I went to one of my usual breakfast spots this morning, The Pittston Diner, and they had a special menu for Veterans; included was S.O.S. Now I haven’t seen minced beef on toast since I got out of the Navy, and for a moment I considered ordering it; but I passed.
It is funny what will spark a memory, just seeing the item on the menu brought me back to the day I entered the Navy.
I remember like it was yesterday. We were standing in a large room in the Armed Forces Building in downtown Wilkes-Barre, my parents and sisters were there watching me take the oath.
I was proud and excited, and only had a touch of fear. I was finally escaping Northeast PA, and to think just five days before I was crossing the stage to get my high school diploma — now I was being inducted into the US Navy.
Those of us who were leaving that day said our good-byes.
We were herded onto a bus and transported to the airport.
There were plenty of tears.
A short plane ride or two, I don’t remember the flight(s), and I was in Orlando Florida, and there was no doubt I was not heading to Disney World.
Once off the plane and out of the airport, the very hot, very humid Florida air soon engulfed me. I was finally out of Northeast PA! Orders were being barked at those of us continuing on, and for a moment the expression out of the frying pan and into the fire came to mind.
Those of us going to the Recruit Training Center, were herded onto a bus and made the trip to boot camp. It was late, probably around midnight and we were given some sheets, pillowcases and a wool blanket and told to go to sleep. That is when it hit me, neither before nor since, had I ever experienced such complete loneliness. I was so homesick, not for the place, but for my family. There were seventy nine other new recruits, but in my mind, I was the only person there.
The next morning began a couple of days of hurry up and wait. The hurry up time was good, because there was no time to feel trepidation or isolation. Sadly, the hours of wait left plenty of time for both.
Why, today, is this memory fresh in my awareness? Because, when we were rushed from the barracks to the chow hall, I heard the words I would hear three times a day for the next eight weeks; “You have 15 minutes, and 15 minutes only to eat your fine Navy chow!” Included in that first breakfast was a concoction of some type of minced up beef, I am pretty sure it was creamed, slopped over two slices of toast.
That was fine Navy chow!
Happy Veterans Day!