Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Army, Magic & November 7, 1991

Twenty years ago this past Sunday, November 6, 1991 was my first day as a member of the United States Army. I reported to Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, got sworn in, and was flown out to Fort Leonardwood, Mousouri for processing and the commencement of basic training. It was a scary time for me, being the first time in my life I had been away from my family. I had three years ahead of me on my enlistment. That day was much of a blur. The next day, November 7, 1991 is much more vivid in my memory.

I was taking a prolonged physical and receiving every kind of shot known to man. Me and the other enlistees were pretty quiet going through it until a buzz swept through the rooms we were in. A sergeant put on a TV in another room which I could see in the distance. I remember squinting to see what was going on and then I heard it because the images were so small. Magic Johnson had announced in a press conference that he had contracted HIV and was retiring from the NBA. I was floored.

Back then most if not all the people I knew who had HIV or full blown AIDS were celebrities and they all died from the dreadfull disease. So I was devastated that Magic, one of my favorite players, was soon going to die. Soon, because that was the thought process back then. No one survived for long and certainly not for 20 yrs with the disease. But here we are, 2 decades later.

His survival is a testament to modern medicine, Magic's willpower, and the fortune that he amassed in order to combat the disease. But I don't mean that to be cynical. That's just the way it was and still is to a certain extent. Yet the truth is that many people today get the same treatment as Magic and are living with that disease. It's not an automatic death sentence as it had been. There is still a long way to go, but that is a start.

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