It was 1972 and the draft lottery was done and the birthdates were posted. The first year I was eligible my number came up pretty high- so it was just a matter of time before I got my welcome to the army letter. I took the letter and showed my good friend Joe Foley (RIP Joe). Joe turned and looked at me- but before he opened his mouth I knew by the look that I should heed what he said. Then it came- “If you don’t go down to the Navy recruiter instead of getting drafted in the Army I will hit you in the head with a f---ing 2x4“. Joe had done a tour in Nam for the army. I listened and joined the navy.
The night before I left-around midnight Joe and Stinky Benson had me sit down on the bench as they lowered the projects flag in a ceremony unequaled by any military outfit. They presented the flag to me and it felt like every hair on my head was standing straight up. I still have this flag and the same feeling- as my eyes well up with tears. Thanks guys.
The day came that I was leaving and it was very early in the morning. No one else in the projects was up. I said goodbye to my mom and all of a sudden there was my dad. He was standing there in his underwear and came over and hugged me. I was really shocked to see him there- we weren’t very close but there was nothing bad between us either. (I miss him) Dad was a very busy man and held down two jobs to keep things going. Only after my moms death and before his (five months) did I start to communicate more than ever before. That is a regret I will always have-yet there was love-mostly unspoken.
I didn’t realize at the time that I was leaving home and New York to never live there again. The Navy was very exciting and changed the way I saw the world. People of foreign lands were very different yet exactly the same. Basic human needs and wants coupled with honor and integrity help cross the boundaries of race-religion-culture or just about anything we let get in the way of understanding each other.