Half-way trough a very mediocre college career, I decided I needed more adventure.
All my classmates wanted the same kinds of things. Nice, safe, well paying jobs. A huge house in the suburbs. Winter vacation in Florida.
I wanted none of that.
Nobody mentioned adventure.
I wanted adventure.
Actually, I had already experienced a little adventure by working briefly for a U.S. Congressman. I met Joe Biden, then a freshman Senator.
Congress didn’t look like the adventure I’d really like. I could tell I needed more adventure than Joe Biden (no offense intended).
In that same job I almost got arrested — along with Ted Kennedy — during a George McGovern rally. I thought at the time: Ted Kennedy is probably TOO MUCH adventure for me.
When my picture appeared in Newsweek — standing next to Ted Kennedy — my Dad called me home. That was way too much adventure for him.
So I joined the U.S. Navy — where, it turned out, adventure surely did exist in large measure.
And it still does today.
I wish I could show you a pile of adventure-filled pictures but most of them were lost in the divorce — which is a clue that I did get too much adventure in me.
Shooting missiles and big guns was adventure. The U.S. Navy sailors were fun, funny, joyful and adventuresome. When hard work was called for we all worked hard together. When it was time to go on “liberty” — Katie bar the door!
As some of my relatives still say, I lived for a couple of years in “the basement of an airport.” Actually, an aircraft carrier is about 1,000 times more adventure than an airport. It’s a moving airport. We rescued refugees from Vietnam and visited all the far-away places. Hong Kong. Singapore. The Philippines. Sri Lanka. Thailand. Kenya. Japan.
When the Iranians adopted the staff of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, we served as a resolute vigil of power — with aircraft on deck in “Alert 5.” Alert 5 meant that from the “go” signal, the pilot and his warbird had to be off the deck and ready for battle in just 5 minutes. The pilot might sit in his cockpit for hours, with the jet full of fuel, fully armed, and the catapult ready to throw him and his warbird off the ship at breakneck speed. All he had to do was start his jets, give the thumbs up, and fly.
When “the word” came over the ship’s announcing system, “Launch the Alert 5 Fighter” — every man on the ship learned forward in anxious anticipation. Several thousand members of the crew and support staff rooted for the warriors running their fighter jet engines to full power — for the launch.
I still get chills. Just thinking about it.
One time I went to sea on a submarine — a breathtaking experience. Got to fly in dozens of awesome aircraft. Participated in a murder investigation. Went to weddings, baptisms and funerals. Fortunately, mostly the first two.
Worked with some of the real technical geniuses of our times — 19 and 20 year old sailors taking care of hight tech weapons systems, aircraft, and communications. They work tirelessly in the toughest and most stressful jobs without complaint — from nuclear power to nuclear weapons. They make tremendous sacrifices in pay, never earning anything close to what the civilian sector would pay them. They make tremendous sacrifices of time at home with family — often they are away from home more than at home in any given year. And they are serving all the American people all the time. That hugely outweighs any drawbacks.
I wish I could start life all over again at age 19.
I’d go into the U.S. Navy. And do it all again. Bigger. Better. Today.