotter than hell, and from time to time we could see an airman collapse onto the asphalt, usually because the dumb ass kept his knees locked. The rest of us were all in step, thousands of heels digging into the hot asphalt to the beat of music provided by the Drum and Bugle Corps, together making clockwork thunder as we marched, eyes right, past the reviewing stand or whatever not-shit name it went by. There were flags and banners everywhere, and I guess each of them stood for something.
Picture Triumph of the Will, but in color, in broad daylight, in 94-degree heat.
My God! The precision, the unity, the order, the conformity, all of us faceless, nameless, all in step with the cold insistent drum beat, a terrible beauty, anonymous as the Russian soldiers firing their way down the Odessa steps! This mythic celebration of hierarchy, of obedience, of submission to the rung above -- even unto death -- this giving ourselves fully to a power greater than ourselves. . .
Too much for a 19-year old to resist. Though, as is certainly apparent, I loathed this process and had great doubts about the current mission, my eyes watered. The hair on my arms and the back of my neck stood at attention. I was a part of the Great Body. I could help It kill and I could finally accept being killed for It.
I was embarrassed by this religious experience. I never wanted it. It was an uninvited ecstasy.
It faded a few hours later as I was preparing to move out of my dorm and to another one while I awaited orders for my next assignment. But I will never forget it.
Fortunately, the Air Force never asked me to kill anyone or to be killed, except possibly through boredom. They soon put me to work in a job that required a Top Secret Codeword clearance, so I can't tell you what I did.
But I can assure you I was never asked to do a single thing that ensured the continued freedom of my country. Not one thing. I promise.
And they certainly prepared me well for that.