One day in the summer of 1988, I got a call from the local Navy recruiter. He wanted me to come to his office and talk about how I could "be all you can be." The Navy wasn't my first choice. I was still waiting for the call from the Coast Guard recruiter. But Fall was approaching fast and I had to do something with my life.
I didn't grow up in a military family. My grandpa was in the Marine Corps but that was during World War 2 when every able-bodied young man was in uniform. One of my uncles had been in the Army during the mid-fifties but he never talked about it with me. My dad was medically disqualified for service in Vietnam. All of his brothers were too old for the draft and my mom's brothers were too young. None of my older cousins had chosen military service. And so far, I am still the only one of my generation to serve.
Anyway, I had a general idea of what Navy life was like. I'd seen a commercial that showed a group of young sailors, wearing their dress whites, enjoying a rickshaw ride in Hong Kong. Our neighbor's son had been in the Navy. His younger sister had a shirt he had bought for her in some exotic place called Djibouti. And one of my dad's buddies had been an airplane mechanic in the Philippines. He spent a lot of time scuba diving.
Liberty in Hong Kong, souvenir t-shirts from the Horn of Africa, and swimming in tropical waters. It sounded pretty cool.
And the Navy had ships. Ships that travelled the world. Instead of getting stuck for four years in some God-forsaken hell-hole, ships stop for a few days in hell-holes and then leave. You never have to sleep in the dirt either when you're in the Navy. Your bed travels with you.
Because it seemed like I would never get a call from the Coast Guard, I made an appointment to talk to the Navy recruiter.