It was August 15th, 1940 in Tennessee when I had left my house and kissed my parent’s goodbye to get on the bus that took me to basic training. I got off the bus and the first thing I noticed was how strict the drill sergeants were, right as I got off they got in everyone’s started yelling! Then we went into the building and sat down and waited for our names to be called. Then I heard over the loud speaker,” Xavier Patterson come on up! “So, I got up started my way over to the booth to pick up my name tag and my body bag. Then all the sudden I was I tripped and there was a loud thud! I turned to see what I had tripped on and it was a very tall man with his feet sticking out. I said,” Excuse me, would you mind putting your legs in? “. Then the tall man shot up quickly and went up to my face and said,” Why don’t you look where you’re going?” Then I said,” Listen man I don’t want no trouble.”
After he gave me a long piercing stare I decided to turn away and go get my stuff, as I did he shouted,” You better watch your self or else you might get hurt!” I did not really understand at the time what he meant so I just went on my way. When I got up to the stand there was an old woman, she did not seem like a friendly person. I said,” Hello ma’am, I am here to pick up my stuff!” She said in a staggery voice back to me,” Well aren’t you happy go lucky, here is your bag, the doorway is that way now get out of my face!” “She must be having a bad day I thought to myself as I walked out the door.” When I came out through the door I saw a lot of people standing lines waiting. As I got into one of the lines I could not see what we were waiting here for. As the line finally started to move I saw what it was, the part I hope I never had to experience.
There were lots of barbers giving a buzz cut to everyone no matter what their hair was like. It was finally my turn, I sat down in the chair and I was not even able to introduce myself and the barber tall and skinny with a name tag that said,” Jamal” started to buzz away and I saw all my years of growing beautiful hair, falling down onto dirty floor. When I got up out of the chair and looked in the mirror, my hopes went up. I did not look as bad as I thought!
I got up from the barber chair and went into through the doors and I was outside. There were again more lines, so I got in one and as I got closer I saw that there were Drill Sergeants who had a list of a lot of names. As I got up to the Drill Sergeant he said,” WHAT’S YOUR NAME MAGGOT!” I was rather quite startled when he shouted at me, I replied nervously,” Uh… Xavier Patterson sir!” He scrolled through his notebook and said,” Well lucky you, looks like I am going to be your trainer for the next nine weeks you’re here! Your barracks is that way.” He pointed to one of the newer barracks of them all and I started over to it.
As I walked through the doors I saw what I had imagined it would be like. There were rows of beds with the sheets saying,” MARINES “As I looked around some more, guess who I saw walking towards me, it was the guy who tripped me! He stood straight up and walked up to me and said,” So I guess you and me are going to be here for nine weeks, I suggest that we put that happened back there behind us.” I replied in a friendly tone,” I agree.” Then I asked,” What’s your name anyway?” He turned around and pointed to his tag,” Randy? That’s a pretty boring name if you ask me.” We both started laughing then he said,” Alright, well let me show you to your bunk.” He brought me over to a bunk same as all the others and then he said,” I will be on the bottom in case you get scared.” He said sarcastically.
So, I unpacked my stuff and then I laid down in my bed, I was tired from the bus ride and it was about nighttime so right as I was about to lay down, the Sergeant came busting through the door and shouted,” Attention!” And everyone lined up, as he was walking past each one of us he said,” Well aren’t you just a bunch of disappointments.” And then he said,” Everyone get changed now! Time for some fun!” When we got dressed and went outside, it was raining. Then the Drill Sergeant said,” READY, BEGIN MARCHING” And we all started to march. It was a ruthless 3 hours then he brought us back inside and told us to go to bed.
This was my life for 9 weeks, getting 6 hours of sleep and staying up for 42. Sometimes we would do something fun such as going to the gun range or repairing vehicles. Over the 9 weeks I had become very close with Randy and we were in this together.
After the 9 weeks we were instructed to go into a room. We all sat down in the chairs and we waited. Then after 30 minutes the Drill Sergeant went up to the podium and read off the names of the people who made it, after about 20 names it finally came,” Xavier and Randy congrats.” We had made it and I was very excited.
First thing we did, we were shipped out over seas on a big ship. Then after a long journey across the sea we arrived at France. It was a very beautiful small little town but still beautiful. Then after weeks of me and Randy screwing around we were finally received that we would be going out on a ship that would launch an offense on the Normandy beaches against the Nazi’s. Me and Randy were scared, we did not know whether we would die or not. It was still dark when we were sent out on a ship. It was a big cruiser, with smaller landing crafts on the side we would board to get onto the beach. The time had finally come after about a 4-hour ride on the ship we got off on the small landing craft, me and Randy were boarded on the same craft. When we were in the boat I could hear screams and explosions. When we got to a certain point the water turned red with blood washing over us onto the landing craft.
After 5 minutes of riding over the bumpy sea, we hit the ground and the door opened. When that door dropped we, all rushed while still under fire. I saw all the men in front of me just falling over and blood going everywhere. I looked to the side of me and Randy was right next to me. We both made it to cover behind a broken part of wall. As I looked behind us all I could see was blood for what seemed miles.
Me and Randy decided we would try to rush them. I got up with my M1 Grand and started shooting cover fire for Randy. Randy ran as fast as he could, but even he could not escape the wrath of the beaches. Randy lifeless body laying there, I have never felt more alone. Then all the sudden all I remember was hearing a mortar and looking up and seeing it coming down fast and landing right in front of me. When I awoke I was on a medical ship heading back towards France. When I got back to France I decided to go back to America to go see Randy’s parents. When I showed up to the door his Mother had seen from the look in my eyes what had happened.