Athens Review, Athens, Texas

January 10, 2013

Military school can be tough, but some lessons still stick

Jeff Riggs
Athens Daily Review

Athens — It’s a different kind of life for a boy. Perhaps that’s good, but it also has its challenges.

I’m writing about a military school, which is monetarily funded by the U.S. Army, but which is a private high school.

That’s the place I attended as a high school junior and senior. It was Peacock Military Academy in San Antonio that I graduated, helping to lead young men my age to march in platoons to three meals a day, stand at attention when an instructor entered a classroom and wear a uniform every moment they were not asleep or in the shower.

There were inspections of individual quarters, also known as barracks, morning and night. After the night inspection, there was a supervised study hall in our rooms.

At about 10:30 p.m., seven days a week, there was a trumpeter blowing “Taps,” telling the world that our day was over.

We also had special units in which cadets spent about an hour every day. It was during this time period that the McKinnon Rifles marched while twirling M-1 rifles, in anticipation of audiences different times of the year.

There was also the Combat platoon, where cadets learned hand-to-hand “combat.”

And the third special unit was called the Zouaves. This unit was known for scaling walls with only ropes and clasps. Needless to say, as a boy a bit larger than many, I stayed away from this one. Mine was the Combat platoon my senior year and McKinnon Rifles my junior year.

Disobedience was rarely a problem. For just speaking at an inappropriate time, a cadet would have to march at attention — supervised — in a 20-foot square for at least one hour with a rifle on his shoulder. The worst part was that this was done on Saturdays, when he could, with his uniform, of course, be spending his time in town, at leisure.

As for relationships with girls, you had a little leeway. You might be acquainted with one around town, and if your grades were good enough, and you had no punishment to make good on, you could visit that girl, as long as you were back to the campus by 8 p.m.

If you were from out-of-town (as most were), and you knew no local girls, you could walk to the headquarters building and fill out a form. By doing this, you were assigned to a girl at Our Lady of the Lake High School, just down the street from Peacock.

In any case, you did not drive during your entire stay at Peacock. You took a taxi.

If you were downtown on a Saturday, you felt right at home. Military men — the real ones, I mean — would congregate in uniform from one Army post and six airbases in the greater San Antonio area.

Now, the reader should note that there is nothing honorable about going through a high school military unit. Only the real military men and women (who made up all of our teachers at Peacock, and a large percentage of the people on the streets of that city), are the honorable ones because of what they sacrifice for the American people.

All the Peacock cadets sacrificed was possibly some of the things that kids in public school enjoy, or maybe just tolerate.

Peacock cadets were from varied backgrounds. Some were so well-to-do that their parents didn’t rent a limousine for their graduation exercises. No — they just brought one from home.

Others had spent time in reform schools, and their parents had decided to help turn their lives around through Peacock.

Others, like me, had situations in their lives. My father was an Air Force fireman. His installation, James Connally Air Force Base in Waco, was forced to close, and he was trying to find another job. He eventually found one at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. So, I went there in anticipation of what might take place.

And, of course, my parents didn’t believe Peacock caused any problem for me, which it didn’t.

Peacock Military Academy had been in business with the Peacock family since 1893. But, they began dying off and couldn’t take care of the campus as they once had.

Add that to the fact that the school was carrying on military activity during perhaps the most unpopular war in history, that of Vietnam. As a result, it was closed in 1972.

After that experience, I did spend one year in college ROTC, but then took rest from all schooling until 1974. I had been drafted, but was rejected after the recruiters noted an injury to my back, and the fact that I had flat feet.

But, I must admit that there are some areas in which the school was helpful. After graduation, I was a little more regimented and quite a bit more disciplined.

Jeff Riggs is Associate Editor of the Athens Daily Review.