Old Friends

A couple of nights before Christmas my phone rang…”Your dog is in my garden!” a voice on the other end proclaimed, I busted out laughing, I’d know that voice anywhere!  It was my best friend from Army basic training calling me from Arizona.  I learned that voice in 1980 and never could forget it.  So, it was awesome to spend some time on the phone reconnecting with her.  We hadn’t talked in a couple of years, life just gets away from you sometimes, and you forget to do things like stay up with those far away.  We did some catching up on friends and family, her husband and son are doing great, and she sounds like she is as well.

She and I certainly have some history and fond memories of raising some serious hell togehter during our weekend passes with the Army.  The two of us were the drill sargents’ favorites– because we were serious about both our soldiering and our partying!  So we used to be invited to the private parties with the drill sargents quite often.  I have some great photos of us wearing their drill hats and being just as stupidly silly as 2 young 19 year old soldiers could be together.

After basic training was over and she went to another fort to train as a truck driver, I stayed at Fort Dix and trained as a mechanic for the motor pool.  We kind of lost touch for a while, but we always sort of circle backa nd find each other every so often, always have and still do!  The bond that we developed during our basic training was quite strong, we were both young, both very athletic soldiers and both very competative.  We were two of the first women to be integrated into a co-ed style basic training, where the women’s platoon trained directly alongside of the men.

Our company, Charlie Company, had two platoons of male soldiers and one platoon of us females.  Bek and I were part of the five women who led that female platoon.  Both of us were squad leaders, and our friend Deb was the platoon leader.  Two of our other buddies were the other two squad leaders.  The five of us were hell bent on being thge best female soldiers that the Army could have produced at that time, and we pushed our platoon hard.  At the end of basic training Bek ended up getting the coveted Soldier of the Cycle award for being the best overall soldier of the entire company….which was quite an achievement considering we were the first fully integrated co-ed company.  The guys were NOT happy about her getting that award.  Subsequently the Army stopped the integrated training, citing that it was not good for the male morale.  ha!  Seems the mend couldn’t take it that they had lost that coveted award to a strong woman like Bek was — and still is today.  She’s currently the Road Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group that is heavily involved in the ceremonies and funerals for veterans and various other programs for soldier returning from the multiple wars we are in right now.  She takes her position very seriously.

Bek is a great friend.  And one that I have to say has been a big influence on my life since I was 18.  Sometimes you make these life-long friends that even though you don’t have daily contact you know they are still in the most awesome excellent friends catagory for life.  Bek is one of those friends to me. We’ll be buddies until the day one of us buries the other.  I’m really lucky to have this type of friendship experience, there’s nothing like the friendship of someone who will spend nights in a muddy foxhole freezing to death with you while you are fighting not only the enemy, but a bad case of bronchitis to boot! (Yeah, that happened!).  She’s always had my back, and I’ve always got hers. Booooyaaaaa.

I find it amazing that after all these years and after we’ve spent most of our lives in very different ways…each of us walking very different paths…that we have managed to keep our friendship alive and well throughout.  We’ve always managed to keep track of each other.  Even pre-internet location services we’d track one another down by calling our respective parents to inquire.

One very fond memory that I have of Bek is New Years’ bringing in 1981…we were just two wet-behind-the-ears puppies in the world.  We had finished basic training and were on leave. When leave ended we would be separated to two different military installations for our Advanced Individual Training (AIT).  It was a hard separation on both of us, we both cried like freaking babies.  I had never had such a close friend in my life up to that point, and it didn’t feel right letting her go so far away after we had become so close.  So, it was one of those ‘defining moments’ for me.  Before we went on our ways off to our AIT assignments we decided to get together one last time in Ohio at her family’s home in Fostoria for NYE ’81.  We had a great time partying and hanging out that one last time and her family treated me like one of their eight kids, I fit right in.  After that we lost touch for several years.  And the next time I saw Bek was in Germany when her Dad visited and got us together for a reunion over there.  He was a great guy and we got along famously.

Anyway, that’s the short version of the story of one hell of a friendship, and of someone who has had a profound impact on me.  Bek inspired me to be the best that I could be as a soldier, which translated into just being the best I could always be doing whatever I was doing.  Her fierce competitive side made me want to be fierce too…I tried to be as good, or better, than she was at everything we did…I always pulled up a close second because she had a bit of height on me and was just that much more confident.  My featherweight ass was all of 5’4″ and 100 lbs. soaking wet.

Oh, and she is straight…which I didn’t care about then, nor do I care about now.  I do remember that back then I was not “out” to her about my own being gay.  It was something that I had not yet completely come to terms with myself and not sure how the hell I was going to handle it when I did. I was fearful she wouldn’t want to be my friend if she found out I was queer, so I played along and didn’t let that proverbial cat out of the bag with her until years later, once I had become more comfortable with it myself and more confident that I would only lose friends who were not really “friends” with my disclosure. By the time that I told her, she was more mature and handled it perfectly — it didn’t matter, I was still her best buddy regardless.

So I was asked about choosing 5 people from my life who made a difference in my life.  Bek is definitely one of my five.

Do you ever reconnect with old friends?  What’s your favorite part about reconnecting?

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