It was 1964, I was fresh out of college and loaded for bear. President Kennedy had convinced me to sign up with the Peace Corps. I was accepted and headed for a two-year stint in Colombia .
Problem was, Kennedy (before he was killed), had warmed up a little war in far off Viet Nam that now looked like it would only get bigger. "Rats," I thought.
At my local Selective Service Office (the draft board) I was assured that I would be drafted into the Army the moment my commitment with the Peace Corps ended. That would extend my service to the country by at least two years. And I thought, "How could they take someone with my sensibilities into the infantry (known as 'Grunts')?"
So, I joined the Navy Flight program and was whisked off to Pensacola, Florida. Along with several other guys, I was slammed into a program called "Preflight". The Idea was to convert college kids, over a period of months, into Officers ready to become Naval Aviators. It was intense. It was memorable.
I am remembering all of this because my old roomie in Preflight, Denny Bolena (Cadet Boloney) has just visited us on the bluff. Hey, in case you are not counting, we last saw each other a mere 45 years ago. Denny was a kid from Queens, out of ethnic Albanian extraction. I was a kid from the Missouri hills. We hit it off wonderfully.
So, it was a blast to see him and his wife, Jan, when they drove in a couple of days ago. We caught up with each other. We discussed Navy friends and their adventures. We commented how we could still see some of those fresh-faced kids in the images of the older gentlemen we have become.
We remembered the time during a RLP (room, locker and personnel inspection) when he gave the one-finger salute to the Marine Drill Sargent while standing behing him. My eyes fickered and then I broke. So, I was the one with a substancial number of demerits added to my total.
There were many nearly forgotten recollections. Our memories complimented each other, so that in the end we both relived much of the decades-old experience.
Thanks Denny for coming. Here are some photos of us as we now appear. And just for practice, Cadet Bolena, I would like you to put yourself on report for flipping that bird.