Goldschmidt Family Home Page

Last updated on 09/28/2006

Notes From The Field

A Young Man's Journey From Sheltered Liberalism To The Army, And Back Again

Ari's Official Army Photo

Ari Goldschmidt joined the US Army reserves in 2004. While away at Boot Camp, he told his parents Michele and Bob Goldschmidt that he misses everyone and would love to keep in touch with everyone.

Below this introductory section are the letters Ari sent home during boot camp. The series is not incomplete, due to the loss of the remaining paper letters prior to their being transcribed. But what exists is interesting to the outside observer, and important to all those who know and love him.

Ari's Current Status
Ari graduated from Basic Training at Fort Benning, and then Advanced Training at Fort Gordon. In March of 2006, Ari was notified that he was going to be mobilized - as an individual - and that after training, he would be posted to Iraq. One week later, Ari received his acceptance letter to the University of Portland School of Nursing, on a full ROTC scholarship. After being notified of the ROTC scholarship and school acceptance, the Army denied Ari's request for a waiver.

Ari is currently is transit to Iraq. Temporarily, he is stationed in Quwait, awaiting placement to his final base posting.

He is attached to the 399th Combat Support Hospital (CSH), in the role of combat communications specialist. So in the end, despite years of protest, Ari is becoming a geek. Just like his old man. Maybe there is some justice in the world after all, even in the Army. Or maybe that is just Irony.

Ari has been on a fast track promotional cycle since he joined up. He is currently an E4 Specialist, having received that promotion in January 2006.

Here are Ari's addresses, good until further notice. I will post his full address in Iraq one I recieve it

Letters From Ari At Boot Camp, Spring 2004

Editor's (Dad's) Introduction

The scenarios below are exerpted and edited from Ari's letters home. They chronicle his physical and emotional journey from the relatively cloistered environment of Portland and Havurah to the more worldly - and sometimes more brutal and callous - world of US Army basic training.

I have edited out personal content, and applied spelling and format rules. Where background and explanation is necessary, I provide information within double brackets [[ ]], and indicate that this is editorial comment. If there is serious profanity, I remove or modify it, but indicate that it was there by using single brackets [ ]. Light profanity I allow to remain so as to enhance the "flavor" and authenticity of the narrative.

I try to use as light an editorial touch as possible, for I believe that there is value in providing the story as Ari told it, and not what I believe you should hear. On a personal note, while some of the content is mundane (as would expected from an 18-year old boy new to the Army), much of it is fascinating, and some parts are profound.

In boot camp, Ari is not allowed access to computers, so all his letters were written on paper. Many thanks to Stephanie for the original transcriptions of his letters. In boot camp, there is no such thing as unrestricted access to phones, so snail mail letters are primary outlet and method of expression.

Once a new soldier "ships out", they do not immediately go into boot camp. They are assigned to a temporary transitional "retention" battalion, where they undergo initial processing, do a lot of paper work, and receive lots of vaccinations. The time spent in retention battalion is supposed to last from a week to 10 days, and it might well be needed for them to recover from the effects of the vaccinations (read on below). During retention, physical training and exercise is strictly forbidden (also, read on). Only then is the grunt shipped "down range" to boot camp.

As initial personal background information, Ari stands 5 foot 4 inches tall, and weighted about 120 pounds soaking wet when he left for boot camp. He shipped out on April 28th 2004, two days after his brother Lee's Bar Mitzvah.

Ari was very heavily recruited by the military for a number of reasons, including his very high level of physical fitness, his reasonably good high school academic history, and his outstanding military aptitude test scores (his score was 99, population average is 43). In fact, he was so heavily recruited that his recruiter significantly and frequently "stretched" the truth in the information he supplied to Ari before and after Ari actually signed up. As a result, the time between Ari's signing the contract and his ship out date was unusually short, and in retrospect, Ari should not have joined the Army reserves at at all. The lack of accurate information also lead to some serious confusion once Ari had shipped out, and lead to more anger and frustration. The extent of these lies might not be enough to accuse the Army or the recruiter of either fraud or breach of contract, but Ari will refer to these issues in his letters.

And now, the story is Ari's to tell ....

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28 April 2004

Dear Everybody at home,

So here I am in living hell, "day one." Today is Wednesday. My company arrived at around 11:00 at night (eastern time) at Fort Benning on Tuesday. No, we didn't get to go to bed. We had to go through some processing. We finally got into bed around 1:30 in the morning. We then got up at 4:30. It took me a half hour to get to sleep, so I got a grand total of 2 hours and 30 minutes of sleep. Hurray!!!

You know how the drill sergeants are total assholes in the movies? They are in real life too. You wouldn't believe how quickly you get afraid that they will even look at you, let alone talk to you. It's little things, like putting your hands in your pockets, that get you in trouble. My company gets yelled at a lot because we are mostly infantry (idiots that couldn't score high enough on the ASVAB test to qualify for anything else). They can't even line up by number correctly.

[[ ASVAB: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, the series of tests that Ari scored so highly on ]]

I got my shots today. They have to immunize you for a lot of things. You file into the room and get pricked with needles all over your body. You even get one in your ass (excuse the language). They have to stick a huge amount of penicillin in you. The stuff is as thick as peanut butter. When they stick the four-inch needle in you, you're supposed to keep your butt relaxed. Otherwise the medicine will ball up and pretty much stay that way. When you sit or even move, you'll feel it. Guess what. I tensed up. My left butt cheek hurts like none other.

I just found out it was actually 4:00 am when we got up. That means I'm running on a whopping 2 hours of sleep. I guess we will be getting up at that time every morning. At least we won't be getting to bed that late every night. Like I said, living hell.

I just got back from dinner and the scariest event in my entire life. To make a long story long, when you file into the kitchen there are two lines. The different lines have different food options. A friend asked me what was in the far line so that he could figure out if he should switch lines or not. I said, "I don't know, it's probably the same thing as lunch." All of a sudden the lines down the hallway split and the biggest jackass sergeant of them all comes walking right up. He yelled in my face and asked me what I was doing talking. I said I didn't know. He yelled at me some more and said that I am here to do one thing and one thing only: eat. Then he added that if he catches me talking one more time, he's going to kick me out. All in all, he yelled at me for a couple of minutes.

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29 April 2004

Hi Everyone,

Every day here is a long day. This is only my second full day at the reception camp, and I already feel like I've been here a month. Part of it is that I'm homesick; the other part is that I'm just plain old sick. I have all the signs of a bad cold: weakness of muscles, occasional cough, sore throat, and I've been coughing up yellow mucus. Bad headache too.

By the way, I'm writing these letters as I would talk. I might start to curse a lot. Already I have started to say the f-word and the s-word a lot more. Cursing is like the national pass time of the army. Every other word out of their mouth is "[f]-this" or "[f]-that."

Man, the people in my company are as dumb as "f[ ]." Their average ASVAB score is like 50 (not exaggerating), and their combined IQ is about 10 (exaggerating). For those of you that don't know what I mean by the ASVAD, it's the military placement test. The scoring is out of 99. That is what I scored -- the highest possible. They are dumb because they are infantry.

We got our BDUs today (military uniforms). It consists of 7 t-shirts (light brown), 7 tightys (not white, brown) 2 pairs of heavy ass boots, 4 pairs of camo pants, many pairs of socks thick and thin (all black), two pairs of thermal pants and thermal shirts for winter and probably 4 pairs of camo jackets. We haven't gotten them yet. We have to have our name sewn onto them. We will get them when we complete PT (personal training) test. We will take it on Monday because we don't do much on the weekends. Assuming I pass the test, I'll be shipping to boot camp on Thursday next week. Then I've got 8 weeks of boot camp and I'm out of this hellhole. I will still have 4 months of AIT [[Advanced Individual Training, for military specialty training]]. That's not supposed to be bad though. It's at a different fort, and we get more privileges.

I've started to develop a half southern, half black accent. It's really weird.

There really isn't any racism here at the fort. There are quite a few blacks here, and just about the entire sergeant staff is either African American or Hispanic.

Oh, I forgot that our BDUs also came with 2 hats (military style), 1 pair of leather gloves and two pairs of cloth gloves to go under the leather ones.

Did I mention that my ass hurts more than ever? I can't walk up or down stairs. I can't run or even jog, and I limp when I walk.

I think that's about it for now. I have to talk some sense into a pro-war in Iraq idiot.

Gotta go, a drill sergeant just came into our barracks and yelled at us for sitting on the bunks.

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30 April 2004

Dear Great People,

I’m sitting here waiting in line. I’m at the end. I’m not supposed to be writing anything but I am anyway. If I get in trouble, who cares? What are they going to make me do, pushups? I want to. The last few days my company and I have done nothing but processing. We are in a line right now to get our direct deposit forms set up so we can get paid. They feed up a crap load of food, but they don’t make us do anything athletic. We are not even allowed to do push ups, sit ups, or run because it’s a liability. By the time we get “down range” to boot camp I’m going to be in the worst shape of my life. I admit I'm lazy, and normally I don't want to do anything, but now I do and I'm not even allowed to.

Anyway, normally when we are waiting in line for something we stand in "parade rest" in a hallway. We can't talk, gesture, or lean on a wall. So obviously I would not be allowed to write. This time, though, we are all sitting at a desk waiting for our name to be called. I'm going to be just about the last one, so I'm writing. We aren't being supervised by a sergeant right now, so it's OK.

Let me give you all an example of what the sergeants are like. This event happened the other day, while we were waiting in a line. One of the members of my company had his PT (personal training) uniform sweat pants rolled up to mid-calf length. It's the modern style, and he was doing it. A drill sergeant came over to him, stuck his face about and inch from the private's face, and said, "Retard, what the hell are you doing with your pants? You don't see any of the other [M-F ing] retards out here wearing their pants like that, do you? And believe me, you're not the only retard out here, are you?" He then waited until the private said, "No, drill sergeant." By doing this, the sergeant forced the enlistee to call himself a retard.

By the way, I might not be able to ship to basic on Thursday next week. They are full. This week's shippers didn't get to go. If I have to stay here for three weeks I'm going to go crazy. Every day I spend here is a day longer that I wont get home.

I mentioned before that I had a headache. It lasted about 36 hours straight and was like hell on earth. I had never had a migraine before, but now I know what it feels like. Every time I moved a shooting pain would travel through my cranial nerves. I'm better now though. My butt is better too. I can walk up stairs and everything. It still bothers me slightly when I run though.

I told someone that I got a 99 on my ASVAB test and word got out. Now I get made fun of for being so smart. They call me Jimmy Neutron and Dexter. So much for not acting smart to fit in. No, I just play my role, using big words like superfluous (Steph don't make fun of me, I know my vocab sucks compared to yours but it's ten times as large as theirs ,and answering their rhetorical questions (if they are mathematical).

Guess what I ate for dinner? Brace yourselves. I had a salad, 4 mini pizzas, chili dog, red Jell-O with white grapes and peach pieces, onion rings, pasta salad, and lemon cake with chocolate frosting. Yeah, that's what I thought too. No I didn't eat it all. I tried though. That's about how they feed us every day. I'm telling you, I've probably gained 10 pounds already cause we don't do any exercise (that would mean I weigh 50 pounds).

I just got my new pairs of glasses. They are just about indestructible. Everyone without 20/20 vision was given a couple of pairs that fit them. They all look exactly the same. Thick-ass lenses, thick ugly brown frames, and they cover your entire head. They are the nerdiest glasses I have ever seen. Get this, their name is "birth control" glasses. I think they call them that because they make the ladies run.

OK. So, word has spread that I got a 99 on my ASVAB. Everyone in my 61-person company calls me Dexter (as in the cartoon). When we were all lined up with the rest of the groups, the head drill sergeant said that he needed help with his science homework. I guess he is going back to school or never completed it. He said he needed 4 volunteers to help him. Three guys walked up, but not a fourth. Then everybody started chanting "Dexter." So I had no choice but to go up.

When they told him my score, he looked at me with disbelief. After a few moments he said, "If I miss one question I'm goin' to kick your ass, private."

Anyway, gotta bounce, yo. I have to go help the foo out, jigger.

PS: I write because it makes me feel like I'm talking to you, all of you. I know I already wrote a lot today, but hey, if I got time I'm going to write and YOU'RE ALL GOING TO READ! Whaaa haa haa haa haa haa!!!!!!! I have the POWER! Just think of it as I'm making up for my lack of email writing over the last year.

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01 May 2004

Dear UPRAL (United Peoples Recieving Ari's Letters)

Last Night was awesome, sort of. For a while there I was actually happy. I haven't smiled since I got here. You see, "Dexter" had spread. I had a reputation of being a genius. So when the drill sergeant asked for help on his Internet course earth science test, they all volunteered me. Well between me, another enlistee (the other two didn't show), a textbook, and forty five minutes, we scored a 58 out of 60. The Drill Sarg offered me and my partner 15 minutes on the phone.

New topic. I got 2 1/2 hours of sleep last night. I'm [f-ing] tired.

