After ‘majoring’ in disco for 18 months, I decided that I needed to do something else with my life. I knew that my dad was borrowing money for me to go to school and I also knew that I was not taking it seriously. I am not sure where I heard that the military was a good place to grow up; recent generations of my family do not include veterans. I did have a step-grandfather that was a WWII veteran, but I did not really know him. The closest thing to military was my paternal grandpa. He was a Sgt. (I believe) in security for General Motors. I am certain that my decision to join the military was quite a surprise to many.
Imagine coming from a family in which my father once described the Girl Scouts as a paramilitary organization. I was always against war (I admit to wearing an Army jacket in high school in protest). I did, however, have a POW bracelet and was very grateful that my soldier came home very early in the process.
So, one day around mid-morning some time in December I trudged off to the recruiter office. I had decided to join the Air Force. I have no idea why. However, I got to the Air Force recruiting office and they were out to lunch. Drat. But I wanted to join the military NOW! I do not always make decisions quickly, but once made I am ready to act. I looked around and noticed that the Navy recruiters were in the office. That worked for me – as long as it was not the Army or USMC. I figured I was probably not tough enough for those two.
The process began quickly and was moving forward when I moved home after the fall semester. After the Christmas holidays, I got an offer to leave for boot camp with an indication that I would be an aviation equipment repair person – a mechanic in essence. That really was not my calling and I requested that they find something more suitable for me. Finally, they contacted me and offered me a Radioman position. My recruiter in Detroit (a crusty Vietnam veteran who was less than honest) promised me that this meant I would be a DJ in the Navy. Wonderful! I was a communications major and this was in line with my interests. More about this later.
There is one piece I have not mentioned to this point and that is that I was having some digestive symptoms that were troubling. I cannot really recall when they began; however, the symptoms had begun slowly and were becoming worse. At this same time, my aunt was diagnosed with colon cancer. Very aware of my own symptoms, I remember asking my grandma about my aunt’s symptoms. When she told me, I became quite upset. I was certain that I also had colon cancer. We told my dad and I was seen by a gastroenterologist who diagnosed me with Ulcerative Colitis.
The diagnosis was upsetting enough. But then there was the fact that the Navy would not likely take me if I was sick. So, the doctor put me on a crash course of medication and ultimately, I was symptom free when I went for my physical. I reluctantly admit that the doctor did not ask me about any gastroenterological symptoms and I did not volunteer them.
Things moved pretty quickly from this point. I remember my dad coming to my swearing in ceremony and saying goodbye to me as I was herded off to take a bus to the airport. I don’t really recall the flight to Orlando. Though I know we took another bus in the middle of the night to the Recruit Training Center. My recruiter (crusty guy that he was) had done a superb job of scaring the Dickens out of me and by the time we got to the RTC, I was shaking.