Oh to be 18, away from home for the first time and free. If that isn’t a blueprint for disaster I don’t know what is. Believe me, I was a walking disaster.
For one thing, I had a strong aversion towards authority figures, and it appeared early in my Navy career. I was a smart-ass beginning in boot camp, and 20 years 18 days later when I retired…it was still there.
Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of senior personnel that I respected and even admired; officer and enlisted. It was just the idiots I had problems with and I never figured out how to disguise it.
One of those I admired was a young, short, redheaded Ensign. This Ensign had more guts and determination than just about anyone else I met in the Navy.
He was my boss on the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) in the Educational Services Office. Our office did everything from administered GED and CLEP exams, order correspondence courses for crewmen who were working towards advancement and when in home port we would arrange for training classes for hundreds of shipmates prior to the next deployment.
The Ensign spent a lot of time dealing with the Executive Officer (XO) and they had difficulty seeing eye to eye on a number of issues. My desk was right next to the Ensign’s and I could hear many of the discussions they would have. One one occasion they were really having a hard time agreeing on something, so the Ensign just hung up on the XO. That’s an Ensign, low man on the officer’s totem pole talking to a full bird Navy Captain, second in rank to only the flag officers (Admirals).
Well, shortly after being hung up on, the XO would call back, and the conversation would start off like it was the first call of the day. Then I could hear it getting heated up again and sure as the stars shine above, the Ensign hung up again. I was almost in tears from laughing so hard, when lo and behold, he did it a third time. I almost wet my pants. The XO called our office Master Chief whose desk was on the other side of me and told him to send the Ensign to his office.
That was the day he became my hero and role model, and for the next 20 years I did everything I could do to emulate him.
I could regale you with story after story covering those 20 years, but the internet police might be watching. But since this blog is supposed to be faith-based and/or inspiring, there is one thing that I am ashamed of that I would like to quickly discuss.
During the first 17 years of my career, I attended church approximately 5 times. Part of it was that I didn’t really understand the term Military Chaplain. Talk about an oxymoron; “Dear Lord help us to kill our opponents”? It may be necessary for them to pray that, but I just couldn’t get my head around that.
But my biggest problem was alcohol and attitude. I never stopped believing in God, I even continued to say my prayers most nights; but it was a vicious circle of get drunk, sin, pray and repeat.
It wasn’t until my beautiful loving wife and I talked about church that things started to change. I think the discussion was initiated by the Holy Spirit, and I think he was telling me I was running out of chances. We started going to church the next weekend, and have been there almost every week since.
Doesn’t mean I no longer sin, but now I know who to talk to when I do.
Next time “Turning 60 – The Reality”