That’s not to say I don’t love my alma mater, the University of Kansas, or that I did not appreciate the scholarship I received from Wichita State University. They are fine institutions that do marvelous work.
But the day I swore to protect the Constitution and obey orders, go where I was told and do what I was told, began an odyssey that, really, has lasted to this day. I learned how to be a reporter, editor, broadcaster; I learned how to write, to see, to think. I learned how to get along with people – especially in confined spaces for long periods of time. I learned how to say yes, and how to say no, when it counted. I learned what was important, and what was “the small stuff” as in “don’t sweat the small stuff.”
I am the first to say I was one of the luckiest persons who ever enlisted. I was able to get a job I wanted – journalist – and travel the world. I mean, like National Geographic. People of a certain age remember the Saturday Night Live spoof “Port of Call: Bayonne, New Jersey.” There’s a lot of hard truth to that punch line. But not for me. I visited over 30 cities in over 20 countries in Europe and Asia. I was a fleet sailor for four years. I made petty officer. I was able to finish college with the money I saved. I launched a career.
Most of all, I was lucky it was peacetime. It was post-Vietnam, pre-Gulf. The Navy was ramping up a two-aircraft-carrier presence in the Middle East that became part of the defense policy of the 1980s.
But for me, the flag never went up, I was never shot at, and I didn’t see combat. It’s what happened. I was lucky.
Today I salute the veterans who served, and who will serve. When people come up to me and thank me for my service, I say “thank you.” The only thing I did was sign up and serve. For many like me, that was enough.