This chapter actually starts in Mayport Florida. We were told that the next day we would
all be in dress whites and stand around deck at parade rest when we pulled in to port. This is a very exciting time coming home to America after a year at sea in a war zone. I was not prepared for what I saw, it takes an hour or so to pull in, very slow maneuvering a big ship like that. We had heard that there was protest in the states but the war was not lost yet, it was 1973, so when I looked out and saw absolutely nothing on the pier, no band, no reporters, no family, no nothing. I grew up seeing war pictures and knew there was going to be family and some celebration, maybe not my family but most. The absolute silence was defining. I was as close to tears as I had been in a very long time. I was not the only one.
The message was clear our country was not proud of us. This remained the message till after 9-11 almost thirty years.
Everybody was given the opportunity to buy a gallon of alcohol before we came inside 20 mile limit tax free, so naturally we did. We were assigned housing for the night and would get flights to our home base of Virginia Beach the next day. The ship would go to dry-docks to be refitted for next deployment, probably a year or more before she would need a squadron of fighters.
The next day our squadron flew back to our home base, most everyone would go on leave but all processing had to be done first. This is how the military is nothing happens in real life till it happens on paper first, then the slogan applies, if it moves shoot it then paint, it if it does not move just paint it.
We were assigned rooms 4 men to a room, and the party began. I started in our room and visited all the other rooms tasting and verifying the authenticity of the alcohol everyone brought home. By midnight I had my head in toilet and did not move till early morning, I was not alone.
After we sobered up we got our leave papers and I flew home. I spent a week at home and did not enjoy myself as I did not fit in anywhere and on top of everything else I had to break up with my fiancé. I knew I was doomed at this point and had nothing to offer anyone, so I decided to save her by not seeing her anymore. Also I had contracted some disease in Asia that made my testicles swell up to the size of grapefruit literally; it also made me ejaculate green. I went to the Chelsea naval hospital and got checked out, they agreed after all the test that they had never seen this before but were certain they had a shot that would fix it. So I took the shot and after a couple of days I was back to normal, but I was convinced from this point on I could not have children, what reasonable person would think differently. I did not see this as a problem as I felt that 1. I would be a terrible father and 2. The world had too many people in it already. Basically the same reasons my son has given me for not wanting children. You really cannot understand the full impact of history repeating itself till you have a son.
I picked up a 63 ford galaxy convertible to run around in and when I got back to base a friend got a new 750 H2 Kawasaki three cylinder 2 stroke motorcycles, he immediately put 10 inch over forks on it and six bend handlebars with a king and queen seat. I fell in love with this bike right away and went down and bought the only other one available, for 1200 USD. I left off the 10 inch over forks as it made it completely impossible to keep front wheel on the ground. In 1973 this was the fastest production motorcycle in the world; it did a 12 second quarter strait out of the box.
I thought that now I would get some training and become a aircraft mechanic. As it turned out the pilots had had all the flying they wanted or needed for a long time during the war. This meant that the planes did not fly and needed very little maintenance. We would all show up at 7am and by 7:30 would be told to take off and report again the next day. No training for me, there were 6 mechanic’s attached to my squadron and the sailor in charge was a first class named Jim. All of us rode motorcycles so we would head to the EM club after being released from work. We would drink till we had enough then get on our bikes and ride somewhere stopping long enough to smoke a dubbie now and then. This kept us broke and stupid most of the time. A couple of guys rented a farm house outside of town and started putting the chicken shit to use growing pot. This went on for the next six months.
By this time I had lost ambition and hope for learning anything and was just maintaining from day to day. A person can go 90 MPH with their hair on fire just so long before it gets boring. I took some leave and went home for a visit. Actually I went home often on weekends, 700 miles each way on a motorcycle. I would leave Friday night and be back to report on Monday morning. I put 20,000 miles on that bike before it was a year old.
Here is where real stupidity set in, most people’s attitudes were poor coming back from Viet Nam and I was easily influenced at this time. I heard that the navy would give you an early out if you had minor disciplinary action, with a honorable discharge. The navy was trying to get smaller you see and this was mostly to get rid of some bad blood, but I did not care since I was getting a raw deal and felt I could find a career on the outside. The only problem was I had not had any disciplinary action. So I went home and waited till I was overdue and AWOL. When I got back no one wanted to write me up but I insisted and was given captains mast. The captain asked me if I really wanted this and I said yes, not knowing what this was. I really could have used someone to talk to during this period.
I found out after all was set that the one thing I lost by going this route was that I could never enlist again. This I would soon regret.