Today is Saturday. As long as we are good, we don't do anything on Saturday (except clean our bay). So as you would expect, the privates are getting antsy. We started (yes I know I switched tenses) rough-housing a little and then we started wrestling. I was taking them all out, no matter how big, except for one guy, who did an illegal Ju-Jitsu move on me. Once I knew what he was going to do, I took it. Then this big guy walked in. He looked 170 pounds and pretty damned solid. I'd taken another guy his size though, so I figured it was worth a try. He came at me much faster than I expected, and before I knew it, he had curled me up into a little ball and crushed me like a tin can. I later found out that he was a two-time wrestling state champion at 160 pounds in New Mexico.

There is a rumor around here that they put something in the food to prevent an erection. It's called saltpeter.

There is also a rumor though that they stick a needle in your [testicles] before you go to boot camp. That one is for the same reason. I don't believe them though.

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4 May 2004

Dear Y'all (ahhh make me stop saying that),

I made it. I passed. I win, I win. Alight, I admit it, it wasn't that hard. All we had to do is 13 push-ups, 17 sit-ups, and a 1-mile run in under 8 minute 30 seconds. It doesn't matter though, I get to go to basic [[training]] now. Supposedly my company is shipping out on Thursday (today is Tuesday). There is a rumor though that non-infantry are going to sit around here and do nothing for 2 more weeks and then move to Fort Jackson for basic. On the one hand, that would be nice because basic would be way more pleasant, but on the other, I don't want to sit around here for 2 more [f-ing] weeks. Every minute that I'm here is a minute that I'm not home with my girl (and all of the rest of you too).

We finally got to wear our BDU (battle dress uniform). I look really nice. I look like a warrior with some intellect (the glasses).

The total value of everything they have given us so far, including our BDUs is over $700. That's a lot money. Most of the stuff would cost even more in the store though. The exception I think is the combat boots. Those things cost $96.50 a pair, and they gave us two of them. They are comfortable though.

I have another installment of "Drill Sergeant Behavior Updated." Do you remember that Sergeant I talked about a couple of letters ago that yelled at me and threatened to kick me out on my first day here? He told us a couple of jokes. The first one was, "Why should you never trust a woman? Because you never trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn't die." The second one was, "What's that disgusting stuff around the [[ deleted ]]? It's the woman." All I have to say is, DAMN THAT'S WRONG. I would never think like that.

Guess what? I hear that down in basic training they have a "gas chamber" and everyone has to go through it. It's filled with mustard gas. I thought about telling them that my great grandparents died in a gas chamber (they didn't really). Everybody has to go through it.

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5 May 2004

We learned a bunch of commands and how to get into formation today. We learned attention, parade rest, stand at ease, at ease, rest, fall in, left face, right face, about face, extend to the left, even numbers to the rear, count off, and a few more. "I am an expert. I am a professional," as the soldier's creed states. I know the entire soldier's creed by heart now. I don't feel like writing the whole thing, it's long.

What the hell. I was just sitting here, my back up against my bunk when all of a sudden some random hand with a pen held like a weapon came up and attacked me. "Sweat Pea" (Michael) had crawled under my bunk, stuck his hand out and stabbed me while I was thinking. I was totally caught off guard.

WARNING: foul language ahead! Little children do not read!!!

[[ extensive expletives deleted ..... ]] (I know, my cursing isn't very creative, sue me).

I just found out the official word, that Charlie Bravo (non-infantry) is not shipping to basic combat training until the 20th of May. That means I won't be done with basic until Friday the 24th of July (assuming I pass all my tests). In my contract it states that I will be shipping to AIT (Advanced Individual Training) on July 6th. This means I wont be home until December. God [F-ing] December. I can't take it. What the [f] am I supposed to do?

I was told that Basic Training would be 9 weeks total, 8 weeks training and 1-week reception. They did not tell me that it would be in reality 9 weeks training and 1 month, 1 [f-ing] month reception. I've completed everything I need to do here. I'm ready to ship. I'm going to just sit here on my ass cleaning the mother [f-ing] god [d] bay (barracks) for two more weeks while I eat a [s] load of fattening ass food and gain a crap load of weight. Believe it or not, I can already feel (and see) the weight I'm putting on for all this [s].

By the time you get this letter I will already have decided if I'm going to stay or not. It will depend very much on if they allow me to have a phone call. So, if I don't call home, I might be coming home. Most likely I will have blown my chances at ROTC, but that doesn't mean I've blown my chances at school. I'll just resume where I left off and deal with some [f-ing] big ass school loans.

I'm out now.

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8 May 2004

Peoples of the world ...

Where to begin? I haven't written anything in a few days. Really, I haven't had time to. The last few days have been very busy.

On Thursday, the 6th everybody from Charlie company, myself included, was called to formation. Then they separated the 12 non-infantry from the 200 or so total. They told us to change out of our BDU's and into our shirts and shorts. Then they led us away from the DICKS (dedicated infantry combat killers) and out into the parking lot. When we got into the van, they still hadn't told us where we were going. My first thought was that they were going to take us to the river and drown us useless few who weren't simple bullet stoppers. As you can see though, I'm here and I'm writing.

They took us down range (to boot camp) and while everyone else was preparing to ship, we got to do detail. We did laundry, sweeping, mopping, buffering, and painting. I got to use the buffer machine for a while. To control the machine, you pull or push down on the handle; this allows you to go right or left. I had thought the drill sergeant had told us to just pull up on it though. Needless to say, my first experience with the machine was a bad one. I started turning in rapid circles and almost killed my drill instructor and a few of my teammates. I eventually got it under control though.

Later in the day, after experiencing the food downrange, me and three others went with a new drill sergeant. This guy was a real ass. We went up to a barracks that had recently been vacated. Everybody there had graduated today. We had to remove all of the sheets, blankets, pillowcases, bed covers, and pee protectors. We then counted them, rolled them all up, and carried them downstairs to a truck. You wouldn't believe how much a roll of 50 blankets weighs. We had all four of us on them, and together we could barely lift them off the ground. We drove in the back of the truck to a new area, it was about 15 minutes away. Believe it or not, that was still on the base. We pulled them off the truck (by this time we had destroyed the rolls and were getting yelled at for it). Then we had to count them again and switch them for clean ones (which we had to count). On the ride back we got to talk with a guy who had just graduated basic training today.

Back down range, we had to carry all of it back upstairs. It was a long and very physically tiring day. That night I helped Drill Sergeant Ransom with another test. That's why I was able to call that night. I got up at 4:00 am that morning and didn't get to bed until 11:00 pm.

The next day was very similar. The difference was that everybody I came to reception with (except the 12 of us), and even some people that arrived after us, shipped out. We did detail again. The only difference in the detail was that instead of the heavy laundry, we got to paint. I used the buffer machine again too, that was fun. I managed to get a nice green paint streak down the arm of my shirt.

Oh, I forgot. Before we went downrange to do our detail, we were given the privilege of loading all of the duffle bags, laundry bags, and personal bags into the trucks. I believe that totaled about 600 bags or so.

That night we only had 10 people in our barracks. To make a long story short, we all had to pull two shifts of firewatch. I was one of the lucky ones who got to pull the 11:00 pm to 1:00 am shift. It sucked.

A new group got in, in the middle of the night though, so we won't have to pull two anymore. We still had to get up though and show them how to do it.

Here's the key information. I discovered that anyone can get a general discharge. Two main ways: you can go AWOL (not sure if I spelled that right) and be fined $350, and as long as you don't get caught within 30 days you're OK. Or you can go to the first sergeant and state that you refuse to do anything. You will be fined $450, and probably have to stay for about a month until you get a flight home. In both cases, it doesn't really go on your record and you are eligible to rejoin the military in six months. I haven't decided anything yet. I'm going to wait till I talk Captain O'Neal (recruiter for ROTC at U of P). If I do go home, I will feel like a quitter.

That's it for today. Love you all

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10 May 2004

Dear .... damn I'm running out of things to say

Soon I will go to liaison for Army reserve soldiers to figure out what the deal is about my AIT (advanced individual training). However, unless they tell me something drastic like I'm going to have to become infantry, I'm going to stay. I don't want to give up. I realized that if I quit now, no matter how much I want to, no matter how much I've been lied to, no matter how hard it gets, and no matter how much I want to see you, I will probably begin to quit at other things in life (yes I know that was a run-on sentence). I realized that if I quit now I won’t want to do ROTC or even schooling.

No, I won't quit. As the soldier's creed states, "I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit. I will never leave a fallen comrade. (Oh wait, that last sentence has nothing to do with it). To get through these seven months, I will simply take it day by day. As the general order #2 states, "I will obey my special orders and perform my duties in a military manner." Every day I will perform my duties like it's the last day I will ever have a chance to. I believe that if I can do all that, time will fly faster than the wind.

I went to a Jewish service yesterday (yes, it was a Sunday). It was kind of sad and pathetic. It wasn't at a real synagogue. It was just in some tiny back room of Ft. Benning's church. Everybody loved my camouflage talit though.

A guy that used to be in my company but shipped out to basic training on Friday was there. In short, he said it was hell on earth.

I just got back from talking to the guy in the liaison and then going down range to do cleaning and painting detail. Then end result of the liaison meeting was that my buddies and I are for sure shipping on Thursday, May 20th. I also learned that my AIT is not only once a year. MEPs (military entrance processing station) lied to me; what a surprise.

There was a weight scale in one barracks we were painting. I weighed myself. I've gained five pounds. That kind of depressed me.

Last night during final formation, a sergeant gave us a half hour speech. You could call it a pep talk. In it, he was basically stating that if we have never finished anything before in our lives, finish this. That's all fine and good, but I stopped listening to him when he stated that if he was President, Iraq and Afghanistan simply would not exist anymore. He said to just screw all the civilians, he would just bomb the place to kingdom come. He never said the word "nuclear" but you knew what he was talking about. Self-righteous, stuck-up American asshole.

In fact, I've been getting into a lot of arguments lately. They're not all violent or hot-headed. I guess you could call them disagreements, they are just that. I simply disagree on practically all subjects anywhere close to being related to politics. I am, after all, in the home of the ignorant. Oh, did I say that? I mean infantry, sorry.

About the guy I met at the "service." He said that different companies down range have different difficulties. They said that it went in order from weakest to strongest: Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta. They were in Delta. They said that, (keep in mind, they've only been there for 2 days) they've done so much exercise that their muscles have literally ripped. They said they could barely lift a fork. Guess what company I'm going to. Yeah, Delta. So not only will I be in the toughest Ft to receive basic training, I will be in the toughest company in the toughest Fort. Sounds fun, doesn't it?

The newbies to my barracks got their hair cut today. Ha ha ha. They look funny. Its amazing how much your hair grows in two weeks. They also got their shots today (never ending laughter). I'll bet they are in pain.

Sorry I didn't get to call again on Sunday. They didn't turn the phones back on like they said they would. Bastards. I'm really getting used to being lied to.

I just got bitched out because my comrades and I refused to pull staff duty. You might say, why did you do something stupid like that? But you don't know the story. First of all, there are only about 20 of us left here that have completed processing, and therefore are eligible to do it. Second, staff duty is from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. That's a long time to be up. For me, that would mean 4:00 am to 7:00 am the next day. To help those of you out that are mathematically challenged, that's 27 hours. The third reason is that me and 11 others have detail at 8:00 pm. Nobody told the sergeant that. They can't honestly expect me to be up from 4 in the morning to 9 at night the next day with less than 1 hour of sleep. That's 41 hours. So I refused. [F] the damn sergeant. When he heard my situation, he backed off though.

I'm fat, I'm fat, you know it (Weird Al song). I can really say it now. When a guy saw me with my shirt off, he said I have rolls. Those five points that I gained went straight to my stomach. I think they're trying to soften us up so we get killed when we get to basic. Don't worry, I wont be "fat and ugly" when I get back. I'm confident that boot camp will do its job and I will be a lean, mean, fighting machine when I get back. That is of course, if I don't bleed to death first (nose bleeds). I've started doing push-ups, sit-ups, and much more. I did 42 push-ups without stopping. That's an improvement. You know what's really sad? I do less sit-ups (as least, the way they require them to be done) than I do push-ups. It's all the rolls I think. Anyway, it's just about lights out. One more day down, about 175 to go.

God, what have I gotten myself into ...

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11 May 2004

Dundada Dun Dun dun daaa Puppy Power!!

We’re dropping like flies!!! Last night #9 pissed on his bed, on purpose (he’s really dumb, he scored a 28 on his ASVAB). If you cant hold your bodily water you are ineligible to be in the military. All he has to say is that he has a history of it and he will be going home soon. He might have to stay for a while though because a lot of people do that to get out.

Michael (#7) decided that this morning an old knee injury was bothering him. I know it wasn’t. He was constantly talking about going home. He is limping now though. The doctor twisted his knee in weird ways to see what kind of injury it was and since then he has been limping.

Our #1 (we only have 8 by the way, 1 through 9 with no 4) got really sick and hasn't been able to move much. He was throwing up for quite some time.

My nose bleeding, if it keeps up, will probably send me home. There are ups and downs to both. It may not continue though.

Many of the drill sergeants got in trouble. I laughed inside. They have been taking too long to send people, that for one reason or another, aren't shipping down range home. Some of them have been here for more than a month. The top ranked officer on the entire Fort (which is insanely huge) came down to 30th AG, the reception area. He is a Brigadier General (1st star). He yelled at the sergeants and officers here, or so I've heard. He said, "If they're OK, ship them down range. If they're not, send them home."

