Now what in the world could I possibly be talking about you might ask? Well, it’s been a long journey since my Navy days. When I joined, I had no idea why I joined other than maybe some family tradition. But I had no goals, no direction in life…nothing. So I joined the Navy just 3 weeks from graduating high school and 3 weeks after my 18th birthday. I was carefree and irresponsible…some of which the US Navy would fix.
During my time in boot camp, I was miserable the first couple of weeks and I did NOT want to be there anymore. I eventually figured out that I was gonna be there no matter what and an attitude change occurred almost overnight. I would be lying if I said I had a blast in boot camp, that’s not supposed to happen. But I did adapt and actually had some fun moments while there.
During the final weeks of boot camp things got increasingly easier, and this was also the time when they took your official US Navy portrait and official boot camp photo. They also offered a boot camp annual which was an 80 page book with general Navy pictures, some pictures of your own company and then of course your boot camp portrait. And although the Navy was helped me “grow up”, it wasn’t a complete metamorphosis. I decided to ONLY buy the boot camp book and did not get our Company photo or my Navy portrait photo…something I have always regretted.
So I left boot camp with and exited the Navy with just my boot camp annual book and a few snapshots taking during the training. I lost track of all of my boot camp shipmates except for just one, that I called a decade after boot camp (and he recognized my voice…go figure. RIP Steve Knauf). I kept the book for the next 7-8 years and the official portrait and group picture were not ever thought about again.
I don’t know…maybe time makes memories much more important to a person. But at some point, I lost my boot camp book. Way back in the late 1990’s I started looking for a copy of the book, looking every day (and I do mean EVERY DAY) on eBay. I wrote to the Recruit Training Center in Great Lakes and got no where trying to find a copy. I finally contacted the National Archives in Washington, DC and they provided me a 50 page report with every recruit in the month of June 1973. There’s an entire story about locating this book, if you want to read about it HERE. Anyway, I finally found a copy of the book (here’s a video of me viewing it for the first time in 30 years) and was able to finally get a list of guys in my company. Eventually I got our photo of passing in review which meant the only pictures I was missing was the boot camp GROUP PICTURE and my official Navy portrait (I’ll never get that one – if you didn’t buy it at the time…they destroyed it).
Well, TODAY when I least expected it…I got message from an old Navy guy that said he just saw post on a Navy Facebook page where a guy posted the group boot camp picture of my company. I couldn’t believe it, but there it was.
So after 49 years, my personal US Navy archive is complete (as complete as it can be). Funny thing is that I remember us taking the picture that day in August 1973, but all these years I thought I was on the OUTSIDE on the right side of the photo…but this shows me on the LEFT side…my memory is not as good as I thought it was.
Now…after more than 30 years, my own personal archive of my time in the US Navy which includes my boot camp book, official pictures, my complete set of naval records, dd214, evaluations, duty stations, honorable discharge and many personal items.
IT IS COMPLETE NOW.