I am proud to say my husband, Mike, and I are Navy veterans. I am not a wartime veteran… but I am a veteran, and I did serve for four years. I served in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and I am what you would call a “Post-Vietnam Era Veteran”. My husband, Mike, served nine years and early in his enlistment was at the tail end of the Vietnam War.
I was still living in Murray Hill, New Jersey, and was going to college full-time plus working when I decided to join the Navy. I felt at that time I didn’t really have a “direction” and so I decided to join the Navy (for an adventure, right? It was truly an adventure, indeed).
I went through boot camp at the Naval Training Center (NTC) in Orlando, Florida, which has since been closed in 1995. I remember the dreaded bumpy bus ride from the Orlando Airport to the Training Center. I was 19 years old…. and I had the most dreadful and awful feeling that came over me. It was the WORST! And I asked myself, “Clare, what in the world are you doing? You have just made the biggest mistake in your life!” I would remember that bus ride and how I felt at that moment, for the rest of my life.
Yes, I indeed made it through eight weeks of basic training. There was lots of physical exertion and training, classroom work (all day), lots of inspections, discipline, being yelled at …. often, embarrassing moments… but what the biggest take away for me was– I HAD ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA the Good Lord made so many women with such diversity – all different backgrounds, education, age, race, single, divorced, married … and the list goes on! The Navy put us in the “barracks” and expected us all to get along (crammed in like sardines – practically on top of one another)! I did make lots of close friends in a short period of time, and for that I am grateful.
During that time, and during the rest of my enlistment, I learned valuable lessons about teamwork, leadership, obeying orders, getting along with a wide variety of people (to say the least), and perseverance.
I was a Personnelman (PN) in the Navy which was a clerical and administrative position. I was stationed in Orlando, Florida; then on to Millington, Tennessee; (outside of Memphis); and then Roosevelt Road, in Ceiba, Puerto Rico (which has since closed down).
I loved being stationed in Orlando, and it is so central to doing so much in that area – Disney World, Sea World, and other fun places. Being stationed in Millington, Tennessee was my least favorite place. I remember “icy” winters with no snow, and it was just bitter cold. Although I loved the people I was stationed with and my Command, I would have liked a warmer experience. God must have heard me because I landed orders to Puerto Rico. What a wonderful place, lots of beautiful beaches, fun trips around the island, Old San Juan and the El Yunque, rain forest!
Each duty station had new things for me to learn and adapt to – new people to work with and for, new ways of doing things, living in a different city and experiencing a different country. It was truly a memorable experience, and I made such great friends and met unique people everywhere I was stationed. At the time of my honorable discharge, I was a Second Class Petty Officer.
One of the things I can look back on and chuckle about is that the Navy has its own “separate” language/dictionary for many of its terms. Here are just a few samples of the Navy’s special “lingo”:
- The head (bathroom);
- Boondockers (boots)
- AOL (absent without leave, AWOL)
- Rate (job duty)
- Bulkhead (wall)
- Rack (bed)
- Liberty (free time, off duty)
- Chow (food)
- Comshaw (bartering or trade method)
- Deck (floor)… and many more!
There was one extra special thing about being stationed in Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico (“Roosy Roads”), I met my husband Mike there!
Some people are quite surprised when I share this tidbit …. I was honorably discharged in Roosy Roads, Puerto Rico (Mike was stationed at NAS Jacksonville), and we got married in 1981 …. which means, yes, we have been married for 34 years!
Mike was an AMH (Aviation Structural Mechanic – Hydraulics), and he said he is grateful he was able to travel the world (he visited such locations as Hawaii, the Philippines, Israel, Spain, Italy and all over Europe and other places. Mike and I are proud to say that we are both Veterans. We are very to be Americans, and are proud of our great Country!
In an ever-changing world, it is wonderful to know there are still young men and women who are willing to serve, so the rest of us can enjoy the freedoms and liberties we have today. And, Mike and I wish many blessings to Veterans everywhere who have served our great Nation.
True to the Red, White and Blue….