Saturday, November 1, 2008
Leif Saluting, Playing Army - Japan - 1982 - Age 7
I think most boys play "army." I even played it with my brother as a kid. For most, it's just a game that they outgrow, but for Leif, playing army, and playing with toy guns, became a lifelong passion. We couldn't see that when he was small, and it certainly didn't seem obvious when he was in high school in Puerto Rico and Kansas, with long, long hair, an earring, faddish clothes and electric guitars, but he was to return to it as a major theme of this life, even when a military career was denied to him.
This photo was taken sometime in Japan, in our quarters. I think that helmet he has on is his dad's. If the photo were in color, you would see that his jacket was actually dark blue with yellow trim, which looked considerably less military than the black-and-white version, but the earnestness of his salute, and still the innocence in his eyes, is unmistakable.
Since Veteran's Day is coming, it seems fitting to do a series of photos about Leif's military career. Unfortunately, we have few photos of it. We took some on the three occasions we saw him in his army uniform, but have none of him after he was promoted to Specialist 4. We have none at all of him in his Air Force ROTC cadet uniform. I don't think we ever even saw him in it.
When Leif was in college the first time, before he dropped out and enlisted in the army, he had hopes of a career as an Air Force officer and joined Air Force ROTC. He did well in the ROTC classes. Then he was sent to their ROTC summer camp, where he excelled in the classes and leadership, but experienced a crushing failure when he pulled a muscle in his groin and couldn't do the required situps.
They let him sit it out for a few days and then tried again. As I recall, he tried at least three times, but each time he tried to do the situps, the groin muscle would be reinjured and he couldn't do them.
He could do all the other parts of the PT (physical fitness) test, and was doing great in the classes, but for want of situps, he was sent home, failed. It must have hurt him terribly, though typical of Leif, he didn't allow that to show.
He could have tried again the following summer, but it would have put him out of synchronization with what he would have had to do that summer, and put him behind a year for graduation. He didn't want that, and although he didn't say anything like this to us, I believe he also felt disgraced and didn't want to have to go back and explain to others.
It's a shame. The Air Force lost someone who would have been an excellent officer. How many times in a military career does fitness really depend upon the ability to do situps? Well, real fitness for one's job may not require it, but the annual PT test does, and without passing that, a member of the military is in big trouble.
Leif was certainly able to do situps later, or he never would have gotten through Army infantry basic training. He had long since healed, and never had that problem again.
The loss of Leif's Air Force dreams, probably somewhat following in the footsteps and interests of his older brother, must have been a heavy blow to Leif.