Writing Wrongs

August 11, 2006

Graduation: In which I ultimately decide against blood wings

I needed to make a trip to Military Clothing Sales before I left Fort Benning. I bought an Airborne T-shirt, and another for my dad that read: My Daughter Is A Paratrooper. And I wanted a pair of jump boots.

And as silly as it was, I wanted to buy the boots while at Fort Benning. Tim drove me to Clothing Sales, on the back of his bike, no less.

And while I was trying on boots, he slunk off had a shirt made for me. It was coral pink (how girly) with a decal of Airborne wings above the left breast. But no ordinary Airborne wings--these were blood wings. Nothing says chic like coral pink and fake drops of blood. But more on blood wings in a bit.

Graduation took place fairly early in the day, although if you study the photos, youíll see people fanning themselves and holding umbrellas to ward off the sun. It was still Georgia hot. Tim attended, fancy camera in hand. At the time, I didnít think to ask how he managed to skate out of a dayís worth of the Officer Basic Course. Of course, he was Special Forces, prior enlisted, if anyone could find a way to skate out, it would be a guy like Tim.

Of course they made us march to our own graduation. Iím in the middle row, front and center

But can you believe it? They let us sit during the speaking portion of the ceremony (me, fifth from the left)

The Charlie Company guidon, in all its glory

Ah, the man himself, the charismatic Captain Greene

Iím still trying to figure out if thatís a Rolex on his wrist. Can I admit it now, after all this time? I had a tremendous professional crush on him. Professional, people. Honest.

At attention, waiting for our Sergeant Airborne to come through and pin on the Airborne Badge (me, third from the left)

After the pinning (me, third from the left)

Donít we look happy? Well, except for Lieutenant Doyle. He looks reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate and someone has just told him the future is plastics. Actually, he knew Tim was taking pictures and was simply messing with him. Itís a guy thing.

After all these years, it just hit me that the lieutenant on the other side of LT Doyle has his hands in his freaking pockets. His pockets! Iím surprised one of the black hats (now in maroon berets) didnít say anything to him. His pockets! Oh, the humanity.

About those blood wings. For the ceremony, they pin you with the metal badge. The metal badge has two (very) sharp prongs that you secure with fasteners. With blood wings, you skip the fasteners and the sergeant pinning you strikes with the heel of his hand and ďfastensĒ the wings to your chest that way.

Officially? Verboten. Unofficially? That was another matter. The black hats whispered the offer up and down the ranks. You could, if you wanted, accompany them to a back room in the barracks, where theyíd gladly give you your very own set of blood wings. Also whispered through the ranks were stories about guys who fainted after receiving their very own set of blood wings.

Can I admit it now, after all this time? I considered it--for about three seconds. But then I decided that I had done enough. Iíd made it through Airborne School. Iíd jumped from a perfectly good airplane--five times. I had a pair of jump boots waiting for a spit shine and a coral pink Airborne T-shirt.

And I had a pair of silver wings.

And that was all that mattered.

Charity Tahmaseb wrote at 9:00 a.m.