Oh, I forgot to mention that another guy who is not part of our company but hangs out with us is leaving too. He doesn't want to, but his asthma has picked up.

I learned some cool acronyms. US ARMY spelled backwards is YMRASU. That stands for Yes My Sorry Ass Signed Up. ARMY stands for Aint Ready to be a Marine Yet.

Time for dinner formation. Love you all.

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12 May 2004

LOVE ALL (ran out of things to say)

Yes, I know I write a lot. It makes me feel like I’m talking to you, all of you. It helps me to get everything off my chest. So, in essence, what I’m trying to say is, like so many before me (ehh…Steph…eeh) I HAVE THE POWER. READ ALL OF YOU READ. AH HA HA HA HA.

12 new Charlie Bravos joined our company of 8 today. They were all held back from the last non-infantry shipdate because they hadn’t passed the PT test (1 mile run in 8:30, 13 push-ups and 17 sit ups … EASY). This means that our company is going to be rather weak. All 8 of us passed on the first time around. Why couldn’t these idiots? Basic training is just going to be that much tougher.

Another acronym: US ARMY stands for Uncle Sam Aint Released Me Yet. Cool huh? O.K. Shut up, I’m bored.

Its been getting really hot here for the past week. When we got in it was ice freaking cold in the morning, and somewhat hot in the afternoon to evening. Summer has really been coming on strong lately. It’s been like 60-70 degrees in the morning, and like more than 100 in the evening.

The bugs have been out a lot too. An infestation of termites flew into our barracks and promptly died. There wasn’t much wood for them to eat (none at all). Mosquitoes come in droves. During sundown they are everywhere. Cockroaches, oh god, the cockroaches. The SMALLEST one that I’ve seen was close to an inch. Most are bigger than an inch. There are a lot of brown recluses (poisonous spiders) too. Some of them are HUGE.

When I woke up this morning, I thought I was home. I thought the nightmare [[ description deleted ]] (which is beginning to feel endless) had finally come to a stop. It took about ten seconds for me to orient myself and realize that no, I'm still here. God damn-it.

I just stood up from my bottom bunk and hit my head on the top bunk. OUCH. I've done it before but not like this. I was acting something out and stood straight up into it. It **** hurt. The bump formed almost immediately. It's a real bump. You don't just feel it, you can see it. It was like in the cartoons. OUCH!!!

I haven't [[nose]] bled for a couple of days.

Its 8:00, I'm going to bed. Night. I have fire watch tonight so I need my sleep (besides, I have to get up at 4:00 of course).

Sleeptime

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13 May 2004

1 week. Hell [f-ing] yeah. Just one more week to go. Seven days and I'm outa here. Well sort of. I'll still have 9 weeks of basic training and 16-18 weeks AIT. Damn. Oh well, one day at a time, right? I've been doing more push-ups and sit-ups. I also do reverse push-ups (works your back and arms) on the cross beam underneath the top bunk.

I found a new way to work out too. I've been bench-pressing the bunks. I squeeze underneath the bunk bed, and have a spotter lift it up. It’s mostly made of metal bars (not wood) so it's a lot like real benching. The weight averages to a little more than I normally bench. You can't go down past 90 degrees (of course) so its healthy for your muscles. All in all, it's pretty damned fun.

Lately I've been finding myself a little volatile. I snap at people easily and I'm always in a somewhat grumpy mood. I feel like I'm back in my junior year of high school cutting weight for wrestling (minus the cutting weight part, instead of losing it I'm gaining it).

The world must be coming to an end. Hell must be freezing over. Nobody thought it would happen, but today I think I began to believe in God. I have never before believed this. I follow Jewish traditions, tutor, and go to services because I enjoy it. Lately, though, after my daily explanations of my religion and traditions and almost hourly arguments about the way and conflicts in the Middle East, I have begun, subconsciously, to talk about God as if a higher power truly exists. This is a new concept for me. It may have come about because I need to believe in something to get me through this. We'll see how this progresses. If when I arrive home I want to become kosher, grow peous (curly cues) and uphold Sabbath to utmost tradition, please put me out of my misery.

(In the kitchen, during meals): Water duty ... SUCKS ASS!!! You simply stand there filling cups with either water, powerade, orange juice or milk, for hours as more than a thousand people pass through the line. When you get water detail, you have to do it for all 3 meals. The good news is that you get to eat first. The bad news is that they give us literally 4 minutes to eat. I definitely didn't finish (I stole a roll in between the pouring of cups). To make matters worse, all of the sergeants forgot about us. They have a habit of doing that to 181 Charlie Bravo company. We ended up staying there after the line was over (during lunch) for a half hour. We were in the kitchen for a total of 2 1/2 hours (standing in boots) combined with 1 1/2 hours from breakfast equals 4 hours. We still have dinner. That's a lot of time to be standing. Enough of my bitching ...

It's a half hour before lights out. I just finished doing my first real workout since I've been here, really, for months. With the last shipment of newcomers (I talked about them before) came a group of 3 National Guard members. They are in the simultaneous membership program with ROTC, and have been doing drills with the guard for a couple of years. One of them could be described as a gorilla. His arms were huge, his chest and back were defined as hell, and he had an 8-pack (no oohs and ahhs girls). He was the leader and pulled some crazy calisthenics and exercises out of his ass (which was probably defined too ... no I didn't look). We did about an hour's worth. It was tough [s].

I was also interested in what they're doing with their school and military career. They said in Simultaneous membership program (its what got me to join the military) they are making $1250 a month AND their schooling is fully paid for. It wouldn't be so great for me. National Guard (state run) in their state pays for schooling fully even before any ROTC. While the reserves just pays $3500 for school but includes benefits. Still, that's enough for PCC and with my benefits, I could be putting some serious cash away. Anyway, just a thought. I still haven't fully decided.

I need to go to bed now. I'm going to get up at 3:00 am and work out with the gorilla again. Love you all.

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16 May 2004

Long time no write.

Once again, it has been a few days. So, I have to do a quick recap. A few days ago, while we were sitting around here doing nothing, a Captain came into the bay (barracks) and asked us some questions. First, he asked how long we had all been done with processing. I told him about a week and a half. He was very surprised that we were still here. He then wanted to know what our moral was like since we had been here so long. He asked if there was anything he could to do help us. We told him the mail situation sucks. Basically, we can't get any. We also wanted to do something, learn something, anything. We were bored.

He said, "OK" and walked out. We knew this was going to be bad. One of my comrades stated that, "The sergeants are going to be on us like flies to a piece of [s]."

Sure enough, just a few minutes later, one by one, angry sergeants came through our barracks. We were called to formations, where we were yelled at by the head drill sergeant of our company. You could tell that he was angry. He probably got in trouble because of the situation. The Captain outranks almost any sergeant. He [[ the sergeant ]] said that he wouldn't keep our mail. If he did, he would go to jail. Sure enough, though, for the first time since I've been here, a whole stack of letters was handed out at final formation. He said that we weren't at summer camp, and we were just going to have to be bored. Sure enough though, as soon as he was finished screaming at us, he took my barracks on a field trip. OK, so all we did was pick up trash in the surrounding neighborhoods, but hey, we got out of the 30th AG. That's good enough for me. We even got to listen to the radio while we were on the bus. That's a privilege I haven't had since I've been here.

Drill Sergeant Ransom. A man who commands respect and much more. He is the night drill sergeant for my company and somewhat all of 30th AG. Standing about 6 foot 5 inches with a lean, chiseled body, he is not a man one wants to mess with. He is also very intelligent, mature, and witty, and therefore no one messes with him mentally either. Oh, and he's black (not relevant, just there to paint the picture). He is the drill sergeant that I helped with the tests (I also helped the first sergeant, who is a woman). Both of them got A's on their Internet courses.

A couple of days ago, while we were standing in final formation, he looked directly at me and said, "Come here, you, son I never had." (He has two daughters). I was simply blown away by this. I walked slowly up to him as the rest of the company just watched. When I reached him, he said, "Take off your cover (BDU hat)." He looked at me for a couple of seconds and then told me to turn to the side. A couple more seconds passed. "Now the other side."

By this time the entire company was breaking out into laughter. After I had turned back to face him again he "asked" me if I was going to get a hair cut on Monday before final formation. This of course was not really a question. It's really sad that I've been at reception so long I need a haircut again.

He then spoke up so the entire company could hear. "There are scratches on my son's neck. I want to know who put them there." He was just messing around of course. "Who was beating up my son?" he asked. Nobody answered ... nobody wants to mess with Ransom.

I got the scratches from wrestling with bigger guys than myself on hard tile floors. We were REALLY bored. He finished off by saying that if there were any more cuts on my neck, someone was going to pay. Of course, he was still, just kidding.

The next day he pulled me aside and introduced me to female Drill Sergeant Aguilar, who I actually already knew. I don't know if she really knew me though. He said, "This is my son right here. I've adopted him since he's been here." Once again, I was blown away.

I said, "I think I'm a little too short to be your son."

He said, "Yeah, but you're smart. I like that."

Later that day he said to me, "Goldschmidt, you're leaving on Thursday, right?" I told him that was true. He said, "Good, you've got staff duty on Tuesday, so get some sleep." During staff duty you have to stay up from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. You get to use the phone somewhat though. I believe he wanted me to do this for two reasons. One: I haven't done it yet, and two: he's the night drill sergeant and probably wants to talk to me.

Anyway, it would seem that I've made a friend. This won't be the last time we see each other, either. He will soon be moving to Ft. Gordon to be an MP (military police). That is where I will spend 4 months for AIT.

The lights just came on. My firewatch shift is over. I'll talk to you all later. Love ya,

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17 May 2004

I've seen quite a few different reptiles since I've been here. I've seen frogs and toads, lizards, and small snakes. We even had a snake in the barracks one time. The one that takes the cake though was half frog, half dog (Chihuahua to be specific). For the last few days there has been a sort of yapping bark occasionally coming from behind the wall where the phones are. It would start and then stop, but it wouldn't simply go away. We thought there might be someone walking a little dog there but we couldn't see it. Besides the bark was ever so slightly off.

Yesterday, when I was on the phone, the yapping started up again. I searched for its source. Low and behold, I found it. A bright green frog with a yellow stripe down its back was hidden in a crevice. It was about two inches long. Whenever it made that sound its cheeks puffed out. I had never seen a frog like that before in my life (except on the Discovery Channel). I thought frogs of a color as bright and explosive as that only lived in rain forests. I guess I was wrong. Its jumping was really cool too. It could just launch itself into the air like none other.

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18 May 2004

Finally, I got your mail last night: 2 letters, including pictures. There simply is no way to describe the feeling one gets when reading mail from loved ones you haven't seen in three weeks. Today is my three-week arrival date. On Friday, when they handed out mail for the first time and I didn't get any, I was heartbroken. Now, though, I feel great.

KEEP SENDING ME MAIL AND PICTURES. It might be my only way to get through this since I will get very little phone time in Basic. God damn, why the hell did I have to get sent to Ft Benning, GA. I heard that at Ft Jackson, SC and Ft Gordon, GA (both of which are only a few hours drive away) you can use the phone every day. They don't play god with the pay phones.

Once again, I want more mail. I expect letters from every one of you. Every last one.

We had a shake down today. They checked to make sure we had everything issued to us, all $720 worth. I did, whew. Shipping in two days. I have a feeling staff duty tonight is going to ruin me though.

About the mail again, since the pictures are pretty much all paper, send me as many as you can. I expect a few every week, which also means that you have to send me mail AT LEAST once a week. More likely two or three a week. I have high expectations though. Keep me happy. "You wont like me when I'm angry."

Better go. Out of paper.

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19 May 2004

Hello,

Finally, I'm getting out of Auschwitz, I mean prison, I mean Hell, I mean ... reception? Oh well. I'm finally getting out of here. I ship tomorrow and can't wait. 7 out of the 8 made it.

I finally got my civilian stuff back. I took out the book "L'chaim - to life!" They wont know it's not a Jewish Bible. If I have a few moments, I will read a bit. In my stuff was the book "Confessions of an Ugly Step Sister." I was going to read it, but was too tired on the plane. Then, I thought I was going to have absolutely no time, so I packed it away in my civilian bag. That was a mistake. Thank you for giving it to me. Oh, you're only allowed bibles for reading materials down range.

I had a very powerful discussion today. Argument and disagreement are also words that would fit it. First we discussed politics, and Bush to Clinton. Most people here are pro-Bush, but I had an African-American from Miami who was a very good arguer on my side. Together we took them. Then somehow we changed topics to religion.

There were three different opinions. The Christians, who believed in Jesus, God, and creation. The guy from Miami led that group. Me, who talked about and educated them in Jewish belief in God but not Jesus, but also believed in evolution. They couldn't understand how I could believe in God but not creation. At the same time though, they were so ignorant to Jewish ways that they thought I believed in Jesus. The third opinions were those that simply don't believe in god or religion in any way, and well, nobody wanted to talk to them. Yes, you will be happy to know that I argued my beliefs of there actually being a God.

