Barry Pavel – Artist, Musician, Consultant
I was born a poor black man. Oh, no. Wait a minute. That’s not even funny anymore. Strange how times change isn’t it? Let me start again.
I was born poor. Yup. Well not that poor. My daddy was a career Navy man who retired after 20+ years of service. Being a Navy brat I had to privilege to travel across the US and half way around the world before I was a teenager. People are always intrigued when I tell them that I lived in Japan as a child. “Can you speak Japanese?”, they always ask. “A couple words, at most”, is my standard answer. That was a long, long time ago.
After Dad retired he moved us out to California, where he had bought a house in San Diego when he was stationed there years before. San Diego was beautiful. Beaches, great weather…California Girls! Who could ask for a better place to go to high school. I was a Tiger, and made a lot of great friends at Samuel F.B. Morse High School, many of who I still keep in touch with via Facebook.
During my senior year I realized that I needed to figure out what I was going to do after high school. At the time San Diego was in a recession and jobs were hard to get. I hadn’t planned on going to college, at least not right away, so I was interested when the local Army recruiter came to campus. I signed some papers just before Christmas break and a week after graduation in June I was on my way to boot camp.
A bus ride to Los Angeles and a flight to Louisville, KY later I found myself on another bus heading to Ft. Knox. Getting off the bus was just like you see in the movies. A couple of screaming Drill Sergeants herding in the wide eyed kids. They quickly separated the crowd by their MOS, Military Operational Code. “Recon to the left. Armor to the right”, or something like that. Everyone moved, except me. “What are you standing there for?”, screamed the Drill Sergeant. I didn’t know what to do. I thought I was going to be a tank mechanic. At least that’s what my recruiter had said. “What’s your MOS, boy?” “11 Delta”, I responded. He looked at me like I must of had some thing wrong with me. That’s when I found out I was going to be a Recon Scout and so began my four year tour in the United States Army.
After Boot Camp, and Scout school, I was sent to Germany where I joined the 1/2 ACR stationed in Bindlach, West Germany. Germany was still split in two in those years and didn’t reunite until 1990. Bindlach is just outside of Bayreuth, which is world-famous for its annual Bayreuth Festival, at which performances of operas by the 19th-century German composer Richard Wagner are presented. I didn’t have the opportunity to attend the festival though. Instead I was either cleaning a M551 Sheridan Tank or a M113 Armored Personnel Carrier or freezing my butt off in the frigid German cold weather. The Sheridan’s were famous for their heaters not working so I was really happy when some new APCs arrived and I became the driver of one.
After Germany I was transferred back to Ft. Knox and placed into the same training battalion I had been in during boot camp. When Top asked me if I was going to reenlist I informed him that I was going to go to college instead. At that time I fell under to old GI Bill which meant I would get some money every month towards my education. So in the summer of 1980 I left Kentucky and headed south to Key West, Florida.
More to come….