For the past ten years, the Colonel has had the great pleasure of reconnecting with old (the word is achieving greater accuracy lately) college chums at an annual reunion of a very select group of Americans.
Thirty-six years ago this fall, the Colonel (then a brash, clueless, eighteen-year-old) began his matriculation at Ole Miss. The Colonel's father told him that he could go to school anywhere he wanted, but that if the Colonel went to Mississippi State, the Colonel's father would pay his way. There were a couple of factors that weighed in favor of that course of action:
1) Mississippi State was just down the road from home. (This was also a factor weighing against the MSU COA.)
2) The Colonel wouldn't have to change mascot allegiance if he went to State--his high school, Balboa High in the Panama Canal Zone, had a bulldog for a mascot.
But, there were several factors weighing heavily on the side of the Colonel's matriculation at Ole Miss.
1) Ole Miss was two hours away from home--close, but not too close.
2) Ole Miss was only an hour away from Memphis, where the Colonel's high school sweetheart, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, was going to go to school.
3) While the Colonel had been offered a full ride ROTC scholarship from the Army that would have allowed him to go to school just about anywhere he could get accepted, the Colonel's nascent manhood had been seriously challenged by a shrewd Marine and the Colonel had accepted the Marine Corps' offer of a full ride scholarship (see reference to brashness and cluelessness in the second paragraph above). The only school with Naval ROTC (the Colonel's scholarship was officially a Naval ROTC Scholarship--Marine Option) in relatively close proximity to both the Colonel's parental home base and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's college coordinates was... (insert opening bars of "Dixie" here) Ole Miss.
So, the Colonel became a Rebel.
Well, officially, that is. Big "R" Rebel, now. As his parents will loudly attest without the slightest prompting, the Colonel was a little "r" rebel from birth.
As early as he can remember back into his formative years, the Colonel knew that he would return the favor of citizenship in this great nation with the honor of military service. The Colonel had his heart set for many years on attending the Air Force Academy. The Air Force Academy, unfortunately for them, did not share the Colonel's desire for his association with them. Fine by the Colonel!
At Ole Miss, the Colonel joined one of the biggest and most exclusive fraternities on campus. The members of this fraternity shared, with an almost alarming consonance, the Colonel's passionate patriotism and sense of obligation to nation, and the Navy and Marine officers and enlisted men, for whom the leadership and professional development of that fraternity was their duty, instilled an amazingly ambitious and further unifying set of values, and inspired an ever-tightening bond of brotherhood between and amongst the Colonel's peers.
In that already potent fermentation, yet another leaven was present. In those years the Navy and Marine Corps sent highly qualified enlisted men to colleges, at which an NROTC unit existed, on a set of programs known as the Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program (NESEP) and the Marine Enlisted College Education Program (MECEP). These NESEPs and MECEPs were, in the appropriately descriptive naval terminology, "old salts." It's safe to say that the Colonel and his NROTC cohorts learned nearly as much about leadership and the naval profession of arms from this group of old salts as was learned from the official instructor staff -- often not exactly according to the official NROTC syllabus. And, in most cases, far from what could have easily been their temptation, the NESEP/MECEP old salts kept their disdain for the college boy ROTC midshipmen to themselves.
The final, sweetening, ingredient to this pot, was a small group of young ladies who served as "little sisters" to our fraternity. In the ROTC fraternity they were called sponsors. This was in the mid-seventies -- blessedly before the emasculation of society by the intolerant idiocy of political correctness.
This past weekend, a representative sampling of this amalgam of all that was right about America (in juxtaposition to the wrong-headedness that spilled from the toxic brew of the sixties and seventies and poisoned society with its post-Vietnam, boomer-logic, horse's back-sided-ness), assembled, on the occasion of an Ole Miss Rebel football game, to recreate, reminisce, and remember.
The stories have grown only slightly more outlandish than the nearly four-decade-old events about which they are told, and the descriptions and dialog are now recreated in euphemistic language appropriate for the wives, children, and grandchildren in attendance. But, oh, what a rollicking ride down memory lane. The Colonel went to bed that night and dreamt he was nineteen again.
He awoke relieved that it was only a dream.
The Colonel looks forward to seeing you great Americans next year!