For some reason, I've become more religious in a way since I've been here. I even made an effort to learn about Christianity and Catholicism. If I go through my "L'chaim - to life" book, I might just buy a bible.

God damn it, I'm tired of this [s]. I'm tired of all the assholes. Some of the stories I hear are just plain old sick.

First of all, I'm tired of people cutting in line when the sergeants aren't looking. Have some f[ing] integrity, for god’s sake. Then, when I confront them, they are assholes about it.

Second, we got in big trouble while waiting in line for dinner because a couple people whistled as a female drill sergeant walked by. Have some friggen respect, man. Then, no one would admit to it. Once again, have some integrity. I thought about taking the blame for it as I have done in the past but this time it was different. When I did it before it, was just for laughing. I thought I might get a sexual harassment charge if I took the fall (this time). Instead, one of my friends, who didn't do it either, volunteered. At least someone is a decent person around here. He didn't get any more punishment than pushups with the rest of us.

Finally, the stories. People talk about their relationships with girls, and it makes me sick. I overheard this one guy talk about how he has a girlfriend that he has been going out with for years and wants to marry him. She doesn't see him all that often though, and doesn't go to his college. She doesn't know that he brings home a new girl almost every day and cheats on her. He was [f-ing] laughing when he said this. The same guy also had another story. He has a female friend (not his girlfriend) who has a drinking problem. She comes home every weekend so drunk that she is basically passed out mentally. He and a friend then proceed to [f] her, taking turns, all night. He said, "I have [f-ed] her so many times I've lost count, and I don't even think she knows it's ever happened."

Not only is this disgusting beyond belief in its own right, but once again, he's cheating on his girl. I mean, yuck. He was describing the whole process in great detail.

Another guy, the guy he was talking to, said that one of his friends' girlfriend got extremely drunk and was having sex with her boyfriend. Her boyfriend, who was not drunk, then got up in the middle of it and let the guy from my barracks and three other guys take turns on her. They have a [f-ing] 5-man train going on her, and the whole time she thought it was just her boyfriend. Oh, by the way, the guy from my barracks, who took his turn, is married. None of them have any [f-ing] honor. It's just not right.

In case you were wondering, honor, integrity, and respect are 3 of the 7 Army values. Hopefully, the values will be ingrained in their minds by the end of basic (training).

The guy who cut in line, and then was an ass about it, just apologized. I guess there's some good in everybody. Except those [M-F-ing] bastards that took advantage of drunk women and cheated on their wives.

-Ari-

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21 May 2004

[[ Editor's Note – Ari is now out of reception, and in “real” boot camp ]]

AHHHHHHHHHHH

Day 2

My first few moments to write. Didn't have a chance to write a word yesterday.

It's Friday, day two, morning. They rush you through everything here. You run everywhere. My arms and chest are sore form push-ups. My legs are sore from squats. It’s not so bad yet, though. I already see I'm better than a lot of the other guys, physically and mentally.

Yesterday, during our first smoke session, a guy just collapsed. We were doing squats, and on the way up from one of them he just fell over. He made a big smacking sound as his body hit the tile. Luckily his head didn't hit first.

I had the 3-4 o'clock fireguard shift. So I got woken up at 2:45 am and did my shift until 4:00. I spent about 10 minutes getting ready for the next day, and went back to bed. They then turned the lights on at 4:20 because they thought we needed extra time. "They" are the next shift of fireguard. We aren't supposed to be woken up until 5:00. We are downstairs at 5:20. Gotta go.

-Ari-

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22 May 2004

22 May 04
Day 3

Dear everybody

OK, now its getting pretty tough. Day 2 entailed more push-ups and squats (plus some other exercises for PT (personal training)), than I think I have every done before in my entire life. The good news is I'm going pretty good. The bad news is I definitely wont have much time at all to write.

Currently, it is morning, before first formation. I got up early and got my stuff done to write. I don't have much time, so forget those 10 page letters. Yesterday, from the moment of first formation to the time we got into beds, I had not a single minute of personal time. No, I'm not allowed to write in bed.

I'm doing good though. It’s tough, but tougher on others than on me. I've only been smoked (term for doing extra exercises because we got in trouble) once, and that was just for fixing my hat while at attention. You're not allowed to move. Even then, I impressed him with my ability to do what he asked without whimpering like a little girl like most of the other guys do. Usually, the guys can't really complete their tasks. I was doing great, I felt confident, and then he gave us the order to get some stuff out of our wall locker and lay it in front of our bunk. Last night I had a problem. My [f-ing] lock jammed. It wasn't my fault. I bought it here. I tried the combination a thousand times. I knew it. I even had it written down. The lock simply wouldn't open. They got a little pissed because I held everybody else up, and they now had to beat the crap out of my lock to open my locker. (He beat up the handle more). Time to go.

Yo yo,

I'm tired. All we do is exercise and listen. Not much sleep, no chance to rest. If you get tired and daydream you will get yelled at or smoked because you will screw something up. If you fall asleep in class you get smoked big time. Its, plain and simple, tough. I don’t complain though. When someone screws up and our platoon gets smoked, again, for the third time in a row, I don’t grunt, complain, and curse like some others. I just do it. I figure, even if we do everything perfect, we are still going to get smoked. Its part of the training. We might not get smoked quite as much, but ohh well. I figure, the more we get smoked the better I'll do on the final PT test (which is extremely important) and the better I'll look when we get back (for my girl).

After each meal we do 20 sit-ups. I'm always the first done. Believe it or not, some people can't even do them. I wish we did more (which we probably will) because I see myself as being worse at sit-ups and I need to get more definition in my abs. A lot of times when we do push-ups (which we do a lot of) my abs hurt before my arms.

By the way, I'm doing laundry and am going to be here for a while. That's why I can write.

Lets see, what types of things do we do? Showers are literally 45 seconds. We get in line, naked, jump in and someone pushes you out in 45 seconds.

Goddamn it’s hot in here. Times up for now. Love you all.

-Ari-

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23 May 2004

23 May 04
Day 4

Dear you, yeah you.

Today was Sunday. No, as you know, I did not call, and unfortunately I wont be able to call again for a while. We were supposed to be able to get a phone call within 72 hours, but no. Instead we got to send a pre-written letter, which I sent to my parents. I sent you all the hand written one. Besides, we were only going to get 30 seconds to dial the number of the card, wait for the pre-recorded voice, dial the pin, dial the number, let it ring, talk, and hang up. 30 [f-ing] seconds. No frickin way!!! It sucks.

By the way, about the showers, we don't get 45 seconds, we get 30. Today actually we got 25. I'm not [s-ing] you. It sucks. We don't even use shampoo, not that we have much hair. They forced me to get a hair cut (and pay for it) today with everyone else, even though I got one just ....

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24 May 2004

24 May 04
Day 5

Sorry about that. Ran out of time. As I was saying, I got one [[ a hair cut ]] just 4 days ago (5 now). We did our first PT test today. We ran a timed mile a couple days ago, but this is our first time doing the push-ups and sit-ups also. My timed mile two days ago was 7 minutes 5 seconds, today it was 6 minutes, 39 seconds. Big improvement. Not my fastest, but hey, I'm a little out of shape. I'll get there. My sit-ups in one minute was 42. My push-ups, also one minute, was technically only 32. I actually did about 45 (I usually do more push-ups than sit-ups) but they didn't count a bunch because my arms didn't lock on the way up. It doesn't count though, it was just an assessment.

I just finished organizing my wall. I finished before a lot of other people and earned some time to talk to you all. There are about 55 regulations for the wall locker. Everything has to be in a certain place, folded in a certain way and facing the right direction. It's quite tedious.

My drill sergeants:

Closed captioning: This has been a "My Drill Instructors" presentation by Ari Goldschmidt.

I went to services yesterday. They actually had a Rabbi. He was an orthodox rabbi that drove 200 miles to come see us. He comes when he can. That’s probably why it is held on Sunday. He gave a great drash, and I learned a lot. In essence, he said that many places in the Torah, our relationship to God is compared to a marriage. Since we were all men, he compared God to a woman.

He said, "None of us men understand women. They want random things, and we just don’t understand why. It’s the same with God. Eat kosher; don’t work on the Sabbath and so on. When a woman wants something, whatever it is, we do it even if we don’t understand it. That's true love (before explained the difference between love and true love). So, even if we don’t understand the laws God sets before us, we do them to show our love." (not an exact quote). He went into much more detail with this. His sermon was about half an hour long, at least. It was excellent though.

Brace yourself, Everyone. I might try to become at least somewhat kosher and shomer shabbos when I get back. I can't do it now; it's just not possible. When I get back it wont be, BAM, immediate. It will be step by step. My first step will be to eliminate pork, shrimp, and other seafood from my diet. I will also try not to do real work on Shabbat. I wont care about turning on lights and driving cars and stuff ... AHHHH not eating shrimp is going to be incredibly hard. If that doesn't show my love to God, I don’t know what will.

The Rabbi also described some things that us men can do to show our love to our women. Stuff like, when your girl has a bad day, buy her a rose.

Got to go, Love you all.

-Ari-

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26 May 2004

26 May 04

Dear you, yeah you, yeah you, if you’re a you (a quote from one of my drill sergeants minus the dear)

Hey, I got a 2-minute shower today, that’s a luxury. It’s because we just got back from a 2-day 1-night field trip to good old mother nature (which really [f-ing] sucks in Georgia). We were unbelievably dirty.

The trip was to teach a bunch of things. First, all the general army camping stuff, including eating in the field (which is fast and furious). Second, we had many classes on basic first aid and all the different ways to carry an injured/unconscious person (there are about 10-15 of them). I now know how to assess an injury, put on a field dressing, a tourniquet, and a splint. Finally, we learned a little about road marching. I HATE ROAD MARCHING!!! After our first day of first aid classes, we road marched to where we slept. It was only 2 miles and only a 27-pound pack (plus the ICE, boots, heavy uniform, and a bullet proof helmet). Damn it was hard though. We kept up a pace of 4 to 5 miles per hour walking. It was way harder than I thought it would be. I can’t wait till we march 10 miles with a 60 to 90 pound pack (I don’t really know).

That was sarcasm.

Basic training is really heating up. Remember how I said its not as hard as everyone says? Well, it is, maybe harder. We had some incredibly hard smoke sessions yesterday and today. Yesterday, in short, we did about 200 sit-ups, and 250-300 push-ups. Go ahead, give it a try. Today, well we did more than I could count of lots of things; flutter kicks, push-ups, overhead claps, jumping jacks, etc. Every time you thought they would stop, they kept going. We would get to 50 and think, ok, they'll stop now ... NO!!! Then we would reach 100 and so on. For overhead claps, I couldn't lift my arms anymore and they were still going. The drill sergeants cheated. They did them with us, but switched off. We had like 4 different ones doing it. Anyway, enough complaining. Oh, one more. During one of the rescue carries I had to carry a 245-pound guy. That sucked too.

It was hard to sleep out in the field (term for wilderness). There were a [s]-load of bugs crawling all over us. You would have to be here to believe it. They were big too. They even had brown recluses (poisonous spiders). Plus I had to get up for the 12:00 to 1:00 fireguard shift.

You want to hear something funny? When we use the wood line (take a piss in the woods), we have to kneel. The reasons for this are military tactical. It's rather odd. If we take a crap, we have to first dig a 1-foot hole, and then when you're done, fill it back up.

We are already losing two of our 57 people. First is this one guy, Morris. They kicked him out because he never listens, and he is always talking. The second guy is my battle buddy. It's not for sure yet, but he might be kicked out because he is in horrible shape and is a quitter. He is not making the commitment to work.

I saw Sweet Pea, my pal from 30th AG (reception). Remember he shipped out 2 weeks before me because he is infantry ... or should be. He is not in RHU (return home unit), he gave up. They were his CDs [[that I found]]. I'll mail them to him when I get to AIT.

Something crazy happened a couple days ago. A private from another platoon got all angry and yelled at and pushed a drill sergeant. The drill sergeant tied him down. Later, when the incident was reported, the kid said that the sergeant kicked him in the head. The MPs (military police) were going to "rip the patch off the sergeant." Thirteen years of his life would be wasted. He would be a civilian, and all moneys due to him from the government would be forfeit. Another sergeant came and woke us up in the middle of the night so we could write statements saying what we saw if we saw anything. Thankfully, the sergeant’s career was saved.

OK, so I am in Delta company, 1st battalion, 38th infantry division (hence, 138, and no I'm not infantry but I am in the home of the infantry). There are 4 platoons in my company. I am in the 3rd platoon, the Wolverines. There are also the Nightstalkers, Roughriders, and Commandos.

Oh, I believe I forgot to tell you that the Jewish service gave me some books. They gave me a tiny little book meant for Jewish servicemen, and a regular sized book of psalms. They're pretty cool. Alright. I love you all, and my family. I'm out of paper and time.

Love,

-Ari-

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28 May 2004

28 May 04
Day 9

How are you all doing? I am hanging in there. I realize now how ignorant I was, but even if I were to quit now I have learned a lot and it will make me a better person.

