As a Cub Scout, the pack took a trip to the Philadelphia Navy Yard. We went through a submarine, and I was scared the thing would sink or blow up or something, so I ran through it. Going out, we passed all those old mothballed ships, and something inside me rang and said, “I want to be on one of those gray ships someday.
William McCrystal (a good family friend) and I worked together when I was a senior in high school. He used to tell stories of his time in the service. Vietnam was still going on, and I had just received my draft number. Rather than getting drafted I picked my service and joined the USCG at the end of the summer after graduation.
Too much partying, and it turned out a 1.2 GPA would not keep me from being drafted. So I volunteered for the draft. Once I got back from Vietnam, I actually received 2 degrees and maintained a 3.7 GPA while working full time as a police officer. Funny story – After I left school to volunteer for the draft, I thought it would be a quick process. Not so. The first month my draft board did not meet for some reason. The second month the draft board did not take up my request. The third month a draft board member died of old age – no meeting. In the 4th month, the draft board finally met and acted on my request but did not approve it until the 5th month.
I was graduating from high school in 1968, and the conflict in Vietnam was going on. I had a fairly low number in the lottery and knew I would get drafted. I didn’t want to go to Vietnam, so I picked the Air Force instead of the Army and began talking to an Air Force recruiter. My Dad was an MP in the Army in WW2, and I thought I’d like to get into the Security Police field. Every time the recruiter would get a slot, I’d put him off because I was working my 1st job out of high school and was enjoying it. Then one day, while I was at work, my Brother, who is 10 years younger than me, called and said I had a letter. I asked what it said, and he started out, stumbling over a couple of words since he was learning to read, “Greetings, you are hereby ordered…” I said that’s enough. I told my boss I had to get off. Drove up to the Air Force recruiter’s office and said, ” Please, please, get me in.” I joined the AF 2 days before I was supposed to go into the Army.
When I graduated from High School in 1980, I was about four months away from turning 18. I worked in the Oil Field with my brother through the Summer and decided that I needed to get an education, so I enrolled in a Technical College in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. I entered college as the hostages in Iran were being released. I was in a drafting program and sat at a table in a classroom with about 40 people. About 25 percent were veterans, and none were Marines. We had a radio that played in the classroom, and on March 30, 1981, I listened to the news of Reagan being shot. When the semester was over, I decided to quit college and go back home and do something greater. Exactly what, I had not decided.
When I was little, my uncle used to talk about his experiences in the Navy, and he joined before Vietnam kicked off because he saw the writing on the wall. At MEPS, guys were lined up, and a man with a clipboard in his hands went down the row and assigned each individual to a branch, “Army, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Army, Army.”
It certainly beat out the Army or Marines! But I didn’t think I was smart enough for the Air Force, and besides that, my retired Air Force Master Sergent dad retired to Southern California, so I naturally became a beach and water lover. The US Coast Guard fit like a glove!
I wanted to serve my country, but it took about a year after 9-11 to decide, and I was still on the fence, so I did the National Guard first, and I found out I loved it and went active. I also have a strong family military tradition that is important to me. As they say, the rest is history
Two different reasons or experiences. While I was a small lad, we lived about 90 miles from Wichita, where my grandmother and great-grandmother lived. Immediately after WWII, when I was about four years old, we would drive up to visit them and would drive by the line after line of B-29’s, huge and shiny, that the Boeing company had built but not delivered to the military for the war. I still remember thinking how neat it would be to get to fly one of those airplanes.
I was born in a tiny apartment somewhere behind the screen of a movie theater in Picher, Oklahoma, on March 3, 1924. I am told that as my mother’s labor pains intensified and came more frequently, the theater owner/manager sent the patrons home and locked the doors so she could have some privacy in her travails. My father was working in the mines in and around Picher, which was booming in the 1920s, and the little apartment was the only residence they could find at the time.Despite them being similarly reserved and not the type of men to brag, I could hardly wait to visit them so I could beg them to tell me war stories. The experiences they shared with me made a lasting impression during my early childhood, which further aroused my desire to serve my country.
I was graduating from Westminster High School in a few months (1966) and knowing that I would not be able to afford college, I thought enlisting in the military would be a good thing, especially if it was possible to get college paid for afterwards. Being landlocked and with Lowery Air Force Base across town, the recruiting ads I thought the Air Force might be a good place to go. The Air Force recruiter came to my house to talk with me but to my amazement the recruiter told me there was a waiting list, imagine that with the Vietnam War going on.
My dad was the major influence on my joining the Coast Guard. He was part of a forward Army recon unit that was captured at the Battle of the Bulge after expanding all their ammunition. His unit was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, and he earned a Bronze Star for his actions there. My dad also fought in the Korean war earning awards for his actions there.
The Army was going to send him off to Vietnam when that conflict started, and he opted to retire with twenty-three years of service at that time. My dad thought that Vietnam was a war run by politicians instead of Generals and convinced me that the Coast Guard was the best service to go into. Of course, neither of us knew at the time that there were more Coasties killed (percentage-wise) in WWII and the Vietnam war than any other service.