the planes that guarded were extremely loud and painful on the ears. I suffered hearing loss from the experience, but it was a pain that I never realized was happening. So, it has me wondering if there were other kinds of pains that I endured that I never really noticed occurring.
I know that I longed for intimate relationships while in Okinawa. It was said to be a family base, not necessarily designed for single males. It certainly was an advantage to single females though. I spent many days pining over my desire for a girl. I felt a lot of jealousy towards those guys who managed to find a female partner. It felt like such an impossible dream to have a girlfriend at the time.
That suffering and despair may have changed my outlook on life very drastically. It wasn’t enough for me to be without a girlfriend in High School. I knew that I had little chance of a loving girlfriend whom I was also attracted to High School. When the average living standard is a nice Middle Class home, and I lived in a trailer, I was at a loss for words to explain my unfortunate circumstances. But, it may have been a good thing to be humbled at an early age too.
So, on top of hearing loss, I became emotional angry and distant from females. What else could have occurred while I was in the military that could be construed as damaging. Well, it seems like I was separated from the culture for a long enough period of time to make the US seem foreign to me. I was on Okinawa for 3 years from 1997 to 1999 and I may as well have been in prison on that island.
I refused to pay for any entertainment. It felt like such a waste of money to me. I hated spending money on things I perceived as not going up in value. I was very frugal as a young kid already, and further continued my habits throughout my military experience. I don’t have the Basic Training photo after graduation because I refused to spend $15 for it. It seems like everyone had to have one. Most of my graduating class had to have the group photo, which cost even more money. I choose to keep those memories in my head as best I could (which isn’t the most reliable).
I remember feeling good about not telling my mom about the yearly photo package portrait my junior year of high School. I felt proud to feel like I was saving her money by not blowing it on buying a picture of myself. Those photographers seem to over-price the pictures anyway. I felt they were blood-sucking vermin and a picture is just a picture, who cares? But my mom saw things a little different and said she wanted a picture. I don’t know where she thought she was going to get the money. She always had me believe how poor we were.
I remember having to work in the sun a lot and hating it. I got burned every day. The Louisiana sun really hurt my eyes and skin. I can’t tell how much long-term damage that caused. It one of those things that are silent killers. When I was working a guard shack one day, a contractor told me about how he got skin cancer on his nose and had the Cancer cut off. I thought that sounded horrible and cursed the sun even more. I was so curious about Louisiana, but left a year later embittered about the whole experience.
Without really thinking about it, my views on culture have been strongly shaped by the military. It’s not so much that I was immersed in other cultures as much as I got to see their reactions to having a military base in their back yards. Okinawa would have their yearly protests against Kadena Air Force base. American military bases were a bittersweet presence there. The base may be teetering on a close down too. All it took was a volcano eruption to close down the Air Force base in the Phillipines. They never rebuilt. A good typhoon could take out Kadena Air Base and the Us will probably not return for a long time.
I experienced extremes in temperatures serving on different bases in the Air Force. But it didn’t that much different than the extremes of Wisconsin. 130 degrees in Saudi Arabia? Well, try 100 degrees with humidity in Wisconsin. The Middle East may have been a little worse, but I felt like I was conditioned for it with the terrible Wisconsin weather. I probably took a lot of heat damage in that weather. It’s the daily occurrences that build up over time that you really notice. It’s like a frog in a warming pot of water.