Tell David Delarocha I'm OK and that its tough, but I'll make it. I still plan to be an officer like he wants. Thank Rabbi Elisheva again for the talit. Thank you for the (camo) Kippot. Tell everyone else important to me that I'm doing OK, and that I miss them.

I get to go to services tomorrow. I believe they have it on Sunday because the Rabbi is a form of Orthodox. He lives 200 miles away too, and comes down when he can. I don't think he could walk that distance.

I got a whole bunch of cool books and pamphlets out of the Aleph Institute. They provide products for Jews who serve their country. Apparently such as myself.

I’m alive!!! I survived the gas chamber and am here writing about it. For a while I thought I might not survive, but I did. When you go in, you have your mask on and that worked so I thought I’d be OK. But after a couple of minutes your hands and neck (anything exposed to the CS gas) start to burn. And then it accelerates. It really REALLY burned. Then you have to take your mask off and you’re forced to breathe it in. Huh, that sucks.

It burns your lungs. Spit drops from your mouth as you begin to cough uncontrollably. Snot pours from your nose. After a couple of seconds (more like a minute) you can leave. Everything still burns for a while. I didn’t lose my breakfast though. Speaking of which, they forced us to eat a [s-load] for B-fast today. They made you go through the line twice piling food on your tray. You’re not done until you have finished it all (twice). And then they made us drink another carton of 2% milk. They were trying to make us hurl. I'm surprised I didn't because I felt like I was going to before I even entered the chamber.

I don’t think I mentioned this: THE GAS CHAMBER SUCKED HARD!!!!

After that we learned how to protect against chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Did you know that the heat from a nuclear comb gets up to 20,000 degrees F and that can cover a 2 mile radius in 10 seconds? The blast then proceeds to kill almost everything else within 8 miles and the radiation finishes everything else off with 26 miles of the detonation. That’s an average bomb.

We learned a whole bunch more commands with our rifle today.

You must wonder by now how I write so much. I write more than anyone else. I get what I need done, find a corner, and start writing. I'm surprised I have this much time today though.

Remember I gave a brief description of my drill sergeants? Remember Sergeant Jackson? Here's a littler more about him. He is really cocky, not thinking he is the best but knowing. He says, "I am the strongest man, pound for pound, in Georgia and Alabama combined." He also says, "I can out push-up anyone in the United States except one person." The sad thing is, I believe him. He is 170 pounds and benches 420 pounds. That is simply insane. He holds wrestling and power lifting state championship records in two states. He still competes. He says that he has been written up in muscle magazines and is all over the Internet. He might be, I don’t know. I do know that when he gets all up in your face and yells at you, he is extremely intimidating. He says he can easily do 100 1-armed push ups. I do 5 (maybe 10). He says he really doesn’t know how many regular push-ups he can do. He said if he said he did 500, he would be lying because he can’t count that high. That's about what he does though.

By the way, the one person that beat him in pushups was a "bitch" as he called her (a girl). She already held the record though. She is in gymnastics.

Man, I miss you all. I'm homesick. I'm halfway through Red phase (total control, really hard). Actually, I'm not quite half. I know I can do it though. I just don’t know if I want to. Yesterday, when Jackson was pissed at us, he gave anyone the option to go home. I didn’t speak up. I could have, but I didn’t.

I don’t want to quit, but I do want to go home. I guess I'll just keep daydreaming about going home and seeing you all.

-Ari-

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29 May 2004

29 May 04
Day 10

Hey,

I just got my first chance for a phone call. It wasn't within 72 hours, but hey. They gave me 3 minutes from the time I pressed the first button. God **** ****** **** it!!! Your phone doesn't work.

I'm not angry at you, or even your phone. OK, maybe your phone. I AM PISSED though!!! Even if I were only going to get 90 seconds to talk to you (after all the phone card procedures), it still would have made me walk on air. A minute and a half of time talking to you could sustain me for a week without food or water. Instead I feel like I'm traveling through the [f-ing] Sahara desert with my sweaty uniform and my ruck sack on my back. God damnit.

It's now Saturday. I haven't received any mail yet. I wont receive any because you don’t on the weekends in the military. Plus, Monday is Memorial Day. I wont get any then either. I'll tell you straight, if I don’t receive mail on Tuesday I'm going home. I can't take the separation any longer. I haven't heard a word from all of you in like 20 days or something. I know it's not your fault though.

[[ later letter from that day ]]

It seems that my transition from being a lazy couch potato to an athlete that gets up at 4:30 am (usually) and trains at 5:30 (and pretty much the rest of the day) is complete. I made the A running group. There are 4 running groups (A, B, C, D obviously) and they are designed to push the different runners so everyone improves. I almost wish I hadn't. Our first run was pretty tough. I made it, though. We started cadences (marching/running songs) today. They are really fun.

You can probably tell by my above paragraph that I have calmed down some. I'm still really depressed though. Tomorrow it will be 2 weeks since I heard from anyone. That's easily the longest it's ever been. It will most likely be at least 3 weeks. I truly don’t know if I can make it. I was extremely ignorant about the length of seven months. I thought, for some odd reason, that it would be over really quick. It's barely been over one month and I'm just about ready to shoot myself. Not to make you depressed or anything. I didn't realize how hard it would be to separate from you all.

Once again, please send mail. Lots of it. I don’t know if you have and I haven't gotten it, but I really want - no need - the mail. Send as often as your hand can write (or type). I will not survive if I don’t get mail soon. If I write, you can too.

Yours sadly

-Ari-

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30 May 2004

30 May 04
Day 11

Dear Friends and Family

How are all of you doing? I'm pretty good today. I got to go to services and have my spirituality revived. The Aleph Institute provided us all with real prayer books to keep. They simply ask that we bring them when we come so that they have enough. It's like Christmas (or Chanukah). I also got lox spread and some really really good brownie/fudge thingy.

They admired my digital camouflage talit in front of the entire group today. Then, seeing as how I was one of the only two with a talit, they had me come up and help lead parts of the service. I was a little shy, not to mention hoarse, but it all worked out.

I'm going to really look forward to Sunday services every week now. I just got back and I already want to go again. Come one, Jewish study, time away from the ******* drill sergeants, presents, and a great oneg (they had a lot more than just lox and brownies, they are Jews after all), what else could one want?

This week should be fun, assuming the drill sergeants back off our asses a little bit. Every time I see Jackson I unconsciously tremble. Did I tell you that our fireguard roster a couple of days ago was 12 people every shift (instead of 3) starting at 2000 hours (instead of 2100) changing every half hour (instead of every hour)? You are required to wake up the next shift 15 minutes before their shift begins. Do the math. With 55 people, we get almost no sleep.

I've decided to provide a little bit of my new found Jewish knowledge in every letter. This is for this letter: "Prayer cannot bring water to parched fields, nor mend a broken bridge, nor rebuild a ruined city; but prayer can water an arid soul, mend a broken heart, and rebuild a weakened will." That is by Abraham Joshua Heschel and can be found in the book L'chaim To Life provided to all Havurah High School graduates by Rabbi Joey.

This one can make up for all those other letters: "To love God truly, one must first love people. And if anyone tells you that he loves god and does not love his fellow humans, you will know that he is lying." That one was pointed out by our civilian Rabbi here. It's in my new prayer book.

By the way, the Rabbi wont be back for a month. Like I said, he lives 200 miles away plus he has things to do each Sunday in June. This includes his newborn son's (2 weeks old) briss/circumcision. I'm not sure why it’s so late. Read those sayings again, they are really cool.

I forgot to say why this week will be fun. We are supposedly doing Eagle Tower (the rappelling tower) and starting bayonet training and the pugil sticks (padded sticks for basic hand to hand fighting techniques). We get to fight each other with them.

My weight keeps going up even though it has slowed down. I weigh 130-131 when I go to bed (128-129 in the morning). I think I'm slowly losing fat, which means I'm obviously gaining muscle too. It looks like it, my arms are definitely getting more defined. Oh, to give you a reference, girls don’t freak out, I only weighed 123 at MEPs (where I was the day I shipped out to Fort Benning).

OK, there is some bad news. I found out that there is a chance that I will be called up within 15 days of my return home. If I stay in the reserves I will be called up for sure even if it takes a couple years. No matter, I'll just sign the ROTC contract and I'll be ineligible. Just thought I'd keep you up to date. Damn, this is a big letter. This is the first time they have given us designated personal time. I'm out of paper though. Till next time. I love you all.

-Ari-

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31 May 2004

31 May 04
Day 12

Dear Love (I guess that means all of you),

We started combatives and hand to hand combat for real today. Last time he just showed us a couple of chokes, we practiced only one, and we hadn't done it since. Today we did a bunch of stuff. Drill Sergeant Garcia (my platoons head drill sarg.) is going to be the one to teach the classes to the whole company, so he started teaching us now to give us a head start. We are starting with wrestling because "its the simplest" and "there is less chance of getting hurt." I don't know about all of that, but I love wrestling, so it was fun. We learned combat wrestling, stuff I didn't know, like arm bar submission holds and what positions are good to beat the person's head in.

One of the guys in my platoon (his last name is Roberts) was a wrestler in high school and did one year of college wrestling. He is just a little bigger than me, about 135. He comes from Michigan, a premier wrestling state (second to Iowa). We worked together. Since we caught on to what was being taught to us faster than most, we had time to share moves and wrestling styles. It was fun.

Now that I've been studying and reading Jewish texts and information, a lot of things are changing with my relationship to my religion. I want to stop eating pork but its impossible here. I need my protein but the only meats they have for my breakfast are sausage links, sausage patties, ham, bacon, and biscuits and gravy (which has sausage pieces in it). For lunch today (I went through the cold line to make a sandwich), they had pepperoni, ham, salami, and tuna fish salad. Lucky me, the tuna fish was gone. They usually have turkey and roast beef, but not today. I could try not eating cheese or milk when I have meat, and I think I will. I can't worry about butter and things like that because it would simply be impossible. I'm also going to try saying chamotzy (blessing over bread) and other respective blessings before I eat. I'll have to whisper them to myself and do it fast though, because you're not allowed to talk and you don't have much time. I certainly can't say the birchat ha'mazone.

Because today is a holiday we got an extra hour of sleep. We didn't have to get up until 5:30, that was nice.

Today for PT we got into our running groups and did our first real run. Keeping up in the A group is tough. I tried but I eventually fell out. We run in formation and I couldn't keep pace so I fell out of it. I wasn't the only one and still finished close to the front, about the 15th man out of 40 or 50. We ran way faster than the other groups. We let B group start before us and then we just plowed on past them. I'll try to stay with the group tomorrow. What's really sad is that the group was being lead by a 40-year-old man, Drill Sergeant Garcia. He could out run me any day. It's kind of humbling.

It's been so long since I've seen all of you, since I've been home, that that old life is beginning to drift from me. It's beginning to feel like home and everything there was just a dream. I hope you all aren't feeling the same way. I wont survive without the mail. That's about all I have to say until tomorrow. Tomorrow is Eagle Tower. Should be fun. I will also hopefully get mail too.

-Ari-

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2 June 2004

2 June 04
Day 14
2 down, 7 to go

Dear all of you,

OK, maybe something is wrong. Maybe my address is confusing and your mail is being sent back to you. Maybe you're too far away and it takes long for mail to reach you and get back. Maybe you're all too busy with high school graduation tomorrow to write me (congrats by the way). Maybe you all just died.

OK, that was a little harsh. I know mentally that something must be wrong, but it just really really hurts anyway. It hurts when they hand out mail for the first time on Friday and I get none. It hurts when on Tuesday, Drill Sergeant Jackson hands out an entire crate full of mail just for our platoon--literally hundreds of pieces. It hurts when the average person gets 3 or 4 pieces and I get ZERO. It hurts when just the day before two other guys and I were sharing stories about great our friends are and they each get more than 6 pieces of mail. One of them got like 10. I got 0. I know most likely the mail just has not reached me, but it has now been another day and still nothing. I need your mail. I failed to get in touch with the phones so I have no idea what's happening. I don't know what reason you might have for not mailing. You know everything that's up with me (except for those last two days). Honestly, I couldn't bring myself to really write until I received mail. I forced myself to write this.

By the way when I said I would quit on Tuesday if I didn't receive mail, I was just angry. My mood is really up and down here. Pretty much it just mirrors Jackson's. When he is in a good mood and joking with us, I'm in a good mood. When he is pissed off, yelling, screaming, and throwing things across the barracks and out the window, I'm in a bad mood too. He just has that affect on people. Or at least on privates.

My body is looking better. I'm getting more defined. Today was the first day since I've been here that I weighed under 130 at night. All of you laugh and say you're too skinny, I know, but I know what I'm supposed to weigh. Hell, I averaged 120 about 5 months ago, and I haven't grown (at least, not up).

Sorry if I depressed you with the beginning of my letter. It was not my intent. I just wanted to impress upon you how important you all are to me about how not receiving mail just destroyed me. After he finished handing out a couple hundred pieces of mail to our 56 people, I thought I would quit. It took me a while (and the pain of my first hitting a brick wall) for me to get my head back in the game. I'm here for a reason, even if I'm not completely sure what that reason is. I'm going to finish. I'm learning a lot, getting in shape, and setting up for my future. When I get back and start ROTC, I will be able to say I have accomplished something. Not that it matters, that much. It truly is an accomplishment to survive basic training. I didn't think so, you probably don't, but if you were here you would see what I'm talking about. It's not easy. I have thought about quitting a thousand times. The thought of setting up for the future keeps my going. That and the fact that its very difficult to quit. I'm out of time. I love you all. Tell my parents they need to write me too.

