“People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn’t take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise, not only to the people who were wondering, but to myself.” Elvis Presley
Elvis served in the US Army from March 1958 until March 1960. Since he was a world-famous entertainer he was offered the option to go into Special Services, but he chose to enlist as a regular soldier. He was in training when his mother became so ill that he was sent from Fort Hood to her bedside in Memphis, so he was with her when she died August 14, 1958. Some say Elvis was never the same after Gladys’ death.
The photos of Elvis being inducted show a happy guy going through the usual process that all the guys went through: getting his hair cut (!!!), having the medical examination, being issued his Army fatigues. But people close to him say he was scared to death of the Army.
Stationed in Germany, to a tank brigade, Elvis adjusted to the rigors of Army life, getting up early (He was NEVER an early riser in any other time of his life), reporting for duty as required, pitching in without complaint as “one of the guys.” There are NO Army tales of Elvis taking advantage of his fame to avoid either chores or assignments. Like many GIs he did make a few trips to Paris for the night life. These are the only times Elvis ever visited Europe. He never performed there; the Colonel forbade him to perform at all while he was in the armed services, since he couldn’t be paid.
E’s Grandmother Dodger went along to Germany, as did his father Vernon. He didn’t live on base; he rented his own house where he could have musical evenings to break the monotony of service life (and food). But he was homesick. Charlie Hodge, who became a lifelong friend and member of the Memphis Mafia, joined Elvis for musical evenings. Elvis met the fourteen-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu while he was stationed in Friedberg, West Germany, but she wasn’t the only gal he flirted with during those two years.
Elvis started using amphetamines while he was in the Army. As they were “legal,” he welcomed the energy they provided, so he could rise early and stay up late. They were one bad habit he started during this time that never left him.
The fear that he’d be forgotten after two years in the Army was clearly unfounded. Elvis was mobbed when he returned in a snowstorm on March 3, 1960. The screaming crowd at McGuire Air Force Base made it seem as though he’d never left. But Elvis served his country; he was discharged as a Sergeant, and he earned the Army Good Conduct Medal. It’s an important part of his story: Elvis was a vet.