To leave home when I turned 18 to get away from a noncaring father and an abusive stepmother. I was one of six children that were not allowed to go past the 8th grade in school and were put to work year-round to earn money for parents. Four of my brothers and sisters left home the day they turned 18, and I was gone two weeks later as soon as I could join the Corps.
Within 90 days after Richard Nixon was inaugurated, he sent me an excellent thank you note for being 19 and indicating that he would be pleased if I would show up for work. He very much insisted I report for the draft.
Growing up as a child, and since my first memory that I can remember, I always heard my Mother who had Served in the United States Marine Corps and the Great Pride of being a “MARINE” during service and after; she had started as a Model in Hollywood and was contracted for Billboard Pictures for WOMEN to Join the Marines allowing Men in Desk Jobs to Go out and fight the Japanese. My Mother was SO Proud of the Uniform that she Enlisted before going home.
I grew up in The Bronx, New York, in the 1960s and was always an impressionable young child. I was always drawn and looked up to men of service. It didn’t matter if they were Policemen, Firefighters, Military Servicemen, or Men of the Cloth. When I started attending school in The Bronx in 1967, the teachers would always ask for a volunteer from the class to hold the American Flag while the class would recite c. Needless to say, I think no one in any of my classes held that American Flag as much as I did. I just felt truly honored always holding that American Flag.
My dad and all of my uncles were veterans of WWII. My dad and some uncles served in the Pacific, while others served in Europe. I grew up watching the war programs on TV and playing combat with the kids in the neighborhood. I read Leon Uris’s book BATTLE CRY in high school, which started considering the Marine Corps.
After school, I had a part-time job and worked alongside a couple of active-duty Marines working off duty for extra spending money.
I am a fraternal twin. I knew my parents couldn’t afford to send us both to college, and I personally didn’t want to go. I felt as though my whole life had been spent in school already, and I wanted to do something different.
My father and several uncles served in the military. Some of them retired from the service. I respected them for serving and decided that I wanted to serve my country. My original choice was the Army, so I set an appointment with the Recruiter while a sophomore in high school. They showed no interest in me because of my age, so I left. The following year, I tried again. I sat with the Army and Air Force Recruiter. The Army didn’t impress me as much as the Air Force. The A.F. Recruiter said I was still too young and to come back in another year.
I was a Navy brat growing up in a number of Naval Stations in the Pacific: NAS Agana, Guam; Pearl Harbor NB, Hawaii; and NAS Sangley Point, Philippines. I always thought that I would join the Navy and be like my Dad, who was a Senior Chief (DKCS), but as I grew older, I started noticing that this other service was also on our bases. They wore different uniforms (khaki/trops/sateens) and carried themselves more professionally than Sailors, turns out they were Marines. I was also into reading history books at the time and read more and more about these Marines and determined that I just had to become one of them too. This really pissed off my Dad! Even though I was the son of a career Navy man, the Marine Corps mystique fascinated me. I always knew the Marines were different, better than Sailors. When I told my Dad that I wanted to be a Marine, he laughed and said I lacked the self-discipline it took to be a Marine. “You won’t last in the Marines. YOU? You can’t even hold on to a job, and you’ll get busted!” he often told me. As a teenager, I was wild, on the loose, vandalizing, and stealing (luckily, I was too crafty to be caught, which came in handy later in my career as a Recon Marine). I ditched school to surf and couldn’t hold onto any jobs. My life was spiraling down in an unhealthy direction. I was a long-haired surf bum who hung out at the beach, and although I was an Honors Student, I hated high school, stuff like that. I wasn’t into drugs or anything like that, but it would have only been a matter of time before something like that would have come along.
Both my parents were in the Navy during WWII. My Mother was one of the first WAVES, and my Dad was a POW at Bataan and an officer in the Navy. I have three brothers who were all in the Navy during the Korean War. During my grade school years, I attended Peekskill Military Academy in NY and was further schooled at home with Calvert School. I graduated from High School in Belvidere, NJ.
At 17, I briefly attended a Business School in Pennsylvania but soon got bored. Then, I decided to join the Navy and carry on the family tradition. There was a long narrow hallway in the post office where the recruiters were located, with the Navy recruiter on my right and the Marine Corps recruiter on my left. I stood in the hall between the two offices. Turning to my right to go into the Navy recruiting office, I noticed that the Navy Chief was wearing a soiled uniform. Next to him was a coffee pot that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned since the Spanish American War. He was overweight and didn’t seem to be too interested in the young man beginning to enter his office. Just before I walked into that somewhat messy office, I heard someone with a deep, commanding voice speak to someone else he called Corporal. I turned and saw the most chiseled-faced, lean man with a very short neat haircut and wearing a shirt with creases in it that could cut your finger on. I couldn’t help but stare at the very clean office with posters of fighting men, jets, carved Marine Corps logos, and an NCO sword hung neatly on the wall. Another man with fewer stripes on his shirt walked across the office
I come from a military family on both sides-mom & dad. Uncles that served in the Navy [Korea], Army [Vietnam]; 3 cousins in the Navy [Cold War], Army Nat’l Guard [Cold War], Army [GWOT]. My God-Mothers son is a Marine Veteran [Vietnam era], and my dad went to Army boot camp but got seriously injured; he couldn’t finish. In high school, I joined the Marine J.R.O.T.C. Program. For me, it was a natural thing to do. I actually joined USMC at age 9. I believed it was my destiny-to serve in the military of the greatest country on the face of the earth!
By the time I reached the 5th grade and into the 6th grade, I had read World Book Encyclopedia from AZ (with the help of Mr. James Hickey, my 5th-grade teacher), who taught us to do something we’d never done before, and I did!