Parris Island, SC
Sorry it has taken so long for me to write, but things are rather hectic here as you might imagine. It is not really more or less hectic than I thought it would be, but I must say I’m surprised at how some people are handling things (i.e., tears, pleas to leave, etc.). I’ve been made the scribe of the platoon in light of the fact that I am the only recruit with a college degree. The job is not bad and I think it keeps me out of a little bit of trouble, but my duties cut into my free time so my ability to write letters has been severely limited.
This is a very strange and rather bleak place Mom. While I don’t regret coming here, I must state honestly that each morning, there are pangs of unhappiness and longing for home. These pangs generally clear up by mid-morning once the sun begins to shine (we are awakened at about 5:00 every morning). I have had some really good times here so far and it feels nice to be getting in shape.
There are some really nice kids in my platoon and I seem to be getting along well with everyone.
I need to wrap this letter up now because time is short, but rest assured that I am safe and as happy as could be expected. I hope to hear from you soon.
On the autumnal equinox of 1951, September 22, a singular day of equal light and equal dark, I decided to enter into the happy egg and sperm of my mother and father. I was planted in my mother’s womb as the northern hemisphere that was the environment around and about the Pentagon and Fort Belvoir in Alexandria, Virginia, began yet another slow descent into increasing darkness and cold. While most tillers of the soil had months ago planted their seeds in the warm sunshine of early spring and deep summer, and were now reaping the fruits, I guess you could say I was planted at harvest time. For some good reason, I was conceived just as the scales tipped into darkness, though I knew harmony from that first moment. I remember harmony.
The five-sided bunker was the sole place of employment for both my young Air Force ROTC-grad officer father and clerk typist mother. For those ensuing dark nights and windowless days in the cold-lit halls of the Pentagon, I had an embryo-eye view of the cavernous enclosure that housed diligent dark secrets of the United States Military Industrial Complex at its finest operations. My cells multiplied daily in a fortress of secrecy and fear. Surely fear permeated my mother’s and father’s bodies, as if the tribe of that community in which I was so deeply embedded revered some awesome dark force that promised to protect them, reward them, increase them, and so each member of the tribe would daily propitiate the God of Military Secrets through acts of obeisance and Zero Defects, evidence of reverence in the typewriter and cockpit, answering phones and saluting high priests dressed dark blue in winter, and desert brown in summer.
That my mother’s fear was visceral can be assumed without question. Fear flowed in her blood, nourished me and became my essence, bones, spine, and throat clutch. And to this very moment of the darkening moon’s wane on a Passover night nearly 56 years later, I have carried this legacy of fear like an iron shackle around my neck.
And what has this to do with anyone else in the country of my birth? Nothing at all, if we are truly heirs of an American dream of individuality, each of us truly endowed with equal opportunity. But if there are hidden potholes in our inheritance, and we feebly begin to intuit that something has gone terribly wrong with this picture, then a child nurtured in fear and groomed to be silent and obey the orders given in a strict military household, starts to seep out in bloody stains onto others’ lives, at school, at play, at work.
We Baby Boomers sprouted as a result of the age-old effort to erase memories of the carnage of war. My older sister and I were born before a decade had lapsed since the end of World War II, since 1945, leaving the memory of Auschwitz fading in the smoke of chuffing chimneys above huge incinerators roasting flesh of people like you and me. We were born out of a nationwide denial of the horrors of death. My parents seem to have been motivated by a complex and strange feeling as they grasped each other in a clutch with some kind of hope in life that quietly agreed to forget death’s power, and to forget the incomprehensible events that had taken place.