Now days, I’d call it marketing and propaganda. The war in Vietnam, nightly newscasts, the dire threat of communism, the domino-effect. But in the mid and late 1960’s, the U.S. government and it’s citizens strongly believed in the threats posed by Communist China and the Soviet Union. And a half century later…? Vietnam buys Boeing jet liners while pieces of B-52s taken out of the skies by SAM ground-to-air missiles are displayed with great pride by the people of Hanoi. Anthony Bourdain met with Barack Obama at a back-street restaurant in Hanoi for a CNN segment on Bourdain’s fascinating series, “Parts Unknown.” And the people of Vietnam love Americans…funny how things work out.
My parents sent me to Loyola Academy, a Jesuit High School in Wilmette, a near north suburb of Chicago. I joke that I went there when they could still hit you. No talking in the halls, demerit cards, writing compositions as punishment for transgressions, memorizing a page torn from the dictionary during J.U.G. (really). The hitting part? I have vivid memories of students being knocked out of their desks, students being grabbed by the lapels of their maroon Loyola Academy blazers and slammed into the hallway lockers. Paying attention, respecting authority, getting the job done. If you went to Loyola Academy, it was assumed, expected, and understood that after Loyola, you would be attending college, hopefully, a Jesuit college. But, the nightly newscasts about Vietnam and my desire to do something different, to take wing from the nest, so to speak, was overwhelming.
The U.S. Air Force Recruiting Office was in nearby Evanston, IL. The recruitment sergeant promised me photography school after I scored well on the Aptitude tests. By November, I had taken the physical exam and had been sworn into the military. I waited until February of 1970 until receiving the orders to report for Basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. Little did I know that the rigors and philosphies of the Jesuits at Loyola Academy would be serving me well in the near future.