by Darby Thorpe
June 1999

The first time was not at all what I had expected. I had dreamed about this day for many years, never actually believing I would be doing this. I had never imagined it taking place in an out-of-the-way small town like Kinston, NC, but that was what the gods had in store for me. 

Of course, like almost everything I have done in life, I didn't do it right. That wasn't really my fault though. It was the three male Marines who urged me on. They were the flies in the ointment, so to speak. I'm sure I would have done just fine if I had been with just one of them. What did they expect? They knew exactly what they were doing and there I was, an innocent, 19-year-old, Beautiful American Marine. I trusted them and they led me totally astray.

I guess we had too much time to kill on that steamy summer day in 1963. Idleness is the devil's workshop, so I am told. I was with them a good three hours. I don't recall them huddling together to plan my humiliation but somehow when the moment to perform the dirty deed arrived, they were of one mind.

Our plane taxied in as we waited outside the terminal. It was an old Piedmont prop aircraft that had probably seen better days. We were all flying to DC and then to our separate destinations. No one got off the plane when the steps were brought out because, so my new "friends" said, it was a "pickup-only" stop. Being the gentlemen that they were, they insisted that I go ahead and board first. Anxiously, I walked out onto the runway, and climbed up the curiously orange steps. I looked back once and they waved — all friendly like. "How lucky I am," I thought. "I've made three new friends today and am taking my first plane ride."

As I got to the top of the steps and saw that I was in the baggage compartment, I had to make a decision. I turned around to see the three Marines patting each other on the back and falling all over themselves with laughter. I took the high road and gave them a nice, Miss America-type wave, instead of using one of my fingers to communicate with them.

While I stood at the top of those hideous orange steps that just served to draw attention to me, the real steps were brought out. The pilot walked out, looked over at me and immediately descended his stairs; ascended mine and escorted me onto the plane. He never asked me how I ended up in the baggage compartment.

I have never been on a flight since then when I don't recall that day with a smile — my first time.
The author: Linda O'Brien Yaw (pen name—Darby Thorpe) PFC 1962-1964 attached to Base Comm CamLej. Retired. Resides in Rochester, NY.

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Service people in uniform (3 male, 1 female)