Pfc Shane M. Reifert

Pfc Shane M. Reifert
Shane during a sweep of the Shuryak Valley, approximately 3 weeks before he was killed. Photo Credit: PFC Sean Stromback

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Basic Training and My European Vacation

The day after Shane left for Basic, I left for Europe. I flew alone to The Netherlands and I could barely say "hello" in Dutch. I went to visit a dear friend. I went to runaway from something I could not escape. I went to prove something to myself. 

So I drank too much on a couple occasions, came down with a terrible cold, had my first energy drink, made some good/bad decisions, fought with my friend, spent a day walking around Amsterdam by myself, saw a woman touch one of VanGogh's self portraits, was moved to tears at the sight of a Rembrant I never imagined I would see anywhere but in a book, listened to conversations that I didn't understand, was left alone with my thoughts, took the wrong bus multiple times, ate a raw beef sandwich, bought European clothing and shoes, had the Dutch tell me their thoughts on President Obama and America, watched baseball games, and learned a lot about myself. 

It was everything I needed and didn't need all at the same time. I was selfish. I left my parents alone. I left myself, too, in a way. I wanted to avoid who I was and what Shane joining the Army would make me. I realize that now. I didn't realize any of it at the time. 

And while I was doing all of those things, while I was dancing in a nightclub, sweaty and intoxicated from too many bodies around me and too many draft Heinekens, the beat of the music pulsating through my body, Shane was going through his own version of hell. He told me about the first night at Basic. How they were all on a bus and driven into Fort Benning in the dead of night and how the drill sergeants stood at all exits of the bus with bright lights, screaming for the recruits to get off of the bus. But the problem, of course, was that they were blocking all of the exits. So none of the recruits could move. They just got screamed at. When they finally were allowed to get off of the bus, they had to sit on cold metal benches, with their feet both even on the ground and their hands on their laps with their backs straight. For hours. And I got to dance and have a hangover in the morning. I think about that often and I find myself feeling guilty because of it. I also know that it's because Shane and so many other men sat on a bus and were screamed at and deprived of sleep and had to sit on a cold metal bench in silence for hours on end that I was allowed to dance and have a hangover the next morning. 

At the time, I was angry at Shane for being one of those men. For making me run away to Europe and try to avoid the unavoidable. Now, I couldn't be more proud and more grateful that he was.

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