Sunday, July 03, 2011

Coming into Independence

Back on this day in 1977, I was a 20-year-old newly-dismissed soldier hitch-hiking across Europe.  On July 3, I woke up in Switzerland, having spent the night beneath a roadside sign that offered some protection from the lights of the traffic passing by, but little from the morning sun that greeted me on the first day of my freedom from Uncle Sam's schedule and requirements.  I was a free bird, and I spent the next night in a little hotel in view of the Swiss alps, having chatted that evening with a mountain climber who was spending a few days of his own freedom doing some serious mountaineering.

I wouldn't get home until September, spending the next several weeks meeting people in Italy, Greece, and England, where I hung out with my sister, who was just finishing her own military stint in Lakenheath AFB.  

It was an eye-opening several weeks for me, trying to shape up and shake out the lethargy of barracks life, a kind of journey of discovery that had many twists and turns, ups and downs (which included having all my American Express travelers checks stolen in Greece), and finally brought me home.  Even the final stages of my journey, hitchhiking from Sioux Falls to Ramona, then to Fort Pierre, were memorable and instructive. But finally I was taken back into the embrace of my family, who were surprised when I arrived, about 26 months after I had boarded the plane bound for Germany.

Happy Independence Day, all!  


Curtis said...

I appreciated your story. Being away from family makes one appreciate what it was you came from. I was stationed in Darmstadt, W. Germany in '82 - '84, got out over there and traveled around Europe, Japan and in Namibia, Africa before returning to US. I wish more people had our experience, because it seems to me too many people, in the U.S. and South Dakota, have a very near-sighted experience of the world.

JN said...

Thanks, Curtis. We're in agreement about the value of some international exposure, and I'll add that some requirement of service (not necessarily military type) would help shape our citizenry. It sounds like you made good use of the that opportunity to travel. Happy 4th!