Gas Mask Habit

After being issued basic combat training equipment, we were warned that gas masks were frequently lost, and that we would be charged $65 for a replacement. Determined not to lose mine, I developed the habit of hitting its case with my elbow as we marched, to ensure that the mask was safely inside.

Near the end of training, we made a final check of our masks before ascending to the test chamber. I elbowed my gas-mask case and panicked when I realized it was empty. “Drill Sergeant!” I yelled, jumping out of formation. “I lost my gas mask!”

“Get back in the line!” he bellowed. “It’s on your head!”

-Contributed by Jared T. Garfield


More Cake

Three weeks into training camp, I still hadn’t gotten used to Navy cooking and was surviving on milk and desserts. In one food line, I picked up the biggest piece of cake available and set it on my tray. The mess cook behind the counter saw the gleam in my eye and asked me if I’d like two pieces. When I eagerly answered that I would, the cook leaned over and cut my piece of cake in two.

-Jack Leonard

Retired Navy Admiral

A retired Navy admiral, my father began a second career working in a bank. One morning, while he prepared his desk for the day, he was approached by a young officer from the nearby Naval base. “Sorry, but this department isn’t open yet,” Dad said.

“But it’s nine o’clock!” protested the officer.

My father didn’t look at his watch. Instead, he surveyed his customer’s uniform. “Ensign,” he snapped, “I’ll decide when it’s nine o’clock!”

-Susan N. Bolinger

Wearied Mother

After an overnight flight to meet my father at his latest military assignment, my mother wearily arrived with my eight siblings and me – all under age 11. Collecting our many suitcases, the ten of us entered the cramped customs area. A young customs official watched our entourage in disbelief.

“Ma’am,” he said, “do all these children and all this luggage belong to you?”

“Yes, sir,” my mother said with a sigh. “They’re all mine.”

The customs agent began his interrogation: “Ma’am, do you have any weapons, contraband or illegal drugs in your possession?”

“Sir,” she calmly answered, “if I’d had any of those items, I would have used them by now.”

The official allowed us to pass without opening a single suitcase.

-Mary E. Levy