I joined the navy in April 1972 I enlisted because I thought I would be drafted and I also felt a sense of patriotism and thought I should do my part. I was still naïve and never looked at the news; I also thought it would be a good way to learn something I could use for a career. The recruiters held up their reputation for deception and I ended up headed for UDT SEAL training thinking I would be trained to operate heavy equipment. There was also an idea in my head that the navy could replace my family and perhaps I could feel proud for the first time in my life, perhaps it would mold me into something acceptable by the greater society.
I must tell the reader that I was a very introverted and shy person who would not say shit if he had a mouth full until later when I was in therapy at the VA hospital. Even then it took a great deal of effort and time to begin talking about myself.
Boot camp was great for me, a structured environment where all was known. No need to wonder or make decisions, all was decided for me, what time to eat, what time to wake. How to make my bed, what to wear, for me it was great. All these things I had failed at before and now I was trained how to succeed. The only problem I had in boot camp was I still was naïve and innocent. When my fellow company members started telling me that UDT SEAL meant that I would go straight to Viet Nam and in all likelihood would be a door gunner with a life expectancy of a week, I believed them. I tried to ask the CO about it but in these days you were not allowed to talk to anyone about anything. So I decided to request a change in assignment. This led to my not getting A school and going straight to the fleet without training, with a designation of ADJ aviation jet mechanic.
After 9 weeks of basic training I was a changed man, I felt as though I belonged and I felt normal and like I accepted myself. I had gone in weighing 125 lbs and came out weighing 135, but there was a distinct change in posture and attitude. I was hopeful and looking forward for the first time I could remember. I was still reserved and shy but there was an inner change.
We were given a pass after graduation and we went to Disney land. Good day, but not enough time, then on a plane for leave before reporting for duty in Virginia. On the plane ride home I sat in the very back of plane, there was a stewardess that was wearing a mini skirt barely long enough to cover her underwear when she stood straight. Being a jerk that I was when she was near I whispered in her ear that she was showing everything when she bent over. She told me if she didn’t want me to see I wouldn’t, this made me feel good all the way home.
When I got home my father treated me completely different, and told me he was proud of me, now I had started hearing some news at this point and was no longer sure I was doing the right thing. This was the time when there was a lot of people demonstrating against the war, baby killers and the rest of it. So when my father told me he was proud it did not resonate as he hoped it would. Basically I lost respect, what little was left, for him. I spent the week at home feeling strange as I had changed and nothing else had, I did not belong even more at home now.
When I got to the air station at Virginia Beach I expected the same structure as boot camp but found that no one knew where I was supposed to go or what I should do. So I waited a week doing nothing, when my orders came I found out my squadron was on a ship in the gulf of Tonkin. I was to meet them in the Philippines in a couple of weeks. I was excited so I got on first plane headed that way. Of course it should have bothered me that I was headed for Viet Nam since when I was reassigned in boot camp they told me the only choice I had was whether I went to a east coast ship or a west coast ship and I choose a east coast ship. But it did not bother me really, I was just happy to start my new life. It seems for those uninitiated that I was to serve on a east coast ship but it was temporarily assigned to the west coast because the forestall had burned up in port after refit, mysteriously.