Rick Nelson – My Navy Recruiter Story

Rick_Nelson_groupOK…yesterday a dear friend passed from this life Richard V. Nelson, or Rick as I called him. Was Rick a close friend, NO. But he was a DEAR friend tor whom I had great respect and who influenced my life from my teenage years up until NOW. I remember Rick as a family friend…more specifically as a friend of my Mom’s and my Brother. Today, I salute him and remember him. I also would like to share a simple, short story about Rick as my Navy Recruiter and my first couple of weeks in boot camp.

Rick was a regular customer in our cafe and so that is how we first came to know him. He was friend of Mom’s and my older Brother Tommy way before I ever thought about joining the Navy. But later, he did recruit and help Tommy re-enlist in the Navy after he’d been out for a short period of time. So we had both a friendship history and a professional history before I ever thought of joining the Navy.

So begins my favorite story of Rick Nelson the Navy Recruiter.

I really don’t know how or why this 17 year old kid (me) decided to go into the Navy. I hadn’t planned it. Maybe it was due to tradition…I mean my great great grandfather was in the Navy, my grandfather was in the Navy, my Uncle Sonny was in the Navy, and my oldest brother Tommy was in the Navy…I guess that’s why I enlisted. I went for my physical (which Rick took me to Memphis for my physical) in January 1973. I passed, and was scheduled to go to boot camp 3 weeks after my high school graduation in May of 1973.

On June 10th, 1973 a black government sedan pulled up outside our house on 208 E. Kentucky and I began the slow “dead man walking” stroll out to the Navy vehicle. I was crying. Yep, I said I was CRYING on my way out to the car. I don’t remember much after that…other than my first plane ride when I was flown to Great Lakes, IL

Once in boot camp, I did NOT adjust well for the first couple of weeks…but in actuality, I was probably no worse than the other recruits that were there. After about a week or so, I decided I would write a LETTER to both MOM and my Navy Recruiter, Rick Nelson. I sent them both the same letter.  In the letter I LAID DOWN THE LAW! Here is the first line of the letter (almost verbatim)… Mom and Rick, I don’t know how you are gonna do it, but get my ASS outta here!”.

Mom kept most of my boot camp letters (that I still have), but this one has been lost…I assume that the same letter sent to Rick was also thrown away shortly after he read it. 

Of course, I never heard back from either of them…which pissed me off pretty badly at first. But Mom later told me that as soon as Rick got the letter, he came into the cafe and said, “Betty, what do you think we should do”, to which my Mom said, “Rick, leave him alone…he’ll be alright”. When it was all said and done, I was alright. I had no other problems or panic attacks wanting to abandon my Navy enlistment… And I have been THANKFUL to both Rick and my Mom ever since I sent that letter, and them not doing anything (not that they could have done anything anyway).

rick_nelsonSo over the years…I had envisioned sitting at a bar having a beer with my Navy recruiter to thank him for my job in the Navy that turned out to be a lifelong career. I never got that chance to sit at a bar with Rick, however…Tommy, my younger brother David and myself did get the GREAT opportunity to visit with Rick in 2013 at his daughter’s house and share a couple of those beers talking about old times. GOOD STUFF!!

No, Rick didn’t treat me special or do any favors for me when I joined the Navy, I was just another recruit, but that hinder the appreciation I have for him doing HIS JOB and serving HIS COUNTRY.

I salute you Rick Nelson. Thank you for your service sir and may you rest eternally in peace. Rest your oars sailor, we have the watch now.



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