My grandmother believed she could see the future. The future she saw for me, the summer I turned seventeen, was to be shot to death in the jungle in an obscure country called Viet Nam. The dream frightened her so badly that she took to her bed for a week.
The choices facing a kid like me in the fall of 1964 were threefold; college, volunteer or The Draft. It was the latter that my grandmother feared so much. Even though we were not heavily entrenched in Southeast Asia in ’64, she believed an Army draft notice would result in my obituary.
All through the fall of that year, my grandmother and I fought, her insisting that I join the Navy, and me desperately clinging to high school and not wanting to drop out. It was a tumultuous time for our family.
In November, she signed me in. It wasn’t like leaving for summer camp. My adult life officially began on a DC3 headed to Chicago and Great Lakes Naval Training Center. 9 weeks later I was on a train to my first duty post in Florida.
So ended my childhood.