OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA — Most of the people sitting in this 3-thousand square foot room, on a Tuesday evening, are still teenagers. They would have been awakened this morning by moms and dads for the last time. They are Army recruits who face a much different wake-up call tomorrow at the start of basic training. Adam Bristow woke up in a town near Peoria, Illinois. Tomorrow marks a new chapter in his life. “Sitting here thinking, when is the bus going to get here,” he says excitedly. “I’m ready to get off that bus and have someone start yelling at me.”
On this evening young recruits find their way to Will Rogers Airport through the puzzle of flight schedules and connections to the one place they can catch their breath. The YMCA Military Welcome Center started 4 years ago this spring in a small terminal office. These days Director Clyde Tullos sees close to 2,500 military members and their families every month. ” We see combat veterans, basic training, reservists, national guard, and families,” he says. “We welcome families.” 78 army recruits gather at the Welcome Center, waiting for a bus to Fort Sill Army Base.
Recruit Bristow chats with friends and tries not to think about missing the birth of his first child. Another recruit, Terrance Ward, just finished a 5 year hitch in the Air Force. He’s n the bus to Fort Sill to give the Army a try. “The economy is bad,” he says. “I’m happy to have a job. I’m happy to represent my country.”
While they’re here, they eat or play. They type emails, play video games. Every story you can think of gets told here. 9 weeks from tonight these same recruits will come back through again to catch their breath and get a little rest. On their way to something or on their way home, a little piece of Oklahoma hospitality seems the least we can offer.