-Ari-

3 June 2004

3 June 04
Day 15

Dear peoples of the world,

Today is the first day of week 3. All I have to do is finish this week and I'll be out of the red phase. This means that "total control" will be over and basic will be a lot easier. We will still do PT and get smoked, but the sergeants wont yell at us and follow our every move. Hurrahhh!!!

Today we learned map reading skills. You laugh, but we learned a lot of stuff you wouldn't even think about. The class was like, 4 hours long. We also started to really learn our marching techniques. We already march everywhere but we look like [s].

Drill Sergeant just handed out mail. Once again, nothing. I'm starting to get worried. There must be something wrong. I don't know how much longer I can survive without word from home.

My body is really starting to shape up. I am down to 128 and my abs are starting to come out. My biceps too. We just do so g-d damn many push-ups and sit-ups. Actually, it's been a little lighter these last couple of days.

I managed to have a kosher breakfast the other day. Not only did it have no pork, but it had no meat (all dairy). It was yogurt, cereal, raisins, milk (both chocolate and not), and canned pineapples. It didn't sit well with me with all that exercise though. I'll stick with my two slices of french toast, various fruits, scrambled eggs, ham slice, and blueberry syrup. Mmmmmm. I can eat it faster (not much time), it tastes better (the french toast is surprisingly good) and it's more protein to carbs. You can only go through one line by the way, the cold or the hot. The hot line always has options of grits, oatmeal, potatoe thingies, pancakes, waffles, and some other stuff.

I've begun using that book of psalms that the Aleph Institute and the Jewish service provided me. I am trying to read one psalm corresponding to that particular day of the week, each night. If I keep it up I will have read the whole thing before I return home.

A couple of days ago we did eagle tower. It got rained out so I didn't get to rappel. I did get to do the other part though. It's a series of different ropes suspended in the air with a net underneath. You have to cross them. About 1 in 3 made it. I was one of them. One of them was a plain straight rope and you had to pull yourself across it on your stomach with your legs handing down. It took a lot of balance, but I did it.

It's been so long. I am both longing for the small comforts of the civilian world and forgetting the world itself at the same time. Don't worry, I wont forget any of you, but it would be nice to get a reminder.

Love you all

-Ari-

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4 June 2004

4 June 04
Day 16

Dear Everyone,

Thanks so much for the mail. It finally came. I can't tell you how much it meant. All of my friends kept encouraging me saying, "Don't worry, you'll get mail today, I know it." And sure enough, it actually happened. There were about 50 pieces of mail. My heart started to sink when the pile dwindled to just about nothing. Mine was the last one he called. Damn it felt nice. Everybody wanted to see the pictures. Drill sergeant Jackson made me open it to make sure nothing illegal was it. He took a quick look at all the pictures. He said, "Tell them to send more so I can jack off." He was kidding, though, that's just his humor.

Hey, sorry about all that I said earlier. I was going through a rough time. Basically mail is what keeps us going around here. Plus, Drill sergeant Jackson was really getting on our asses. "There was soap scum in the soap holders of the shower stalls." At one point, we had a 20 man fireguard, meaning we had 20 people up every hour. We currently have 56. Do the math. Sleep was hard to come by. People are beginning to fall out.

Today we had a series road march. With our ruck sacks, LCE's (a kind of belt/suspender thingy with amo pouches and two canteens full of water, it's kind of constricting) and out Kevlar (heavy bullet proof helmet). Oh, we also had out M-16's. Those things can get heavy after a while. We marched about 3 1/2 miles. You say, oh, that's easy. But it's incredibly hard. On the way back, I barely made it without falling out of the platoon. (by the way, we had to hike back too, making a total of 7 miles). Many people didn't make it though. It was hard for a couple of reasons: the weight, it was extremely hilly, and the speed. We went really fast. We accomplish the distance in about 45 minutes with a 5-minute break or two in the middle. Also, Garcia would slow to a crawl down hills and go like 6 miles per hour up hills. That's a fast walk. You're not allowed to run. I got bad blisters. They were so bad they had already popped and pussed when I pulled my boots off.

I'm running out of paper so I've got to say goodbye. Your mail made me feel so much better. I miss you all so much it can't be written on paper. I can't wait to see you all.

Love,

-Ari-

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05 June 2004

5 June 04
Day 17
Saturday

Dear People who I have much love for

Whew, now that that's over ... We took another PT test today. I got (in one minute) 47 push-ups and 42 sit-ups and a 1-mile run in 6 minutes 27 seconds. I improved my official push-up count by 15 (he didn't count a bunch last time) and my mile by 12 seconds. My sit-ups stayed the same, damn it. The guy I'm kind of competing with kicked my ass (though my scores are some of the best). He is a wrestler, only about 10 pounds bigger than me from Michigan. His name is Roberts, I've mentioned him before. He got 70 push-ups and 50 sit-ups and a 1-mile run in 6:11. He is going to break the 300 general point limit, bastard.

Damn my handwriting sucks today. Maybe every day.

I'm proud of my mile time. My blisters are so bad I limp horribly when I walk. They weren't so bad when I ran though.

So far so good in basic. Our team is really starting to come together. Our squad (4 of them) leaders and platoon leader will be announced soon. I have a chance at becoming a squad leader. That would be cool.

I seem to have a couple new nicknames now. Dexter didn't really carry over. Only one person (a very quiet one) who was with me at 30th AG is in my platoon. My names are what the Drill Sergeants have called me because they still don't know my name (which is good). First, Garcia called me Goldshlogger, and it stuck. Second, Jackson calls me Hitler. Crazy, huh? I'm Jewish and he knows it.

Its because when we were practicing drill and ceremony with our M-16s one day I held my gun the wrong way and looked kind of like a Nazi. He also added in "little" because I'm just about the smallest guy in my platoon. So, my full name is "Little Hitler." Not the most flattering name, but at least I know when he's talking to me.

I've really begun to lose weight now. I weighed 127 this morning. I'm wasting away. I need to be gaining more muscle. That takes time though. I eat plenty, including some sort of desert like cake, cookies, or pie at every lunch and dinner. When I'm out in the field (about twice a week or so, maybe 3) I am forced to eat a crap load. You see, they always bring too much food (they already pile your trays full when you're out in the field). Then when everyone is through and the drill sergeants have eaten, they go through and pick out the ones they think are too skinny. We are forced to go through again. I'm ALWAYS picked. Also, you have to eat everything on your tray and they give you more food then you would believe on your second time through. Usually, I eat a little and throw it away when they aren't looking, but a couple times they were keeping a close watch. I felt like I was going to hurl.

Did I tell you that we tested out our loud navigation skills and map reading skills by marching off into the woods in groups of 4 to 5 with nothing but a tiny map and a compass? We had to find 5 different points. The minimum to pass was 3 out of 5. My group got all 5. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. We ended up walking a couple miles. That was the same day as the road marches (it was where we marched too). So we walked about 9 miles or so. Not bad for a day.

Ben, come on man. You're supposed to be my best (male) friend. Not that you're not, but send me some mail. All I have gotten is some prom pictures of you (I've never seen you look so ..... I don't know.....before). The tux was very nice.

Hey, don't forget to tell my Jewish friends how I'm doing. Avital is probably worried [s-less] (dont say [s=less] to her). Tell her I'm finding my religion. Don't tell her I'm losing weight. Talk to Emily too, if you haven't. Make sure my parents send me some mail on what's going on. Please. They haven't told me anything.

Damn my foot hurts. I can barely walk. It looks nasty too. Everyone says I need to go to sick call. I don't want to. Alright, I'm out of paper (5 pages in one day). Love you all.

Love

-Ari-

PS OWW!!! My friggen toe hurts!!!! I hobble everywhere!!! It better heal.

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06 June 2004

6 June 04
Day 18
Sunday

Dear everybody,

I shouldn't be writing right now, but I'm in one of those "sad miss Henny and the rest of the world" moods. Besides, most of the time that I'm writing I shouldn't be.

The other day, the day of the road marches, Drill Sergeant Jackson was angry with us. A whole bunch of people fell back and embarrassed him in front of the other DS's. Two of them every got "captured" by the platoons behind us. He put our fireguard back up to 20 per hour. Then, after we got back for dinner, something happened.

Normally, when the last person from a platoon gets through the food line, they call out, "Last ________ in the defaque." In our case, the blank is "Wolverines". Then, the platoon calls out with something. This is to let the DS know how much time to give. We changed the saying they gave us to "T-T-T-T-Daaay!!" to make fun of Drill Sergeant Garcia, who says that constantly. It made sense since it encouraged us to speed up. For a few days this was fine, but Jackson, in his foul mood, told us it was too soft. He said he "only wanted to hear hard [s]." He told us next time it had better be different."

Also, when each of us leaves the lunchroom they call out, "Wolverines" and the platoon calls something in return. This is to let each person know where we are formed up. Normally, we say, "lead the way!!!" However, DS Jackson wanted to hear "hard [s]", so we changed it to "get the hell over here!" I was still inside the defaque when they began saying this. Jackson stood up angrily when he heard the profanity (not that he doesn't curse constantly or anything, just we aren't supposed to). He started going towards the door as if a huge smoke session was coming and then....

....a huge grin crossed his face and he sat down and laughed. He liked it so much, he put our fireguard back down to 3. He told us later that it was fine with him, but if the wrong person hears it, "that's going to be your ass."

Long story, I know. Sorry. Wait, we don't say "sorry." I apologize. By the way, we changed "T-T-T-Daaay" to "Sit your ass down!!!"

This morning someone was talking about me to another guy. He said, "Have you seen his girlfriend? Ooo, damn he's a lucky guy." I thought I was getting a compliment but then he added in, "and I thought he was gay!" It was all fun though. He really did mean the compliment. I laughed when he said the gay thing. It was funny.

My platoon is leading the way in running. The results came back from yesterday's PT test. They re-calibrated the running groups based on our new times. The Wolverines (in case you haven't figured it out yet) have 31 people in A group. That's about 60% in the top running group. (I'm one of them of course). The Nightstalkers and Roughriders both have 19 and the Commandos have 22. We are kicking ass in that department. I'm not sure how we compare in push-ups and sit-ups.

Anyway, that's it for now. I feel better now that I've wasted more of your time with my ramblings.

Same day ……………………

Dear all whom I miss.

Lets see, 8 pages in two days. Not enough. I just got back from my Jewish service, some good (unhealthy) deserts, and lox spread. I LOVE lox. I ate way too much desert but its going to flush right through my system anyway, so who cares.

I learned that today is a very important memorial day (no, not Memorial Day, that just passed cough Bree cough). Sixty years ago today was D-day. We all said Kaddish. Plus, Ronald Reagan died this morning. OK, I just found out it was last night. Doesn't really matter to me, though.

I'm not the only Jew in the company anymore. A guy named Ian Remler, who is in my platoon, is also Jewish. I convinced him to go. He is glad he did. Ian is 34 years old (almost twice my age) and doing everything I'm doing. Pretty amazing. He was raised Jewish and had a bar mitzvah, but had since strayed from religion. He is a firm believer in god, but doesn't like the tradition and people telling him how to live his life. He obviously wasn't Reconstructionist. Anyway, I convinced him to go. This was his first service in like .... 15 years or something. I noticed he still knew the songs, what songs we actually sing.

Ian is a really nice guy. He gave me some cortisone and mole skin for my toe, or should I say hole. That's after all what it is. It's a big, pussing hole in the top of my toe the color of a tomato, literally. I don't think Ian's medicine has helped it heal much yet, but it has made it feel a little better. I can walk normally with only a little pain now. He told me anything when it comes off just comes back and he will hook me up. He knows about this kind of stuff because he was a mountain climber/summer backpacking camp councilor for 5 years, and a camper for 10 before that. He is quite amazing. He left a vice-president position at a bank to come fight for his country, and he didn't ever get a sign on bonus. Hey, I'm out of time.

Same day, Before Bed,

Hey hey babarida (from cadence).

My platoon is finally coming together. Three guys from 2nd platoon (Roughriders) got caught on the phone when they weren't permitted. They are screwed. They are getting article 15's (loss of a LARGE amount of money and decrease in rank) for disobeying a direct order. They also might be re-started at Day 1. The whole platoon is screwed too. They got really bitched at, smoked, and they probably wont make it out of the Red Phase total control.

After they were publicly humiliated, my platoon had a talk. Its time to start acting like a team. The last few days we have been coming together. We have only been smoked an average of once a day this last week. That's unheard of. Still, there are a few that refuse to participate. They have no discipline, the thing they are trying to instill in us the most. I'm tired of it. In the past, when we had these discussions, I have been quiet. I can be a good leader, but have held back for some reason. Today I found my voice. I made many good points, and led a large portion of the conversation. Many other people talked too. A lot was said and all of it was good. We'll see what happens, but I think it's going to work. We are becoming American Soldiers; a thing I am finding is much more worthy of respect that I thought. We are the best platoon, and we know it. The other platoons copy us. Our DS's are the best. We are the best.

