Thomas Avery White

By Thomas Avery White·

 On the morning of February 5th, 1970, I walked past the HUGE Marine guarding the front door (to ensure no one ran back out) to be sworn into the Army. But I had a secret- I had already enlisted four weeks earlier after learning that my number was about to come up,and that my draft board would be drafting a few guys into the Marines.

My older brother had been a Marine 1964-1968 and he was NOT going to allow his baby brother to go through THAT! The reason impending draftees didn't enlist very often was that enlisting meant a three year commitment, while draftees only served two years, so most guys were willing to risk marine boot camp ( pure HELL in those days) rather than add an extra year onto their hitch in the military.

My cousin had told me there was, in fact, a two year enlistment available in the Army, but that recruiters never mentioned it because they were evaluated on the number of long enlistments they procured. My recruiter actually allowed me to leave his office after I demanded a two year enlistment, but then chased me down, and said, "Oh all right, there is a two year, but you don't get to choose your job assignment as you can with a three year commitment." I said "FINE", then signed my name, and thus was smiling that morning in a room with 300 other guys who were mostly worried to death about losing in another lottery that made them a Marine.

When a sweet older lady came in the room, before anything else began, she said, "I need five volunteers to be Marines.” I can't describe the contortions guys went through trying not to appear to be holding up a hand. However, four other guys were smiling, because they also had enlisted for two years. We quickly found each other, and became instant friends as we watched the others sweating it out. When no one volunteered, the lady said, "Oh my,oh my,” then disappeared only to quickly return, and she immediately called out, "Ronald Johnson.”

I heard a scream of, "NO-NO-NO,” and Mr Johnson ran out of the room, not to be seen again the remainder of that very long day before we left for basic training. No matter where we went in that large building we heard over the loudspeaker system Ronald Johnson's name being called. Who knows, he may still be hiding in that building like, "Charlie on the MTA".

The next five names she called quietly followed her to the Marine area. My recruiter had assured me that if I enlisted at the first of a month, I would be sent to Ft. Jackson, SC. which was only one hour's drive from my girlfriend at GA Southern, in Statesboro, GA. Imagine my shock when late that night we boarded an airplane for Ft. Knox, KY, a gazillion miles from Judy!

I was still getting over how God had “confused” me with somone else by drafting me, now my gut was even more hollow. What I didn't know, but down inside suspected, was that a great adventure awaited me, learning to be a "leader of men" and to excel in ways I never did at TECH. I filled six spiral bound notebooks, daily documenting "God’s mistake.” I wrote on page one, "The Great Adventure Begins.” I was mysteriously chosen to be a sergeant trainee on day three of basic training. The other four sergeants were chosen because they were the biggest, toughest, looking of the bunch, in order to maintain order. I looked like (as the Hebrews said of the Canaanites) an ant compared to them.

However, after eight weeks, I had acquired a "command voice,” and could call "cadence" justlike a drill sergeant, and I had won the "Outstanding Trainee" award out of a company of 120 men. SO, I guess that "peace" I had earlier about not ever being drafted was "misplaced emotion" instead of God's leading!

Me, third from left in the 1st row


Thomas Avery White
Thomas Avery White
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