Seeing Eye to Eye
Like most men my age, I registered for the draft. I never doubted I would serve, but I was in no hurry to do so. I waited until my number came up, then just before I was to report for my Army physical, I enlisted in the Air Force.
Army Inductees only had a two year commitment and volunteers in the other branches had four. But I reasoned that if I was in the Army I might be in the infantry, and if I was in the infantry there might be a war. (This was 1963; after Korea and before Viet Nam.) If I was in the infantry and there was a war, someone might shoot at me. In addition, most of the jobs in the Air Force looked like they would be indoors. I enlisted.
Basic training then, as now, was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The barracks were old and had two bays, one upstairs and one down. I had a bunk in the upstairs bay. I don’t remember for sure, but I think there was only one bathroom, and it was upstairs.
Our TI, as the Air Force calls its drill instructors was Sgt. Bob LaFrance. He was a short man, and talked with a distinctive accent. Part of the discipline of TIs was to invade our space. It was pretty much how you see it in the movies. Because he was so short, most of the time all we would see of Sgt. LaFrance was the top of his head as he stood toe to toe with us to criticize our shave or our uniform or whatever TIs do to instill discipline into young Airmen.
Mornings while we were shaving he would come into the bathroom, stand right behind us and say, “Yew better Mewve,” or “Yew better get a Mewve on!” Because he was so short, and because he stood so close behind us, we couldn’t see him in the mirror.
A couple of us had Sgt. LaFrance’s accent down pat, and we derived great joy from approaching a fellow recruit from behind, bending our knees so we were about mid back and saying, “Yew better get a Mewve on!”
I’ll never forget the day when I was doing my best Sgt. LaFrance imitation in the bathroom, and I heard behind me, “Yew better get a mewve on tew!” Knees still bent I whirled around to meet Sgt. LaFrance eye to eye for the first time.
The look on my face must have been priceless. He turned on his heel and ran from the bathroom and into his office. I’m pretty sure he was laughing.