I joined Air Force ROTC when I started at IIT in 1966. After a year, the AF gave me a scholarship, and as part of that I had to enlist. Unfortunately after my sophomore year I had to attend a training camp where my temper and big mouth got the better of me and I told a real AF Major to do something impossible. Oops. There went the scholarship, but fortunately they chose to discharge me, rather than keep me as an Airman Basic for the next 8 years. My military career resumed when I was (un)lucky enough to get number 34 in the first draft lottery. I tried for a deferment, but the government seemed to get rid of them as fast I qualified. I was even certified to teach K – 8 in Chicago – there are generations of kids who should be grateful that deferment was removed. I passed the Navy’s OCS test, but when they wouldn’t send me to nuclear power school because of my vision. I turned down the opportunity to spend 6 years installing engines in ships and enlisted in the Army to play trombone in the 5thArmy band at Ft. Sheridan. I went to basic at Ft. Lewis WA in August 1970 and somewhere in there the 5th Army band was dissolved. I got out of basic late because I came down with pneumonia, and then was sent to the Navy’s music school in Little Creek, VA.
I think music school was a 4 month gig after which my first duty assignment was at Ft. Rucker, AL near Dothan, AL where they have a statue of a boll weevil in the middle of town. Rucker was the Army’s primary helicopter training base and mostly the band played graduation ceremonies. Not that anyone could hear us with a bunch of helicopters flying overhead. The trumpeters also played a lot of funerals since the trainees didn’t always do so well learning to fly in formation at night. Rucker was my least favorite assignment given the weather, bugs, etc.
In January 1972 I was sent to Germany to join the band at the Berlin Brigade stationed in the area called Lichterfeld in Berlin. The assignment there was great, even though our band leader (WO3 Howard W. Vivian) was certifiable. He’d served in Vietnam and was afraid his troops were going to frag him. He spent the majority of his time hiding in his office. I got to see the Berlin Philharmonic several times and attended opera’s in both West and East Berlin. In Berlin we practiced once a month for a Russian invasion. The band’s job was to guard the general’s plane at Templehof so he could escape. Yeah, right.
Around January, 1973 I was transferred to the 8th Infantry Division band in Bad Kreutznach. That was by far the best duty assignment. We played lots of gigs for the public (beer festivals, military band festivals, the Fasching (Mardi Gras) parade in Mainz). I got out in August 1973, spent a year at Western Illinois University getting a Business degree and have been in California ever since.