This photo was taken in the summer of 1977 just prior to starting my senior year in high school. In September 1977 (I had just turned 17 in August) I quit high school and joined the United States Marine Corps. You could actually do that in those days but you had to score higher on the entrance tests than a graduate. I arrived at Parris Island, S.C. on December 6, 1977 for what was the most interesting and difficult experience of my young life. The second photo was taken in February 1978 just prior to graduation from USMC boot camp at Parris Island. Needless to say the barbers had fun with me. In about a minute all the hair was on the floor to be swept up with all the others like the dregs of childhood.
I’m not sure why I took such a radical step. I was skipping school, drinking heavily (we were often in the ABC store parking lot waiting for them to open) and smoking all the marijuana I could inhale. I was very much a social outcast in high school and had very few friends. School was boring. I could do the work without much effort but had no interest in being seen as someone who actually cared about their grades. Life was beginning to spiral out of control.
I wanted a real challenge, wanted to prove myself, wanted to be a man. My decision shocked everyone and almost everyone said I could never do it. Once my mother recovered from her initial shock she was very supportive and kept her fears under control. Most everyone saw me as a very shy, introverted loner (which I was) with no real potential (there they were wrong).
The train and bus journey from Waynesboro, Virginia to Parris Island ended at about 3:00 a.m. A Drill Instructor stormed onto the bus and thus began a journey that in many ways will end only with my death. It was the beginning of my voyage of discovery, the initiation into manhood, the making of a warrior. It is a journey with many twists and turns and a very sad ending. More later.