In 1967, I was a skinny, non-athletic kid, when I reported to the U.S. Coast Guard Recruit Training Center at Cape May, N.J. From the start, I struggled with the physical aspects of training. I couldn’t do all the push-ups and had to attend special evening sessions to try and pass the requirement. I had also come in dead last in the running event.
One day, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to be selected for the Recruit Regimental Command (RCC). It was a prestigious honor, but I still hadn’t completed the requisite number of push-ups. I was losing much-needed sleep over it.
I was finally told I had one more chance to solve the push-up problem or I would be dropped from RCC.
That evening, I was determined to pass, and I did. Plus, in my company’s final fitness running test, I came in first.
On graduation day, with my parents, my brother (a former Coastie), his wife, and my soon-to-be wife in the stands, I led the regiment onto the parade grounds, and with my saber in hand, stood front and center calling out commands. Prior to joining the Coast Guard, I had not accomplished much, physically or academically, but on Nov. 6, 1967, my parents could not have been prouder of me.
My dad died two years later, while I was stationed in the Pacific. I was grateful that I had been able to give him that moment when he turned to others in the stands and said, “That’s my son.”