02 June 2014
I heard the platoon from my back yard. 40 men in white t-shirts, green fatigue pants and bloused black boots. It was 1965 and I was eight years old. I raced from my yard and caught up just as they turned left onto Sunchon Street in the Ft Bragg housing area called Hammond Hills. I ran behind the platoon for a block or so before there was a sudden down pour. The platoon sergeant lead the men under an empty carport, barked an order I didn't understand and everyone relaxed and lit up cigarettes.
I was mostly ignored as Zippos snapped around me. One young black soldier smiled and I smiled back. He lit a cigarette and stuffed the bright green pack of Salems back in his trouser pocket. I don't remember talking. Him or me. But I see him clearly in my memory. Tall, he was built like a "V" with broad shoulders and a narrow waist.
The rain let up and the run continued. I ran behind my friend for a while but saw the border of Hammond Hills, shouted goodbye and veered off towards home. I'll never forget that day or that soldier or the feeling I belonged… safe in the platoon. I see it in my mind as a black and white photo on high contrast paper. The black of the boots and bright white t-shirts…all in four straight lines. My home... running away from me. Ten years later I'd enlist.