When Ben went to basic training, he was the only Mormon in his group. He didn't really care much because most of the other soldiers didn't care either. They all knew he was from day one when they all had to line up in their underwear (brown t-shirt with little brown briefs) and because of our religious beliefs, Ben's looked a little different (more like longer boxer briefs) and he became the instant cool guy with better underwear. Of course, the drill sergeant let him know how "freakin' weird" he was... but the other guys looked on with a bit of envy. AND even better, they were all pretty cool with the fact that Ben was different and often joked around and asked him funny questions about how many wives he had back home and whether or not he had horns.
They also noticed that Ben didn't swear. And they teased him about being a "goodie-goodie" -- which we are all used to anyway. BUT they all liked him pretty well and always wanted him on their team because he was trust-worthy and reliable.
I think the biggest culture shock came to Ben when he was at his AIT. The base that Ben was training on was about 15 or so miles from Washington DC, so when class was let out for the weekend, most of the guys left base and went to DC. Ben went out a couple of Saturdays to see the sites and visit the Museums. I was TOTALLY jealous!
One thing that I remember Ben telling me, was that he couldn't quite figure out why some of the guys were getting sick after they came back from the weekends in DC. He thought the sicknesses were kind of mysterious... the symptoms weren't like colds or the flu. These guys were coming back feeling super tired and weak and pretty useless. At first we thought maybe hangovers? Then Ben said that the guys with hangovers acted totally different than these other sick guys who were sick for a week or two.
Then one day, I got one of the funniest phone calls ever... I can't remember the exact words, but it went something like this:
Ben: I know why all these guys are sick.
Ben whispering: because they have (dramatic pause) an STD!
(Little FYI: of course there are lots of STD's in Utah, duh. But it isn't something we talk about and if we knew someone that had one... it would be a little scandal in our little Mormon world.)
Ben still whispering: They have been going out and getting laid on the weekends. One guy even bragged he was with a prostitute!
Me: That's not too surprising...
Ben: I guess I only thought that kind of stuff happened in the movies.
Me: Well, they get their ideas from somewhere.
Ben: Good point.
Ben: I think my roommate might have one.
Me: Have what? A prostitute?
Ben: No, you know... an STD (he says it like he is saying a swear word).
Me: Well, it's not like you can get it by standing next to him.
This sparked a long conversation about STDs, which I am googling things like "Can you get an STD from sharing a toilet with someone who has one" or whether you can get it from a bar of soap (Ben SWEARS one of his roommates used his.)
Then you can imagine how horrified Ben was when he found out the stats of how many people actually had them. From how he talked about it, you would have thought he was SURROUNDED by them! And he was a bit shocked that everyone else seemed pretty nonchalant about it. The only one scandalized about it was my Ben. And Ben isn't a very good actor and hider of emotions. It wasn't long before everyone knew just how terribly troubled he was about the whole thing. Of course, everyone thought this fact was very funny. In fact, they made Ben the unofficial expert on what NOT to do on the weekends and made him give the "Abstinence Suggested" speech before everyone left - which of course became the running joke. Even Ben thought it was pretty funny.
But hearing about how different life is in the Military for Mormons from Ben. I still didn't understand it, until I had to live it myself...
To be continued...
(Note: I decided to write this post in 3 parts, as there are many aspects I would like to cover on this subject. Comments are more than welcome, just be polite and courteous, please. Part 1 was posted yesterday, and 3 will be posted soon so come back and check it out!)