Sam is the name that showed me more of the world, than I ever knew.
In case you haven’t figured it out, that’s “Uncle Sam”. Sam opened my eyes and my mind, so much that I had to take a second look. I was born and raised in Detroit Michigan during the time it was the Motor City. If it rolled off an assembly line, it came from the Detroit area. It was also the home of Motown, the newest hippest urban sound.
In my last year in high school, I decided that I was going to get a job on the assembly line. I had worked my first summer job, at a Howard Johnson Restaurant and liked the idea of having earned my own money. I was now living with my dad, and was on my second childhood. I didn’t know it then, but I was co-parented. My first nine years, was with my mom and my brothers and sisters. Mom went into the hospital and we were sent to live with our different fathers. Mine decided to keep me with him, and I felt like I was raised as an only child for the next nine years.
Before Sam appeared, my world was limited to there I lived, and the people I knew. I was working on the assembly line and felt like a human machine. This was before automation and the work was pure manual labor. At the beginning of the model year, things seemed OK because there were gaps in the line. But when they got to full production, with NO gaps, that was sixty cars rolling off the assembly line every hour. That was about 400 cars per shift. And I worked the second shift. That meant about 800 cars a day were produced for the plant, I worked in.
We only had two 15 minute “relief breaks” and a half hour lunch break. The only time the line stopped was when there was a production problem and during the 30-minute lunch break. Some workers would even sabotage things to get the line to stop. You had one minute (60 seconds) to finish whatever your task was, before you had to do it again. You learned to work efficient so you could have a little time before the next vehicle arrived.
I didn’t want to condition myself, to continue, to do that. The older guys around me started off with the hard tasks then with seniority, transitioned into the easier positions. They then became locked into debt, and family responsibilities. But I wanted more, so I figured that if I wanted more, I had to do more, and going to college was my way off the assembly line. My problem was how do I pay for it! So, I decided to join the United States Air force. It wasn’t until many years later that I found out how fortunate I was to be accepted in the Air Force instead of the Army or the Marine Corp, especially during the Vietnam War.
Sam introduced me to different people, in different parts of the world. My first ever plane ride, was to basic training, in Lackland AFB in Texas. To the new-recruit basic training is a shock to the system. I now realize it was designed that way, to break all the old habits and build unity. In reality, it’s a quick weeding out process, to find out fast, who won’t fit. The worst thing and biggest fear in basic training is being faced with being “recycled” (doing basic training all over again).
My first assignment was to a radar site, in Tonopah Nevada which was in the middle of nowhere. It’s the mid-way point between Reno in the North and Las Vegas in the South. To me, coming from Detroit and landing there, was like landing on the moon. Once you get away from the city, it’s all desert.
I did a 90-day tour in Tripoli Libya, North Africa, where the United States was closing the air base there? I continued to develop a world view when I was then sent to Germany, as I became a product of the cold war in Europe. Years later I returned to Germany, but this time as an Army Officer. I was now a part of the Seventh Army Training Command, the place where the Army came to train in Europe.
When I blog, it brings back memories of times pass. It’s my record that I was here on this earth. I didn’t retire with 20 years of service but I did do 13 – three as a NCO and ten as a commissioned officer. I traveled and met a lot of people. What I learned is that no matter where you go, people want to raise their families in peace, whether in America or the Middle East. Yes, I studied war, now it’s time for peace. This had been straight talk, beast mode. H.G.M.
Dr. Steve Sheiner
Great story Earl. I think a lot of people share the same story. Different journey, but the same story. Congratulations for getting home safe and for finding a new path. Thanks for sharing this.
Thank you for your service Earl. I grew up in a military town with an Air Force Base called McClellan Air Force. It’s now shut down and everything is different. I also appreciate you sharing some of your story with us.
I been reading your blogs for a while now. Thank you for your stories. When I was a teenager I almost joined the Air Force but one of my cousins thought that I wouldn’t like it because I had to follow orders all day. I thought about what he said, and realized that was true. The only reason why I wanted to go there was to be able to get my pilots license (and experience) on their dime. My 19-year-old son attended cadet (Army and Air force) for years and now is looking to enlist in the Canadian Armed Forces, but not now, because he has epilepsy. He thinks he is a tank guy. Thank you for your post about how Uncle Sam influenced your life.
Earl I love this!! Thank you for sharing your experience and this aspect of your life. I am laughing at myself for not having a hint, who Sam was. When I saw your post title, I was expecting a sweet old man that took you under his wing. What I found, was a 200 year or so old man, that gave you his wings 🙂 Love it and thank you again Earl!
Great post Earl! Thank God for Sam! I absolutely love your stories! I too was wondering who was this Sam fellow you were talking about. I love what you say about, no matter where you go, people want to raise their families in peace. Thanks for sharing!
Earl Hackett Thanks for comments. I have learned that discipline can be taught, but respect must be earned.