We decided that from now on, when we call something out, it is going to be simply, "Honor Platoon!" I want to get that medal that I can wear for the rest of my career. I want (on an individual note) to be promoted at the end of basic to E-2. I'm past the point of being terribly home sick. I still miss all of you, but its time to do what I came here to do. I'm the best and I'm going to start acting like it. Even if I'm not a squad leader, from now on I am going to lead. No more taking the back seat. My platoon won't just win competitions … we will destroy the competitions.

That's about all for now. Unfortunately ( I don't want to ) I have to go to sick call tomorrow. I need to get my foot taken care of. I believe that I rubbed off all the layers of skin except the stratum basale layer. If I had rubbed that off, it would continue bleeding and clot over (it's not doing either). Also, I'm lucky because on such a large area if I lost the basale layer, I would have to get a skin graft to re-grow the area. Still, it will take a long time to grow, and the DS says I need to go. Still, I wont let it stop me. I cut 12 seconds off my mile time with my toe like this. I need to get ready for bed now.

Love,

-Ari-

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07 June 2004

I am doing OK. Red phase. Total control ends this week. Hopefully. Actually, I'm not really doing alright. On our last road march (which was very long and with a lot weight) I got a horrible blister on the top of my right pinky toe. It’s about an inch long and a half-inch wide. This skin on top was long gone when I pulled off my sock. All that is left is a red hole. It hurts, and it won't heal because all the skin is gone. If needs to regrow from the beginning. Barely touching it hurts like hell. I limp everywhere.

We did bayonet and pugil sticks (padded sticks designed to represent a M-16 with a bayonet) practice today. I was chosen to represent my platoon in the lightweight company pugil stick competition. To make a long story short, I got my ass kicked. I'll admit it though, he weighted about 165. I know because he was one of my best friends at reception. He is also stronger pound for pound than me. He is one of the most ripped people I've ever met. I did my best but got my ass kicked. He hurt my elbow too.

[[ Editor’s Comment: Basic Training consists of two phases, Red and White. Red is where the instructors try to break down the recruits, the better to get rid of those who do not fit in and who cannot make the grade. Whatever that means over there. The White Phase is where the instructors have accepted the fact that the “puke” is here to stay for the duration. White Phase provides a loosening up of the mindless discipline, allows a little more privileges, and concentrates more on skills and physical development and less on the stupidity that characterizes the Retention and Red phases. ]]

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8 June 2004

8 June 04
Day 20

Dear People, Parents, and Planets.

Sorry I couldn't write yesterday. Not much time. I wrote Avital a short letter.

Today we did the Red Phase test. I passed all subjects on my first try (rank structure, 7 army values, reciting general orders, decontaminating after chemical attacks, reactions to nuclear attacks, chain of command, first aid including splints and pressure dressings and a few more). It was easy. Many people failed one or more parts though.

Yesterday we learned the use of the bayonet. I was in sick call for my foot, so I missed it. I got back in time though for pugil sticks (padded sticks designed to represent an M-16 with bayonet). We fought inside our platoon. It was fun.

I was chosen to represent my platoon in the company competition in the lightweight division. To make a long story short, I got my ass whooped. Tate (who was one of my best friends at 30th AG reception) kicked the crap out of me. However, I don't know if I would consider him a light weight. He weighs 165 and has about 35 pounds on me. Plus, his DS was reffing, and the competition was our first of about 8 to see who would be honor platoon. Everyone says I got robbed. Still, he beat the crap out of me and I can admit it. His platoon, (1st, Nightstalkers) won the competition. Big surprise.

Today we did advanced bayonet techniques. We marched to a range and did a bayonet obstacle course. It was just a bunch of running, crawling, yelling, and stabbing dummies. On the last one I stabbed it so hard my knife got stuck and it was a bitch to pull out.

Yesterday, after the company pugil stick comp, we had a no-holds-barred rumble. The rules were two men from each platoon (8 total) with pugil sticks and padding. Last man standing wins. It wasn't like the competition which was point based, and you could only use your stick. We sent out a guy who is about 5'11 250 pounds. Very strong, but a decent amount of fat. We also sent out Bubba (called that because he has a big lip, and a voice just like him and he really likes shrimp). He is about 6'3, 190 pounds. He is lean and muscular. Before it began, he challenged everybody saying he would take them all one, any one. Another platoon had a guy that was 6'6, almost 300 pounds. A pure giant.

Almost as soon as it started, our big guy got double-teamed and went down. One guy from 2nd platoon went down also, leaving six. Bubba teamed up with the guy from the second, and in a fierce fight, they together managed to take out the giant. Then all bets were off and everybody went against everybody. One by one, Bubba took them all out. He tripped one, pushed over another, and beat one with a pugil so badly he fell on the ground in a heap. The really cool one, though, was when he picked up his stick in 2 hands and rammed full speed into an enemy. It was awesome. He was nowhere near the biggest guy, but he beat almost everybody single handedly. We all whooped and cheered. We still lost the competition.

And now for my Jewish statement of the week. It was hard to come by, since we had no Rabbi last week. "There is no room for God in those who are full of themselves." What? What now! I HOLD THE JEWISH POWER!

I'm not sure what else to say for once, and I still have whole other page to write. I've got it! I'll sing a song: .......

Sorry, I don't know the rest. Did I tell you that I hurt my elbow with my pugil match with Tate? He is ten times stronger than I am (we used to wrestle at 30th). He hits so hard that the impact of blocking one of his blows hurt my elbow. It hurts to lock it out and bend it. Pull-ups this morning really sucked. My knee hurt for some reason after our match today, too. Plus, in an attempt to keep my toe from hurting, I pushed my foot back and developed a blister on the heel of my foot. The right half of my body is just falling apart. I am generally in a lot of pain. Oh, I've got shin splints too. Basically, I hurt.

I'm out of time. All of you, I love and miss you. Mom, Dad, and Brothers included.

Love (already said that a thousand times)

-Ari-

PS I did it!!!! I used up all my paper!!! I win!!!!

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9 June 2004

9 June 04
Day 21
3 down 6 to go

Hey,

I'm tired. Jackson is out to kill us today. After PT we went to the confidence course. It was fun. After that and lunch, we got to do weeding with shovels in hundred degree weather. Yeah, it sucks. We should be out there still but we found a loop-hole in the DS's orders when he send us up to our bay for a 10 minute break. We will probably get smoked later, but oh well. Jackson has been smoking us almost non-stop these last few days. It's because red phase is coming to an end and he is leaving. He is going to school. He'll be back in a f.....

Damn. Caught.

Hi, I'm back. Today was a tough ass day. We ended up spending hours out in 90 to 100 degree weather, weeding our PT field. I burned. Oh, I was saying. He'll be back in three weeks. Still, he is going to be in Ft. Benning so he can drop by at any time. He told us he will, in a tone I have come to trust means truth.

So, from lunch after the obstacle course to the end of the day (now), today sucked. Lunch sucked because I didn't get to eat all my food. I took a bite of a cookie and Jackson said, "if you have time to eat a cookie you have time to leave." Damn I was hungry before dinner after spending the entire afternoon out in the sun. You might say, you don't need cookies, you're here to get in shape. Well, I do. I am down to 125-126 pounds. I've lost 5 or 6 pounds since I've been here. I am going to ask for a double rations card. It won't matter much though; I wont get enough time to eat it anyway.

We got smoked by Jackson after lunch. He smoked the entire damn company and he made it burn. I thought the sun was burning enough for all of us, but apparently Jackson didn't agree. Why did we get smoked? We got set up. After we finish eating we file out of the defaque and get information waiting for everyone to get done. Today, a couple of DS's came by and asked us what our company was. We said Delta. They said, "Oh, that's Jackson's company. I'm good friends with Jackson. Who is in his platoon?" A couple of our guys raised their hands. They then went and found Jackson, and said that Bratten and Edens (the guys that raised their hands, our uniforms have name tags) were talking and moving in formation. They told our DS that our platoon lacked discipline. Then they said the whole company was looking like shit. We didn't even do anything. Now, if there is one thing Jackson hates, it's to be embarrassed, so we all got smoked bad.

Next story of a horrible day. Our platoon was the last to eat dinner (which was bad enough since I was starving). When we go into the defaque we have to sound off with our component (reserve, national guard, active duty, etc) and the last 4 numbers of our social security number. Sounding off means to say it loud and clear. We've been doing it from day one. The civilian inside needs it that way so he doesn't have to ask you to repeat and the line keeps moving. I guess the 3 platoons before us got a little lax, because he told us before we even started to sound off loud. Once again, Jackson was embarrassed by us (even though it wasn't us). So, twenty man fireguard with LBE, Kevlar, and Rucksack. Just before bed he put it back down to 4 because he knew 20 would kill us.

Did I mention that today is technically the end of red phase? Key word, technically. Actually, it's going to stretch through Saturday. Whatever.

Tomorrow we get our Class A uniform (dress uniform) and berets. We can't wear them, but it's cool to get them. Plus, no PT in the morning.

My dad sent me the pictures of your graduation. Once again, I wish I was there. I feel bad that I'm missing all of these key stages in your life. All I can think about is what I'm going to do when I get home. Unfortunately, I still have 5 1/2 months. I'm never going to get home.

I was thinking about what to do when I get visited for Family Day. My AIT is 4 months long as you know. I can't survive that long without seeing family. I'll be free one weekend. Damn it feels good to fantasize. That's what it feels like - fantasy. It's so far in the future. I'll never get there. Oh well, day by day. That's why I keep a day count, so I don't get ahead of myself. Send me more mail by the way, I would really like it if I could get a piece of mail about once every 2 to 3 days. It doesn't have to be big.

Love
-Ari-

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10 June 2004

10 June 04
Day 22
Before first formation

AHHH!!!

What's going on? Make it stop. I'll bet you would never think you would hear a person (I guess you wont actually "hear" me) say this, but I can't stop losing weight! Why couldn't this happen during wrestling? Wait, it did, when I didn't want it to. My junior year I cut weight, my senior year I tried to keep it up but couldn't. Well, it's happening again. I lost another half pound between yesterday morning and now. If it were once, twice, or even three it would mean nothing. But it's about 11 to 12 times now. I haven't weighed this little in a while, and I have at least a little bit more muscle. The good news is that a six-pack miraculously showed up this morning. It could still use some work though. Also, my toe is getting better. The skin is regrowing. Got to go, this has been a morning update by .....

-Ari-

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11 June 2004

11 June 04
Day 23

Hey loves, (no I'm not gay)

This is my first real break since yesterday morning. These last few days have been almost unbearable. DS Jackson has (excuse the language) been ripping us a new asshole. We got our worst smoke session yet after dinner yesterday. I don't even want to go into it. Lets just say I did close to 500 push-ups, plus other stuff. It sucked. Combine that with a major intensity increase in morning PT and I'm dead. This morning we did a run in our respective groups. A group ran about 6 miles. We were running down the road and came to the spot where we normally turn around. Instead, we just kept going and going and going. Finally, we turned around, only to turn back around and keep going. Then when we finally got back, we ran two more laps around the track. I did well though. I actually finished in the front row of formation. I'm really getting in shape. I was so surprised I made it because last time I fell out on a much short, albeit faster, run. By the way, we ran for 35 minutes, not including the two laps.

Then when all the other platoons went to breakfast, we got smoked again. Damn my muscles are tired. I can barely do like 20 push-ups right now.

I'm not sure how much more of this I can take. I'm glad Jackson is leaving for 3 weeks.

We got our class A's yesterday. The suit jacket is really tight. I got my beret (yes I finally figured out how to spell it). It's a great honor to wear (can't until grad, but usually you don't get it until much later) it. It looks silly on me though because I don't know how to wear it correctly. I'm going to go now.

Yo yo

Check it out. DS Garcia just gave us an hour with no instructions (goof off time). He then came up stairs and began walking through the barracks. He caught a couple people sleeping. We got a light smoking. Afterward though he gave us a talk. He had two points. The first was that it was not only the people who fell asleep's fault, it was ours too for not waking them up or keeping them from falling asleep. The second point was that it's ok to take a nap or whatever. It's not ok to get caught. Behind discipline, the thing they have been trying to instill in us the most is the idea of perception. If we look a certain way, (whether we are or not) his perception is that we are that way. We need to work as a team, he said. Let the guy sleep, simply wake him up in time when the DS walks in. Can you believe that? He was telling us it's ok to lie and be deceitful, as long as we are good at it. That's the real reason why we let the guys sleeping down.

Probably only Ben knows about this because his is the only other R.A. Salvator fan, but Ben, doesn't that remind you of a dark elf society? One house can defeat another and it is looked upon with blessings, but if they leave witnesses alive to tell what actually happened that house is punished. What kinds of things are they trying to put in our heads? Have to go, final formation, ciao!

Yo yo, Ari, out

Same Day

Hey again,

Ever since Jackson left around lunch time, today has been pretty lax. It's amazing the difference that guy makes. My heart sinks every time I hear his voice. I finished my showers first and how have 45 minutes more of free time.

