Growing up I wanted to be a soldier. It is the only thing I wanted to be, besides Indiana Jones. In a toss up between Indiana Jones and Rambo, the latter won out in my mind as the job of choice. I had some ancestors fight for the Union in the Civil War. One of which was captured and held for nine months in the infamous Andersonville Prison Camp, run by the Confederates. My grandfathers were in the Army during WWII.
I grew up as an Air Force Brat (a kid with a parent in the AF). My father was drafted in 1968, and he decided to join the AF before his number came up. He married my mom and 9 months later I was born.
I got to travel and see lots of places and experience many things. I lived in many several states and two other countries. Faith was very important to my parents, we spent a lot of time at a Baptist church in South Carolina for most of the 70’s. I might have not been paying attention to the true message there, so I felt most of the time that God was watching my every move. If I stepped out of line, ZAP! Lightning strike. “Don’t smoke, drink or chew, or hang out with girls that do.”
I was surrounded by military people my entire childhood. I met so many interesting people with all their stories of things and places you only read about in books. I met Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, former POW Colonel Bobby R. Bagley, and even a WWII German Ace Fighter Pilot, Adolf Galland. I was awestruck and mesmerized by all things military.
During my Freshman and Sophomore year of high school, I joined the Marine Corps JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). I learned how to be a miniature Marine. I even spent a week at Marine Basic Training Parris Island, SC and a week at Marine Basic Infantry School, Camp Pendelton, CA, during the summer breaks. Highly motivated, truly dedicated, Sir!
I moved to Germany before my Junior year started and so my last two years of high school I was in the Air Force JROTC program. I got to ride in a helicopter, fly in a refueler, and fly a jet simulator. Cool stuff but, I had my heart set on joining the Army. I wanted to be an Airborne Scout. And so at 17 years old, I had my parents sign me in because you had to be 18 to sign up on your own. I was ready to leave home, be a man, and a soldier!
During my Senior year, some changes were going on. I started to become enamored with the New Wave and Goth scene. This did not set well with my dad and also with my JROTC teachers who were constantly reminding me that “that hairdo” was not in regulation.
I was starting to develop an underlying rebellion. It was subtle but evident. I was beginning to make poor choices and also to bend and break the rules and training my parents were trying so hard to enforce. As the first born child I believe my parents were trying their best to make sure I turned out “right” and that I would enter the world on my own with success. And also that I was “right with the Lord”.
I became reclusive to my family and isolated myself from them. I felt smothered and constricted and was ready to leave. My mom says that when I got on the plane to leave Germany, I never looked back.