In 1985 I joined the united states Navy, four days out of high school I was waking up to a drill instructor/company commander screaming in my face and telling me I was not even good enough to clean the deck he was walking on. It was a tough 9 weeks for me in southern California but it was worth it. I did not know it at the time but I learned a lot about myself then. I learned about my limitations, my strengths, my weaknesses, my ability to push myself to the limits of my physical and mental breaking points. I also began down a road of self discovery that has spanned my lifetime. This blog is going to touch on some of that.
When I graduated boot camp I went to Seaman A school. I was supposed to go to Radio School but that is another story for another blog on another day. My fiancee at the time flew out to San Diego and watched me graduate, she got us a nice little trailer in San Ysidro where we spent the weekend and then she flew back to Ohio. I continued on with my life. I studied my Navy books, took my test, partied as much as I could to try and shake the mid-western dust from my mind and graduated A-school.
When my orders came in from Command I was assigned to the USS Austin (LPD-4) out of Little Creek Amphibious Base in Virginia. Fortunately for me she had just deployed to the Mediterranean Sea and I had a 2 week leave time coming up. I flew to Ohio and spent a week with my Fiancee and then took a train back to Wisconsin to visit with my family. When my leave was up I reported to Philadelphia to fly out to the Med to catch up with my ship.
When I got to Philly, I ran into a buddy of mine from boot camp and we had a few drinks. We found out our MAC flight to Sicily was overbooked so we swapped out our tickets, ordered a few more drinks and had a great time in the airport and then spent a few nice hours getting lost in the darker recesses of the City of Brotherly Love. Things I can't really talk about here. (But it was FUN!) After about 18 hours of sleep deprived carousing and a few run ins with the local constables (Sorry Officer Donnie... I hope you found your night stick.) we hopped on a military jumbo jet and spent the next 18 hours fighting boredom and each other by drinking UA booze, playing cards and trying not to kill each other.
When we landed in Sicily we found out it would be another 2 weeks of sitting on a military air base while our MARG unit caught up with us. The military had us in a "Hurry-Up-And-Wait" pattern. Not good for a bunch of guys with too much money, time and energy on their hands. Sigonella Sicily obliged in supplying us entertainment and distractions for our boredom. And once again, I am not allowed to talk about that too much either. (But we had a REALLY GOOD TIME, oh, and the Caribinari were involved too.)
Eventually we went our separate ways and reported to our separate ships where even more craziness ensued. But mostly what we did was work. We worked non-stop. When our ship was at Sea we had nothing else to do but work. Sure, we had some UA booze, pulled some crazy antics onboard but mostly we just worked. Worked hard. Worked for days on end without rest. We were yelled at, cussed at and treated like dirt by our Superior officers but they did respect us and they knew the ship and their lives depended on us and our lives depended on them. Life onboard the Austin consisted of a crazy balance between Officers and Enlisted men and the flow of Respect both Up the Chain of Command and Down the Chain of Command. It worked for us then and it still works for me today.
The men I served with back then, from 1985 to 1989 in the United States Navy were some of the best I people I have ever have met and worked with in my life. Now, today, I am writing this about them, for them and because of them simply because they have all been on my mind and in my heart for the past 2 years. I miss them. We had a reunion over a year ago and we are getting ready for another reunion this coming August. In Philly no less. Wonder if Officer Donnie is still working for the Police Department? He is the one who chased Torres and I out of a couple bars and back to the airport in 85. I am excited about this trip. I am also worried once again about it. You see at our last reunion I arrived late. I did not want to but I had to. I was nervous and excited. I was also worried about how we would all interact with each other again. I should not have worried so much. Because we had an awesome time. And yes, the local Constabulary were involved but not like the old, heady days of the 80's.
Now, we are all pushing middle age and we all have families, bills, responsibilities to ourselves, our families and in some cases our Communities. Our lives take odd turns and twists. One day you could be sitting in a gutter in Cannes France drunk and trying to shove a loaf of bread in your mouth while the cops are coming to drag your stupid butt off to some God-Forsaken hole of a jail cell and then you wake up and it's 21 years later and your a Stand up guy in your Church, your Community and your Family with bills and responsibilities twisting the screws of an invisible torquing clamp to your mind, heart and soul with each passing minute. The pressure of which is enough to drive people mad and do crazy things. Things like go to a reunion of old Navy Buddies that would take a bullet for you and you them than sit at home and wonder if your neighbors are gonna call the Cities Neighborhood Quality Assurance team if your grass gets more than 4 inches tall. (Yes, this really happens where I live.)
So, you could say I am at a cross roads so to speak. A point where my past filled with youthful insanity is meeting my future/present responsible self. There could be fireworks. There will probably be fireworks in the form of guns, tazers and yes billy clubs. I CAN'T WAIT!!!!
I wonder if they sell those crazy looking Bomb Disposal Suits on eBay... I think I just may need one in August.