Six months after the start of the Korean War, I was finally old enough to join the Navy. One week past my 17th birthday, I boarded a bus with dozens of other young men for the long ride to the base in Newport News, Va. It was late at night. Tired, dazed and hungry, we were ordered to march to the mess hall for chow, our first military meal.
Suddenly there appeared a form in the darkness. It was body hanging from the flagpole. A Navy chief had committed suicide. Fear, regret and panic came over me in waves. What had I gotten myself into?
However, after that first shock, Navy life became a part of my life that I'll never forget. Some of the men on the base were seasoned veterans of World War II. As I was the youngest of many on board, I received much teasing for my youth and for my ceaseless study of the manual. As young men with energy to burn, we suffered the consequences of water fights. A 3-mile march with full seabags, followed by a session of floor mopping, soon tamed us down.
It wasn't all bad, though. I came through my Navy days with a great education in electronics, which ultimately led to a B.S.S. in electrical engineering and a career in engineering.