Older prior-service Navy recruit

Let me set the stage. I was living with my wife and three children in Charlotte, N.C. The year was 1982. President Carter was out, President Reagan was in, and with a four-year degree from the University of Wisconsin I was working as a gate guard at a posh apartment complex nights, and going to Central Piedmont Community College for respiratory therapy training on my own dollar.
The radio announced one evening that President Reagan was beefing up the military. Even older men and prior-service veterans were urged to join up. Long story short.: downtown to recruiter, no fool I as an Air Force Vietnam veteran.
The Navy recruiter said sure, you’d be good for the hospital corps. At 38 years old and with prior service, he said, they’d throw some uniforms at me, teach me some new words and jargon, and I’d zip right through - no boot camp, no problem.
With the Delayed Entrance program it was months before my Navy deadline. I worked as a deputy sheriff at the jail in Charlotte waiting.
Finally September rolled around. I was put in charge of the detail flying up to Chicago. Off to Great Lakes Naval Training Center., bus to the center, present paperwork for induction.
"Sir," said I ...” l’m an other-service veteran." Smiling as I looked at the chief petty officer and all the other poor recruits...
Oh, said the chief
He scribbled OSVET on the outside of my file and in a booming voice said, now get your a-- over there.
Eight weeks later and 35 pounds lighter, I graduated with my company. I was 20 years older than most of my shipmates. They hung “Pops” on me and went to ships, electronics school, And I went to corps school on the other side of the base.
I might have been an Air Force Vietnam vet. But my heart will always be a second-class hospital corpsman. Many years later my son retired as a first-class cryptology tech in the Navy and proudly received his submariners dolphins.

« Previous story
Next story »