I grew up in a small farming community in central Indiana. Pendleton was a very small town of about 2600 people. One stoplight, one bank, two drug stores, several churches and a lot of charm. It's still a small town, but its impression of itself has been greatly inflated. A lot of the charm is manufactured now, and it sees itself as a distant suburb of Indianapolis. But, that's another story.
After graduating high school, I attended an electronics technical school in Indianapolis. But, after a year I decided there must be better things to do. Enlisting in the military in 1968 probably wasn't the smartest move. Viet Nam was starting to heat up, but I figured if I didn't enlist, I would certainly get drafted. I sure didn't want to be drafted into the Army or the Marines. Especially, the Marines! And I sure as hell didn't want to go to Viet Nam! They made fun of Vice President Quayle for joining the Indiana National Guard, or the reserves, or whatever it was he joined, to get out of going to Viet Nam. Well, I joined the Navy for exactly the same reason! I might still go to Nam, but I would probably be on a ship or a river boat and wouldn't be sleeping in a hole in the ground!
So, on July 29, 1968, this Hoosier farm boy took his very first airplane ride. I flew from Indianapolis to Chicago. I got on a special bus at the airport that was going to take about thirty of us to Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois. We got there about midnight. The door opened and some guy in a sailor suit came on the bus and started yelling at us, calling us worms and maggots and all kinds of things, and suddenly, we were in the Navy. Navy boot camp. Holy crap! We didn't know it at the time, but this guy herding us off the bus was in boot camp, too. But, he was wearing his sailor costume and we weren't, so we did what he told us to do.
I didn't go in thinking about making it a career. It was an obligation. You enlisted, or were drafted, and you did your time. My time turned out to be much longer than I ever expected in the beginning. I ended up staying in way past the end of the Viet Nam war; past skirmishes in Grenada, Panama and the Persian Gulf. I stayed in for a little over 23 years. At that point, it came down to a choice of going back to sea - back on a ship; being away from home - or getting out; retiring. I decided it was time to get out. There were "kids" in my division that had been born after I had enlisted in the Navy. They weren't even born when I took my first airplane ride! Well, it wasn't angels from heaven, but it was a clear enough sign for me. And, maybe even more of a sign than that; it had stopped being fun. And, then there was the fiasco at my last command, Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida. But, again, that's another story. I knew it was time to go, though. It was time to pass the baton to the next generation. This was pretty easy since they were right there!
As luck would have it, I never even got close to Viet Nam. I visited the Persian Gulf a couple of times, though. When I was there in 1979, on USS Elmer Montgomery FF-1082, we were the only U.S. warship there. We might have been the only warship of any nation there, I'm not sure. But, there was absolutely nothing going on then.
My second Persian Gulf deployment was in 1987 and things were a lot different then, than they were in '79. It was a couple of years before the "big one". The first big one. At this time, Iran and Iraq were shooting at oil tankers going in and out of each other's ports.
We arrived in the Persian Gulf less than four months after an Iraqi Mirage jet fighter "mistakenly" fired two Exocet missiles into the American guided missile frigate, U.S.S. Stark, killing 37 sailors. At the time, Iraq was still considered an ally; what we called a "friendly." So, we were tasked with shadowing the "hostile" Iranian frigates whenever they would venture out of their ports. We would be right there, standing off, watching, while they shot at oil tankers. The 'rules of engagement' said we weren't allowed to interfere unless they fired at a U.S. vessel. It wasn't easy to just sit there and do nothing. Later, the U.S. would 'reflag' foreign tankers with the U.S. flag to afford them protection as they sailed in the Gulf and out through the Straits of Hormuz. There was that and a couple of mine-sweeping operations and a lot of just sailing back and forth. Not too exciting, but that was the job.
I've been on five of the seven continents. Six, if you consider Panama as part of the continent of South America. It isn't, but it's pretty darn close. I've also been in New Zealand. It isn't Australia, but it's pretty darn close, too. I know close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades. But, five out of seven aren't bad. I've sailed on 3 of the 4 oceans and a few Seas and Gulfs. A 5th ocean was designated in 2000 - the Southern Ocean - but I was already retired by then, so I don't count that one! All of that in 23 years. Not a record, by any means, but not bad for an Indiana farm boy who never wore shoes until he joined the Navy. Just kidding about the shoes!
Of all the places I've been, the most exciting, the most unique, the most challenging, the most distant, and by far, my favorite, was Antarctica. I was at McMurdo Station for almost 14 months. During that time, I was fortunate to be able to spend a week at the Amundsen-Scott Station South Pole Station. Just in case you can't tell by the name - it's at the South Pole. I've stood at the exact bottom of our planet. I even walked around the world four times and didn't break a sweat. It's hard to break a sweat when it's 20 below!
I retired from the Navy in 1991. I served my last seven years in the Jacksonville, Florida area, and then hung around there for a few more years. In 1996, I moved to Chicago's Northwest suburbs. I'm now very happily married and living in Schaumburg, Illinois. As well as a new wife, I also have a new step-son, an even newer step-daughter-in-law, and a really, really old step-cat. (since this was originally written, the cat has passed on and I have two granddaughters!)
Since 1998, I've worked for a company that does contract work for the Federal Aviation Administration in Elgin, Illinois (laid off in November 2008). I also teach and tutor part-time at Harper College in Palatine. It keeps me busy.
That's all for now. Thanks for stopping by.