In my youth my career desire was to attend West Point and become an Army officer. I was accepted into the Academy in the summer of 1960 as a member of the class of 1964. Regretably I resigned during my 3rd year - a decision I now regret sorely, but that's another story. I was reminded of those days when I received in the mail this week a letter from the wife of one of my classmates, Tom Lough. Tom will be 70 in July and they're having a surprise birthday party for him. They're asking all his many friends to send him birthday cards to be opening on July 4th at their party. This brings me to the reason for this post.
Tom and I were roommates in what we affectionately call Beast Barracks at West Point...Army's way of welcoming New Cadets to the rigors of life at this prestigious academy. For two months you are pushed, pulled, yanked, yelled at, prodded, bullied, and otherwise "encouraged" to forget everything you ever learned about how to live your life - "...because Mister, there is only one way to do things, and that's the ARMY way."
Well, we were in a state of shock on our first day after getting our heads shaved and new uniforms fitted. We drilled and marched and endured verbal abuse all day. We were sworn in on The Plain late that afternoon...a very moving experience, I might add. Our company commander, a First Classman who seemed about 12 feet tall at the time, had warned us earlier in the day that we would have a room inspection right after being sworn in. Tom and I and our 3rd roommate Jack Williams worked our tails off making sure we would "stand tall" in our inspection. I was the only one of us who had been in the army prior to entering West Point. They had both just graduated from high school and left it up to me to show what needed to be done for the inspection. I took charge.
There were three desks pushed together in the center of the room for later use to study by. We dusted them, the shelves, windows, even the light fixtures above. We scrubbed the floor, made our beds, folded our clothes, polished our boots, and checked everything to be sure we would be the only room to get no demerits. I was certain we had missed nothing. I was well on my way to showing The Corps, and especially our company commander and my roommates, my vast experience in preparing for an inspection. My classmates would idolize me for making us all look so good on our first day as cadets! Hmmph!
The company commander marched in wearing his newly-pressed uniform and white gloves. He called us to attention and marched straight to our desks. He pulled them apart (I had no idea you could do that!), reached down, and wiped his beautiful white glove across the book shelves. It came out looking like soot! "Three demerits," he yelled out to his cadet sergeant. Tom and Jack looked at me like I was just...well, like one of them afterall. Welcome to West Point, Bob.