I went to the PX today (military store). I bought and extra PT shirt (9 bucks), rubber heel insoles for my boots (5 bucks) a clip board (a dollar), and a package of two room freshener things that stick to the walls ($1 for my locker). I also got my mandatory hair cut. It's my 4th one. I am, once again, bald. I hate having to pay for it when I wouldn't get it on my own.

Damn that was some loud thunder.

Anyway, after I finished I went and checked out the graduation rings (which take like 5 weeks to deliver by the way). The one I would get is only $160 plus tax. That includes all modifications and designs. It's such an accomplishment to make it through Basic, especially in my platoon with Jackson, that I might do it. They have some really cool stuff. I never got a senior class ring, and its only like 5 days worth of pay (after taxes and deductions). However, I'm not sure if I'm going to make it, not a hundred percent sure at least. Also, $160 is $160. I don't need it. I'm undecided.

Time for bed. Actually, I'm in bed after lights out with a flashlight on to see. I have to go to sleep because I have fireguard at midnight.

"Now you know, and knowing is half the battle" - GI Joes American Heros

-Ari-

PS I used to love that cartoon :) !!

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12 June 2004

12 June 04
Day 24

Dear Turd,

I love weekends. There is just something so special, so magical about them. With the exception of last night after dinner, this week was one of the toughest. I was so dead yesterday. Hell, I was practically a walking Zombie on Thursday already. Now, after a few hours of rest last night, a decent night's sleep, a morning work out that was tough but not killer, and a large breakfast, I feel good.

Guess what I ate for breakfast? A slice of ham (healthiest meat here), scrambled eggs, 2 large slices of French toast with blueberry syrup, 2 slices of raisin bread with peanut butter and honey, 2 small plums, 2 slices of cantaloupe, and a slice of watermelon. A lot, huh? I never used to eat like that. It's actually pretty average for now though. I always eat the French toast, eggs, and ham. I always have some sort of fruit, whatever interests me that day. And I always have something else. Sometimes its a slice of toast with something on it, sometimes it's a bowl of cereal and milk. I usually only have one slice of toast though. The whole "something else" thing began when I hit 125 1/2 pounds. I thought that was a little too low and so I upped my calorie intake. We'll see what happens.

DS Garcia just told us that we will most likely have a lot of empty time today. He also said that the First Sergeant is going to move with us to white phase today. Along with white phase comes more freedom. He told us to behave because at any time we can return to red phase. Above that, DS Garcia is leaving for the day and DS Jackson is off. Our reserve DS, DS Pitts, who was here to serve his two weeks a year, is gone (I haven't said much about him) I believe. We are getting a new one today. Garcia warned us not to try and "pull the wool over his eyes" … he is still a DS.

I hope I get to make a phone call. I hope I get a long time too. If you get this letter before I get phone time, write back and tell me what's up.

About my opening to this letter, the head DS of another platoon in my company, DS Romine, calls everybody that. In a southern accent he is like, "Get the hell out of my way, turd." "Don't make me come over there, turd." Turd this, turd that, everything he says is turd. You can tell Les that I have yet to be called puke though.

We were just introduced to our new DS. He is the first white DS my platoon has had. He looks really tough too. Yeah, we're going to get "[f-ed] up." He has been around for a really long time too. I can tell because his BDU's (camoflauge uniforms) are really faded.

Lets see, should I end here or keep going and use 2 stamps again? I have wasted enough of your time already. I'm done. Once again, I miss you all. I hope you all have a great summer. Mine is going to suck big time.

Love
-Ari-

[[ Another letter from this day ]]

Hey hey Babarida (from a cadence),

Ok, I did it, I bought the ring. Sue me if you want. We had a class on them after lunch, and we learned all the options and prices. I got the silver valadium one for $160 like I said. I got a whole bunch of other cool features too. I chose my birthstone.Now I guess I have no choice but to succeed. There simply is no turning back no matter how bumpy the road gets. Damn, I hope they give us 4 hour passes tomorrow.

Love,
-Ari-

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13 June 2004

13 June 04
Day 25

Dear Y'all

The platoon guide and squad leaders were revealed to us this morning. We are officially in white as of yesterday by the way. The flags have been changed and everything. We kinda already knew who the PG (platoon guide) would be. Not too many people agree, but there's nothing we can do about it. If he screws up he will be fired.

I was not chosen as SL (squad leader), however, it was not based of performance like the PG. We thought it would be. He (DS Garcia) practically chose them randomly. He wants to test everybody to make sure they can all be leaders. Everybody in the army is supposed to be a leader. In fact, he told us that those of us he knows can lead may never be squad leaders. Otherwise, they'll be changing quickly.

Last night during fireguard, a guy and I wrote a draft of a platoon motto. All the other platoons have one. Its something we yell when called to attention as a platoon.

Ok, so it's a little violent and sick, but that's what they want. I'm not sure if it will go through. A lot of guys want so simply say nothing in order to be different. Some want our motto to be really short. At the least we can make this a little longer and turn it into a cadence. Got to go to services.

-Ari-

Same Day,

Dear All,

I got a few more presents today. First I took one of the military issue Kippahs (hadn't done it before because I already had a camo kippa) because they are cooler. They are also smaller and fit my tiny shaved head better.

Second, I picked a "Hebrew reading crash course" book. Not for me. It's for my Jewish friend Ian Rembler who went on sick call today and couldn't make it. It's well organized and to the point.

Finally I got a paperback Friday night services book. It has songs in it that I really miss like "Lecha dodi". Everything in it is both translated and transliterated. It also has grayed areas where it explains each section of the service, song, and prayer. Its great, and once again by the Aleph Institute.

I also got a good oneg. I had a half a bagel with lox spread, a brownie/chocolate cake thingy, a nut filled brownie with a chocolate fudge and marshmallow topping, and a tiny chocolate chip cookie. Lunch is in 20 minutes though, and since we do not exercise on Sundays I'm not hungry. Oh well, I'll eat light.

It looks like it will be at least another week until phone calls.

Speaking of which, the one thing I hate about weekends is you can't receive mail. We also didn't get mail on Friday because it was a holiday, Reagan Day. Plus we might not get mail on Monday because it is the Army's birthday.

Here is my Jewish knowledge for the week. It's a little unconventional:

"President Bush was outside doing whatever presidents do when he sees a man. 'That man looks exactly like Moses' he thinks. He calls to the man. 'Hey, Moses!" No answer. The man simply looks straight ahead. So he calls again, "Hey there, Moses!" Once again, no answer. President Bush then goes over and calls a bodyguard. "Doesn't that guy look like Moses?" he asks. "Yeah," says the guard. The guard then proceeds to go over to the man and whispers. "You look just like Moses. Are you?" "Yes" the man replies "but the last time I talked to a Bush I had to wander in the desert for 40 years"

Ha ha, no throwing tomatoes please. The leader of the service today told us that joke as part of his sermon/drash. The Rabbi is still away.

I just heard that we were going to be moving our feet all day tomorrow. First, for part of morning, PT we have a two mile run. It's for the entire company as a group because of the army's birthday. It will be slow be we will be singing. Then after breakfast we are going to march 5 miles with our Kevlar, LBE and M-16s to a shooting range. Tomorrow is our first day of BRM (basic rifle marksmanship). BRM will take us all of white phase (next 3 weeks). It's the most important thing in basic. Thank god we aren't going to have our ruck sacks for that march. Of course, after we are through dry firing (practicing without ammo) we are going to march back. Twelve miles aint bad for one day. I'll have to eat a lot.

By the way, all of my writing today has been split up. I simply haven't shown it. I'm going to take another break now. Catch you later.

I guess that's all for today. It's plenty I think. Love you all. I finally got to talk to my baby even though it was for a few minutes. It was nice, but I'm not really satisfied.

Love y'all
-Ari-

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14 June 2004

14 June 04
Day 26
About 800 hours

Dear Baby and friends and family,

Today is the army's 229th birthday. We got up at 3:30 in the morning and marched outside after first formation. We then formed up not only in our platoons, and then company, but with 3 other companies to make an entire battalion. There were a lot of us. Lt Colonel Dyer (the battalion commander) said a couple of words and then introduced Colonel Gallagher the BCT Brigade commander who gave us a pretty good speech. It's not every day you see a Colonel, one rank away from being a General.

To get us pumped up, they played a rap song from cadence. Then a country song from a different cadence, and then a heavy metal song. Where they came up with these I have absolutely no friggen clue.

After that, we ran 2 to 3 miles, slowly, in formation with cadences. It was easy. When we returned we walked a couple laps around the track and that was it. I've never had an eaiser morning PT.

I was starving for food this morning. Dinner was small and I was hungry at like 2000 hours yesterday. Oh, sorry, 8:00pm. Then my platoon had to eat last again. They hate us, Every damn meal, 3rd platoon Wolverines are last to eat. It gets annoying being number 190 out of 220 3 times a day, every day.

We got another DS today. He is permanent I believe. Once again, he is black.

I hear the Wallaces are kicking the Laker's asses. I'd rather see the Pistons win than the dumbass Lakers again. Thats all for now. Love you.

-Ari-

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18 June 2004

18 June 04

Dear Mom and Dad and brothers and grandparents,

I got your letters, Mom. I really appreciate all the mail. It's nice to know what's going on at home. I'm glad my essay was good. I really liked the corrections you made to it, though I don't know if I'd call them “minor”. Harriet is still going to write a recommendation, right? I think hers would be valuable. I'm worried about my SAT score. It’s “technically” good enough, but I don't know. For sure I would do a lot better now.

G-d damn (sorry, national pass time of the Army) Lee, I heard you got $1500. That's a crap load of money. That's almost even with what I'm going to make (after all the deductions and taxes) after 2 months of basic training. Oh, and by the way, seeing as our last name is 11 letters long, I don't think it is a coincidence that our first names are only 3.

I hope I get into ROTC. I should, but I'm still hoping. I know you know, but its not a chance for me being called up in the reserves. Sooner or later, it will happen. They are training us to think about what we will do when we are deployed, not if we are. Truly, I'm not that worried about it. I should get into ROTC. One thing I am worried about it the fact that I can't sign the contract for about a month or so when I return. I think. If I do, I will lose $4000. I have to make sure the paperwork goes through for my bonus. Also, if for some reason I do get called up, I can't complain. I just have to go. The chances of being hurt or injured really aren't that good. I'm dying after 2 months. The good things about it would be that I would get hazard pay. In a year, I could possibly put away $50,000 savings. Also, maybe I could make a difference. I have to believe that. Otherwise, what's the point?

Did I ever mention how much I hate Georgia weather? Today it was hot enough and sunny enough for me to sun burn (well into the 90's with high humidity), yet only a couple hours later (actually, closer to 30 minutes) the clouds moved in and a huge storm appeared. It thundered and lighteninged and poured buckets. Then about 2 hours after it began it was sunny again. Actually it’s been that way every day this week.

We began BRM this week (basic rifle marksmanship). I'm not very good with an M-16. Oh well, I'm learning.

We all get to go to a minor league baseball game tomorrow. It should be good fin. I'm not real interested in the baseball, but I am interested in the freedom and concession stands, popcorn, pizza, skittles, mmmm. Don't worry, Mom. I eat fruit at every breakfast, and salads at every lunch and dinner. I have also only been through the short order line (hamburgers, chili dogs, corn dogs, fires, fried chicken, onion rings, etc.) once since I've been here.

I'm putting on some muscle. My weight is not very constant, but I believe I currently weight about 128. I've definitely lost some fat since 30th AG.

In April 2005, the Army is completely changing their uniform. Instead of the current BDU (battle dress uniform) issues in 1981, we will switch to the ACU (Army combat uniform). The ACU is absolutely tight. I read a newspaper article on them. There are over 31 major changes, all of them great. It will be real cool. I can’t wait, assuming I'm still in the military.

I miss home and the small comforts that come with it. I can’t wait to return.

I received mail from Adrienne De la Rocha and Elaine Friedman. I'll write them back. Make sure to let people know I’m doing all right except for my knee. It hurts a lot. It keeps healing, but because I'm always on it, it begins to hurt again. Running is difficult. Tell Robbie I'm fine. I better go to bed. My flashlight just died on me.

Love

-Ari-

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5 July 2004

05 July 04

Yesterday was the first time I’ve broken down and cried!! L Its unusual for this to happen in Blue Phase, but almost everybody has their moment sometime.

You see, as you know by now, our passes got canceled. Remember I talked about those 2nd platoon guys that cut our hair? It was illegal apparently. They could have given us all Article 15’s (takes away 2 months pay and reduces rank) if they wanted. We had no idea. The DS (drill sergeant) said that if they had not charge for the cut they simply would have given us a “slap on the hand” and that’s it, but because they “cheated” us and we “let them”, we got in a lot of trouble. We were yelled at for hours. We had to do hours of cleaning that I don’t even want to into, and we were smoked twice: last night and this morning. It sucked.

But that’s not why I broke down. First, I had been holding in my anger and loneliness for a while, for months actually and it just came out (I didn’t ball or anything, it was just a few tears). Second, I thought our pass today was going to be cancelled too.

[[ Editor's Note: the rest of this letter will not be printed due to its personal nature ]]

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