This piece was originally published on the Yahoo Contributor Network in 2011. It is a true story of how this author ended up in the U. S. Army at age 18.
After Turning Down $100 for Sex, This Starving and Stranded Young Woman Rushed to the Nearest Recruiting Office
Sep 12, 2011
One sunny afternoon in November 1974, a nondescript man flashed five $20 bills at me, and told me how easy it would be for me to earn them. After I fully caught his sexual drift, I ran away, literally. Luckily, my desperation spawned the only reasonable idea possible to escape the temptation of becoming an involuntary hooker at age 18.
I was broke, homeless and stranded in Tuscon, AZ, and even though I was somewhat naive, I knew that I could never trade sex for cash. So an hour later, I wandered into the U.S. Army recruiting office. The eager recruiters fed me, gave me ten bucks, handed me a pen, and I signed up for a two-year enlistment.
Shortly thereafter I was flown to Fort Jackson, S.C. for WAC basic training. Everything was humming along smoothly until we entered a large building where all the fresh recruits were told to strip down to undergarments so that we could become officially uniformed.
Did I mention that I was a hippie back then and didn’t own a bra or underwear at that exact moment in military time?
Feeling uncomfortable at the notion of parading around stark raving naked amid a bunch of unfamiliar women 2,000 miles from home, I sought out a stern looking woman with stripes on her fatigues so that I could try to explain my dilemma.
“Excuse me, uh, sir,” I stammered.
She whipped her head around and glared at me. “What did you call me?” she inquired angrily.
Posed with a brand new problem of trying to figure out how to address this upset person before I could get to the real problem of wearing no undies, I simply remained silent.
“You will address me as sergeant! Do you understand?”
I nodded, and she continued, “I can’t hear you!”
Wondering if she needed a hearing aid, I squeaked out, “I understand sergeant.”
Once these unfamiliar sir-versus-sergeant formalities were over, I managed to make her even madder by confiding in her that I would not be able to strip to my underwear because I didn’t have any.
She stormed away and returned with a huge pair of olive drab green underwear and a dirty white A-cup bra, which was three letter sizes too small, but it got me through the day.
Shortly thereafter we settled into our new living quarters, a plain brick building with two floors and lots of windows.
The next day we were awoken at the crack of dawn and marched to another brick building where we lined up for an all-you-can-eat breakfast. After suffering from hunger on the streets, I was ecstatic, although my fellow female recruits weren’t all that pleased.
Daily training included marching and maneuvering, military customs and courtesy, first-aid classes, obstacle course endurance, physical training and weapons handling. Back then, women were not yet permitted to engage in combat, but we were still taught how to fire and clean the M-16 rifle.
Even though my low self-esteem as a teenager had probably helped push me into the surreal world of groovy flower power, by the time I earned the level of “marksman” on the firing range, I was learning what it was like to feel a sense of pride and personal accomplishment. By the time a month had passed, I had forgotten what it felt like to be a free spirit, running with the wind, drinking as much as beer as possible.
In high school, I was one of those people who just sort of blended into the locker scenery, and didn’t know the meaning of the word “popular.” In basic training, it was do or die. Life would have been unbearable if I hadn’t been successful in establishing rapport with my seven roommates and 49 platoon partners. We helped each other learn how to do an about-face, we covered for each others’ flaws, we played red rover in our free time, and we pulled marvelous pranks on one another.
One Saturday night, the girls in my room brainstormed up a rather innocent prank to play on the eight girls in the next room. We waited until they were asleep, borrowed water bottles that sprayed a fine mist from the storeroom, and covered them in a watery mist as they danced through dreamland. Our late-night stealth mission might have gone undetected if it weren’t for the uncontrollable giggling fit that erupted in the middle of this un-dirty deed.
The next night, the girl who slept closest to the doorway heard a noise, so she turned on the light. This illuminating act woke us all up, and I sat up just in time to see two of the girls from next door dumping an oversized bucket of water into the middle of our room.
Upon paying us back for the previous night’s misty prank, they dashed away and left us with an inch of water on our highly shined floor.
“We better clean this up. Quick, get some mops, grab some towels!” someone whispered in an urgent tone. We scrambled out of bed and started trying to clean up the flooded mess. We heard someone approaching our room, so we cut the light and jumped into our beds like naughty children.
The telltale sign was that some of the girls dropped their mops and towels next to their cots, so when the OD (officer of the day) flicked our lights on, it must have looked peculiar to observe a flooded floor and mops laying next to fake-sleeping trainees. We were all ordered to report to the OD’s office that instant.
We were scolded harshly, and everyone groaned at the thought of peeling mountains of potatoes when the OD announced our collective punishment. “You are all ordered to perform KP duty for a week. That is, everybody except her.” She raised her finger and pointed at me.
“I know that Lorraine here is a model trainee, and she was actually trying to sleep while the rest of you were causing trouble.”
At first, I thought she was kidding. I was just as guilty as everybody else in the late-night pranks we should have avoided. When I absorbed the fact that she was serious, I spoke up.
“Ma’am, I was not asleep. I played a role in this, so I will also report for KP duty.”
“No you won’t, Lorraine.” She held my gaze and continued, “I realize that you are just trying to be one of the gang, standing by your roommates, but it won’t work. I know you better than that.”
She then ordered all dialogue to cease, and commanded us to clean up the mess in our room and get to bed. Immediately.
Ascending that long flight of stairs with seven grumbling cohorts was not pleasant. They were frustrated that I “got away with it” while they all faced the harsh consequence of KP duty for a full week. I reminded them that I had spoken up and tried to get in as much trouble as they were facing, but to no avail.
The next day I received seven cold shoulders, and my guilt was becoming overbearing, so I marched into the OD office after lunch. Luckily, there was a different OD on duty, and she listened to my story.
“What do you want me to do about it?” she inquired, blatantly bored by the incident.
“I need to receive the same punishment as everyone else. Please order me to KP duty like the other trainees, ma’am,” I pleaded.
So, sadly, she did.
That night, as we passed around the bottle of hand lotion, it was clear that all was forgiven and I was back in the good graces of my roommates.
Several weeks later, graduation rolled around, and everybody received orders to different locations for the next phase of their military training. Many tearful good-byes were shared, and as I hugged my fellow soldiers, I knew that something wonderful had finally happened in my life.
In 12 weeks, I had learned self-discipline, honesty, physical endurance, and teamwork. I also had developed a keen sense of belonging, and was the proud owner of a brand new, refreshingly healthy attitude.
Today, all these years later, it is apparent that the values which transformed yours truly from a meandering hippie into a military achiever gave my life a fuller, richer meaning.
To read “When in Bangkok Do as the Bangkokkers Do,” another humorous, thought-provoking chapter in Christine Lorraine’s military career, click here.