I sometimes struggle to find things to write about, and because of this (thru the aid of a friend) I have subscribed to some thought starter emails. I saw one the other morning that seemed very appropriate to write about. A decision that changed my life.
On the evening of November 30, 1968, I decided to go out drinking. I was 19 years old at the time, a high school graduate, and destined for small things. By the way, this wasn’t the 1st time I had made a decision to go drinking. I was making this decision pretty much on a weekly basis. But this was the weekend that decision would come back to haunt me. Shortly before midnight on that faithful night, I pulled into a hoity-toity neighborhood to relief myself. I had stopped short of a stop sign. When I started, I rolled thru the stop to turn around, but before I could even start the turn the red lights were flashing behind me. Not thinking clearly (because I had been out drinking), I put my right foot into the throttle. Approximately 20 blocks later, my hands were cuffed behind my back.
The decision to drink and drive that evening, and the St. Regis Park police’s decision to arrest my dumb ass, became a life changing decision. As sure as I am sitting in my office reflecting upon this part of my life, had I not been arrested that evening, more likely than not, I wouldn’t be here today. I was in the fast lane of destruction, drinking each and every weekend, driving drunk, and putting anyone on the road with me in harm’s way. My drinking would have killed me, at best, at worst I could have killed someone. Because I was arrested that evening, I changed my life, not immediately but I did change. And I am grateful that I never killed anyone, or caused an accident of any nature because of my drinking.
That joint decision, made by myself and St. Regis Park, changed my life forever and for the better. Shortly after this decision, I was placed in a position where joining the military service or spending time in jail were my only 2 options. Having spent a night in jail, I realized that no matter how bad or rough bootcamp and military service was, it was a million times better than spending another night in jail. On April 12, 1969 I joined the Navy.
The reality is that after the 1st couple days Navy bootcamp was a snap. I was never a scholar but it didn’t take a genius to figure out if I shut up and did what I was told, I could get thru bootcamp without any major issues. And that is exactly what I did. But bootcamp became the foundation for my future. Not the shut up and do what I am told part, but bringing structure into my world, becoming responsible for myself and for others, being recognized for effort and hard work, learning discipline, developing a sense of Honor, finding my Integrity, and my personal ethics. I didn’t excel during bootcamp, I wasn’t the best, but I did learn and I earned a level of respect. My mom had taught me personal and work ethics; the Navy refined it and ingrained it. I don’t know how honor is measured, and I don’t know how much honor a teenager has, but I know the Navy made me aware of its importance, and instilled that in me also. The Navy rewarded my hard work and work ethic, by putting me in positions above my rank, and allowing me to excel. It’s corny, but it’s like Superman’s motto, “Truth, Justice, and the American Way.” The Navy instilled deeply into my being these core traits, which I have lived by since: honesty, integrity, ethics, honor, to trust, hard work, and discipline.
I served 9 years on active duty, and then served 5 more as a reserve. I am extremely proud to have had the honor of serving our country. The Navy gave me life experiences. My time in the Navy allowed me to grow, to mature, to gain work experience, it provided for a future career path, it strengthen my resolve, it enhanced my decision making skills, it taught me discipline, tuned my integrity and ethics, and made me the man I became. This all came about because of a decision I made when I was 19. That decision was a poor one, one I wouldn’t make again.
Thanks for listening, take care, as always your comments are welcome.