Military School – my experience at Valley Forge!

Note – this story is in full as a PDF at this link :Part_3military – maybe scratch

Straighten up or we’ll send you to military school” was a common threat in the relatively well off Philadelphia suburb where I hail from. I’d heard my parents mention it regarding my older brother, who was often in trouble for weed, running away and other assorted 60’s rule breaking. However, I was still only 13 years old, and the idea that I would be dragged away to put on a uniform and parade around with a rifle seemed near impossible.
At the time I was hanging out with a crowd of guy friends who I suppose were somewhat typical of the time – at least typical in the upper middle class environs where I lived and went to school. Some were semi-greasers, who liked fast cars and mooning out the window of cars driven by their older brothers. Others were rich kids with divorced parents, who had too much freedom and too much money….or, maybe just enough to get in a LOT of trouble!
We were slightly under the age of drinking and drugs, and also not yet very interested with girls, so we came up with our own entertainment, which was usually vandalism. This involved “cool” BB and Pellet guns which we would use to shoot out everything from street lights to car headlights to picture windows. Sure, this behavior was most definitely wrong, yet the adrenaline rush we got was amazing! It was a high it itself when a streetlight broke and we went running.

As time went by, we improved our weapons as well as our stealth. After all, the police were
onto us and walking the streets with a Crossman pump-up air rifle tucked under our coats was difficult to conceal. Our first innovations were sawed off barrels and CO2 pistols, but some of us got caught with those – end of story! We figured that there must be a better way – and there was!
Through trial and error, we discovered that very heavy rubber bands, found in certain stationary stores, could propel BB’s at nearly the same rate as a rifle could. We honed our accuracy and were once again in business – but without any evidence for the police to find when they stopped and searched us.
This went on for a few months until one night when I took a dare and threw a brick through the window of a local Hebrew Academy – in fact, it was one that I had attended as a child. Someone must have dropped the dime on me because, next thing I knew, the police were at my house and fingering me for the crime!
“Your choice, Craig, Juvenile Hall or Valley Forge Military Academy” was the declaration from my parents….and this time they were dead serious. I remember crying intensely but could not sway their resolve. I had heard stories about Montgomery Hall, the local juvy facility, and they were not good. So I made the fateful choice to go to Valley Forge Military Academy and start in the mid-term (January). I turned 14 years old a few weeks prior to my arrival at VFMA.
I cannot recall my frame of mind as I arrived. The easiest way to describe it was that I felt as
if I had been transported to another universe and was in a dream. I remember being fitted for my uniforms, assigned a dorm and then having to assemble in the main square and line up in military fashion. It was, of course, the middle of winter and I remember feeling as if I were inside a giant fog – both literally and figuratively.

Note – this story is in full as a PDF at this link :Part_3military – maybe scratch


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