Three members of my family served in the US Navy. Two graduated from Annapolis in the early 1920s. One served as a Destroyer Captain up until the war began. He told me sea stories of in 1941, tracking German submarines off the coast of Africa as part of the Lend-Lease Program with Great Britain. The other one was discharged from the service as soon as he graduated because the US fleet was gearing down in the post-WW1 era due to more Dems in power, which was always their first way to save money. Their little brother served on USS West Point AP-23, carrying troops to Europe. He attended boot camp in Idaho and then served as a helmsman on Atlantic crossings in U-Boat-infested waters. I think he attended Quartermaster School in Idaho.
I was interested in electronics but found it difficult to work 8 hours, go to school 8 hours, and study at least 4 hours a day, and I burnt out. I researched all the services and found the Coast Guard electronic technicians trained on everything, and they only specialized between aircraft and all others.
So I joined to get electronics school where I could work on everything from small boats to large cutters, buoy tenders, ice breakers, Loran (long-range aids to navigation), lighthouses, shore stations, communication stations, and remote aids/high sites.
Influencer #1: The military always fascinated me; my dad grew up in Tehran, Iran (an Armenian), and he served in the Persian Army (Iran, 1941).
He was a very proud American and loved this country, and I remember him taking us to Long Beach harbor (California) to see an aircraft carrier (the 1960s). That was an amazing experience (I can still visualize those torpedoes)!
Influencer #2: We lived through the hushed horror of Vietnam, and I think my parents kind of shielded us from it. I don’t remember ever seeing it on TV or talking about it. When I turned 18 (1978), my mom actually hesitated (slightly) when I jokingly questioned signing up for Selective Service registration. She talked about my staying with my friend in Canada if the next war was FUBAR like Vietnam. That surprised me because she strongly supported our nation and its laws.
I joined the Navy Reserve while still a junior in high school and four other fools because we thought it was a good way to make easy money. I never intended to make it a career. I left active duty and returned to Reserve status because there were no promotion possibilities in my desired career field, which was the Gunnery field. That had been my primary duty aboard the ship for two years, and I enjoyed working on the big guns.
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.
My decision to enlist in the Navy was solely based on the draft that was in effect at the time, and I went in knowing that my number would be called. The funny thing is after I enlisted, the draft was abolished, but it was the best decision I ever made. My family’s history was Army, and I really wanted to change the paradigm, so I went into the Navy.
Those along the way influenced me, like BM1 Mundell, who retired as either a BMCS or BMCM, as he could see something in me that others at the time could not. Also, SMSN Booker T. Arradondo and SN Cap Tasali were with me on my first unit, the USS Tripoli (LPH-10). SMSN Arradondo challenged me at all times to be the best I could be while we were together at our watch station. SN Tasali was always even-tempered, quiet, and a kind shipmate and I learned a lot from him as well. Later in my career, our paths crossed again along my military journey.
When I lost my student deferment at age 23 in 1959, I was ranked 1-A in the draft. I saw the handwriting on the wall and started thinking more about getting drafted into the Army. I didn’t want to be “Dog Face” and live in a Pup Tent.
I asked for advice from my parents, my Uncle Herman, and my brother, who had been in the Navy during WWII and in the Coast Guard. My brother advised me to join the Coast Guard. I eventually visited my local Coast Guard recruiter in San Diego.
I took many tests, listened to him advise me on Coast Guard life and the schools I could attend if qualified after Boot Camp. While he graded my tests, I sat there and thought things over. My test results put me in the 98th percentile of test-takers. I told him I wanted to be an Electronic Technician. He said he couldn’t guarantee I would get that school after I graduated from Boot Camp, but he thought I had a good chance.
My father was a WWII vet who admired his country and the Army. I wanted to follow in his footsteps and have never been sorry to do so. My daughter followed mine and became a 4th Inf Division Aviation Company Commander with three sets of wings on her chest, i.e., Aviator, Jump, and Air Assault.
I attended her taking command at Fort Hood, and her 4th Inf Brigade Commander made a big deal of our heritage of serving the Army through three generations and supporting the 4th Infantry in Vietnam. My daughter’s husband, Andrew Morgado, is now becoming CoS of 8 Army 1 August 2020. We will see what our 4 grandkids do!
My father was a United States Marine, so I grew up on stories of commitment and duty. I knew some of the hardships he had faced in Viet Nam, and at the time, we had no idea that Agent Orange was killing him. He was medically discharged at ten years due to incorrectly diagnosed “pinched nerves” that were, in fact, two ruptured discs in his lower back, even with all of the medical mix-ups my father deeply loved and missed the Corps.
Several of my uncles (2 – 4 years active with the rest of their time in the Army Reserves) had joined the Army, and they discouraged me from doing the same. Compared to my father’s stories of time spend in-country chasing tunnel rats (a cave-in trapped him in a pocket of the tunnel, but they had dug him out before his air ran out, after that he became horribly claustrophobic) made their stories of time in the field never seem as bad as they tried to convey. Nobody in my family ever cared for the open water, so the Navy was out…honestly, it was not considered. OK, briefly when Top Gun came out, but never seriously. Besides, I never like riding motorcycles, and they appeared to be a requirement.
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.
I enlisted soon after I turned 17. When I was 12, my mother was committed to a mental hospital. By sixteen, I had been through five foster homes. Spring 1964, I left, rode the rails, and lived in hobo camps in the northwest. An excerpt from my Vietnam War memoir “MUDDY JUNGLE RIVERS.”
That autumn, I returned to high school and stared out the windows? Had I lost all interest? Chinese dynasties, algebra equations, disassembled big blocks, and dissected frogs had no chance against the open spaces and freedom I’d discovered the past summer.
Until August of 1963, I was planning on going into the Navy and making a career out of it. My father was in the Merchant Marines and then the Navy during World War II. I had read his Blue Jacket’s Manuel 1944 entirely and was determined to become a good sailor.
Then, my older brother came home on leave from Fort Bragg Special Forces Training. He was wearing a tailored Khaki uniform with French Fourragere and Jump Wings. The 82nd Airborne Patch complemented his high gloss Jump Boots. His stories about jump school enamored me. He left on August 9, 1963, back to Fort Bragg.