In honor of Veterans Day, I salute all American Veterans for their service and I am taking a moment of silence for those Service men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in giving their lives for all of us.
Everything I have accomplished in my life is a direct result of my enlisting and re-enlisting into the United States Navy. In 1968, my Spirit told me to look at my High School records and I became immediately aware that I would not have enough credits to graduate the following year. My High School Guidance Counselor did not guide me in the right direction, nor did she inform me that I would not graduate in 1969 as scheduled. When I approached her, she was in agreement with my assessment of my dilemma. She also informed me that I would not be able to succeed in college, so I need not apply. I changed my curriculum from Academic, to General Education in order to graduate on time and began taking my education seriously.
I graduated from Thomas Alva Edison in June of 1969 with no plans to continue my education. I transitioned from my part-time job in the Mail Room at Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, located at 4th & Walnut Street, directly across the street from the Liberty Bell, (all underlined words are links) to a full-time dead-end position in the Mail Room, as a Mail Clerk.
After a few months working on this dead-end job, I decided to enlist in the Navy. I chose the Navy because the Vietnam war was raging furiously and my alma mater, Thomas A. Edison was racking up a very high death toll. In fact, Edison High School went on to obtain the record of having more students killed in Vietnam than any other high school in America. During this era, the judges were giving Black African Americans a choice of doing 10 years with the state (penitentiary) or 2 years with the Feds (U. S. Army). Besides, I thought the odds were very high that I would be selected for the draft so I decided to wrap a Battleship around me as opposed to a flack-jacket. I was very proud, on July 7, 1970, when I boarded the plane for boot camp and especially proud when I graduated 13 weeks later.
Once in boot camp, I was immediately promoted to Recruit Petty Officer 2nd Class and served as our company Master-At-Arms. Upon completion of boot camp 13 weeks later, I remained in San Diego, California to attend Dental Technician “A” School. Six months later, I was a certified Dental Technician and promoted to the rank of Dentalman (E-3) and transferred to the U. S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland, where I was attached to the Dental Command.
After achieving the rank of E-3, every subsequent promotion required approval from the sailor’s commanding officer and then the sailor had to pass two written Navy wide exams. The first exam was based on the rank and the second exam was based on the particular rating (job).
I was again filled with pride when I completed Dental Tech School, now I was very proud when I was promoted to the rank of Dental Tech Third Class (E-4). I did not stop there. I had to complete the same criteria that I underwent for my previous promotion. You guessed it; I was promoted to the rank of Dental Technician Second Class (E-5) after less than three years in the Navy.
After serving my country honorably for nearly six years, upon my discharge, I decided to use my GI Bill and enroll in college. In spite of my not being a “good student” in High School, I realized that I was an excellent Sailor and I knew if I could succeed in the Navy, there was nothing I could not do. I was right, because college was a breeze. I realized during my first semester that my grades were totally dependent on my studying and paying attention during class. With this combination, I was able to do as well as I wanted.
Because of the fact that I am a Veteran, I now have the following degrees and licenses: Associates, Bachelors and Masters Degree, and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Georgia and a Licensed Master Social Worker in South Carolina.
I encouraged all young people to go into the military either right out of High School or upon completion of College. However, many Black African American mothers I have spoken with were against their sons going into the military, especially now that American is engaged in two wars. I remind them that there is a third war taking place that they are not acknowledging. This third war is the war being waged against Black African American males by other Black African American males as well as America’s Criminal Industrial Complex.
I remind these mothers that America has always had wars and will continue having them. I also remind them that the odds are greater that Black African American males will succumb to the war of the streets and/or the war being waged by America’s Criminal Justice System than being killed in combat, fighting America’s wars.
The military will make a world of difference in the lives of their sons and daughters. First, it will give them much needed discipline then, it will give them the most important key to success-self discipline. In addition, if they do not have a marketable skill, the military can teach them one. After honorably serving our country, they will have the GI Bill and all that it offers. Most importantly, the military will instill in them a sense of pride for our country. Only with pride, can we become conscientious about what is happening to our great country. With this pride, we will become motivated to do our part to make a positive difference.
Ft. Gordon Army base is located here in Augusta, Georgia, and every time I encounter both retired and active duty military, I immediately shake their hands and thank them for their service. By doing this, I receive the pleasure of sharing their pride as evidenced by the smiles they give me. I also do this because I personally know their sacrifices as well as their accomplishments, because I too am a Veteran and I know first-hand what it takes to serve our country honorably.
YES, I AM A VERY PROUD NAVY VETERAN!