…I stepped off a bus in Ft. Knox, KY. I was a nervous, long-haired, pig-headed kid. It was the beginning of my true education. Boot camp tends to focus the mind and relieve one of the notion that the universe revolves around you. I had some hard times and some really good times during my 8 years of active duty. I was always on the verge of being broke, but always made it through somehow. I saw parts of the world I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and I saw the dark side of government in places like North Korea and East Germany. I learned how not to be the Ugly American by a little trial-and-error and by watching some folks who were truly gifted at being UAs. I learned that one really needs to be a good citizen of the world in order to be a good citizen of one’s own country. I met many people who were at once thrilled by, mistrusting of, and resentful of all things American. I learned that the vast majority of the world can separate Americans from America; the people from the government.

And all that education started with a drill sergeant screaming at me from an inch away just because I was a “cruit.” I can still vividly recall my drill sergeants’ faces because I was within inches of them so many times and had ample opportunity to study every detail. When a drill is screaming at you, you had better not avert your eyes.

One of these days I’d like to drive down to Ft. Knox just to see the place where my life took such a momentous change in direction. While I’d never want to go through that again, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. And if, by chance, a drill sergeant (any drill sergeant) happens to read this, I want to say thanks. I owe you.