After Don, gave us an earful on getting drafted and the horrors of war and Vietnam, he talked to us about something called “deferment,” and the Naval Reserve.
“There is a thing, called “early entry or deferred enlistment,” He informed us.
He went on to explain that we could enlist in the Naval Reserves a year in advance of our 18th birthdays, while still in school, then join the Navy on our birthday, thus having a year less to serve active service. Furthermore, he advised us of the benefits the Navy could provide, such as health, college, etc.
After a full explanation of what he thought about the war in Vietnam, and the Navy, he asked me to talk things over with my folks and get back to him. He wrapped things up with his usual sailor joke-Something about “old sailors never die, they just rust away,” or something to that effect. We all had a good laugh.
Over the next few weeks, I tried to absorb everything that Don had talked about. I had a year to go before my 18th birthday, & just couldn’t comprehend the rush. Duane had a year and a half to go and he felt the same way. Although the deal sounded good, we just thought that signing up at 17 would curb our lives too much.
I never discussed the option with my folks. My mother was the anxious type and I figured there was no way she would let her under age son join the military early. Dad, on the other hand, most likely would have said it was my decision. To make a long story short, I declined the offer. I eventually ended up in the Air Force, but it was a long and twisting road that got me there. Looking back with hindsight, I should have least discussed the option with my folks.
Duane eventually also declined his dads offer. Upon graduation he joined the regular Navy and just his luck he ended up on a gunboat-aka Swift Boat in the middle of the Mekong Delta. He was a mess when he got back, but last time I saw him-Which was many years ago, he had come full circle and was doing very well.
Neither one of us will ever know how things would have turned out, if we had heeded Don’s advice that day. So to make up for a past mistake, heed your elders advice…They just may know what they are talking about!
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