St. John’s Military School. I’ll need to break the years down to cover this subject because they are so packed full of deeply ingrained memories, feelings and emotions. Six years of my life was spent at this “school”, 9 months of each year.
I still remember this first trip to Kansas. I was 12 years old and about 68 pounds, soaking wet. Everything around me seemed bigger than it was. The other kids, the buildings, it was all a shock for me. i was absolutely overwhelmed.
The first month at St. John’s was spent as a “newboy”. This basically painted a target on my back. The hazing was brutal at times. As a small child, I was picked on with special zeal. My spitfire attitude and tendency to start a fight did not help me much either.
One such fight stands out that first year. Outside one of the buildings stood a massive oak tree. This tree had a large aged knot hollow, big enough for a person. It was naturally, the trash hole for the uncaring kid. The fight began, as usual over me mouthing off and a foot chase. ensued. It ended when I was tackled under the “Holey Oak”. I ended up face first, stuck in that tree for over 2 hours.
After the first few months, I felt more settled and had made a few friends. Several of these friends would become sexual partners, regularly throughout the remainder of the year. The barracks had rooms set up for roommates of 2, 4 and 8. My first year, I had a room with 2. My roommate rarely stuck around the room at night.
The campus itself was quite spralling. It sported: a High School building, with a basement, A dining facility and rec room, with basement, 3 Living quarters and a Headquarters building for adult and Cadet (kid) staff, with basements, A large sports facility with Basketball courts, wrestlings mats and locker rooms. A football field and a Soccer pitch. It even had some residential housing for executive school staff and the “Father” and his wife.
The chapel stood out the most when entering the campus. Just off to the left off the entrance , a cozy white chapel, with a tower bell and steeple. Inside, over three-hundred people could squeeze in and would, three times a week. Episcopalian practices are very ritualistic.
The hazing, daunting size of the campus, and student body aside, my seventh grade year was academically one of the best years in my life up to that point. I received better marks, and was still in trouble often, but my test scores were high. My parents called it “a good learning year”.
By the next year, I had grown very little but had gained more confidence. I was a returning cadet. I knew how some of this worked now. Sure enough, I was in trouble, quickly.
The worst punishment would be considered expulsion. The thing next to that? RATT. Rehabilitation, Training and Testing. It was a “Rank” assigned to those that were under punishment and consisted of verbal abuse, constant physical training and public humiliation. I found myself lowered to that rank several time throughout my second year at SJMS..
One of the reoccuring reasons that I would end up demoted to RATT, was my fighting. I would start fights with the bigger kids and take them on chases across the campus. I had something to prove. I just didn’t know what yet.
Several of the Cadets that also returned had taken up bedding me again. I enjoyed the attention, even if it was in secret. But, word inevitably got out among the other Cadets. Not all my sexual experiences that year were ones I chose to have.
I took up smoking [cigarettes] that year. I was busted seveal times for smoking and reduced in rank or made to march circles, hours at a time. I was in full resistance mode. I did NOT want to come back again the following year.
I was anxious and dreading the return to Kansas my Freshman year. To begin with, each trip to the school was made in a charter bus, with 30-40 other kids from all over the region. Uncomfortable and smelly to say the least.
My previous encounters Kept me very cautious and quiet at first. I was a lower classman now. It was a new reason to be hazed. I knew I had to do something to get involved. So, I joined choir, the basketball team and even did track and field.
Choir was one of the most positive experiences in my 6 years at SJMS. I loved to sing. Even though we sang mostly worship songs, sometimes we didnt/ I lived for the music. I sang Tenor and became a soloist.
My first brush with complex love was actually after the school year ended. I was back home, in Longmont and attending youth group, to keep the good attention flowing from my parents, and to fit in. That’s where I met Alicia. We spent the summer sending letters to each other and tied to our phones, fighting our family for the line. Our relationship would end as my summer closed and the trip to Kansas approached.
I was offered a chance to return early and take part in Officer Candidate School. This would mean that other cadets had to respect me and I would be in charge of a group of them! I took the chance.
The first day that everyone returned I knew it would be a different kind of year for me. I was now an Officer. I had 30 peers to lead, and guide to success. I would train with and lead these kids throughout the year.
Much like a real military unit, the Cadet corps was broken into Companies, PLatoons and squads. The entire corps (a battalion) was led by a group of seniors, the battalion staff. One of the staff members let me take on a roll as their assistant. It allowed me to learn the job and I was pivotal in the success for our Annual Formal Inspection that year.
The annual Formal Inspection, or AFI, would happen every year. The entire corps would do drills, drill team presentations, and uniform and living area inspections. The inspectors were always retired Generals and/or Active Duty Flag officers.
I was fairly repulsed from sex at this point. I had several off and on again secret friendships with three of my classmates that year. It didn’t feel right anymore. Something had to change.
My sixth and final year at SJMS was my best year there for a multitude of reasons. I did very well academically and won several scholarships to colleges I applied to. I was on the Battalion staff as the Adjutant. I was Choirmaster. I was allowed to go off campus in normal clothes.
There was one main mall in Salina. Everyone ended up there. The girls from all around also knew that this mall was the mall “all those military school boys come to”. I hit it off with a group of this girls and became “one of the girls”, because I was cool and cute.
At my graduation dinner, I sat at the head table and 5 of them were up with me. Every one of them stood and introduced themselves as my girlfriend. I will always cherish the horrified looks that got. In reality, I was only dating one of them. In fact, after that dinner I would spend my very first night with a woman.
Yes, my senior year was not entirely sour. I was in charge of myself and 250 other people. I was succeeding and thriving on it. My graduating class set a record as well. We were the first class to have 4 consecutive years as the highest scoring school during AFI. 999 out of 1000 points. Not a small feat.
The Last Supper
This all finally came to end at that dinner and aftermath. My parents had arranged it to be a celebration of my success and progress in life. They invited family, friends and about half my graduating class. In fact, this dinner ties into one of my earlier blogs. This was my first physical reunion with my biological mother, Mary.
There I sat, 5 girls beside me, looking out at faces of strangers and friends… and suddenly this lady starts singing some churchy hymn to me. After she finished her song, seh exclaimed, “Oh hi, I’m your Mom.” I cried and laughed, almost simultaneously. Later in the evening I complained to my parents that it was not how imagined meeting her again.
After the dinner, I went to an after-party with 4 of my “girlfriends”. We watched movies, smoked cigarettes and got super drunk in the basement of one of the girls’ house. There were three other cadets there as well. The eight of us all ended up coupling and having sex that night – in the same room as each other.
We were all 18 and headed our separate ways…