Here is the next Chapter of my Memoir/Novel, Lost and Found.
I’m still dealing with the back problems. Turns out I have some crushed vertebra and am still taking the heavy duty medication to help with the pain. However, those meds also make it hard to think clearly. Not a good place to be if you want to write something meaningful. Hope to have some better solutions this week.
Be well — be in peace,
We were originally scheduled to do a port call at Pearl Harbor, but at the last minute we were ordered to escort an ammunition ship, an AE, to Japan. An AE is a ship designed to carry ammunition supplies to back up the needs of other ships at sea. So, instead of a visit to Hawaii, we spent four hours at Midway Island to refuel and proceeded to Japan. We refueled and replenished there before proceeding to the east coast of Korea.
Over the past months, Jim, Ralph and Joe had been pestering me almost every day about the importance of getting an education. I had only attended classes in high school up to the ninth grade before my troubles started, so thoughts of college had never entered my mind. I had no clue about what I was going to do with my life after I did my time in the service, and had begun to entertain some thoughts about just staying in the Navy. It seemed like the simplest solution at the time.
However, these three friends were so persistent. They explained how the G.I. Bill would work to pay for a college education – or at least, a good part of it. They showed me some literature about the G.E.D. (General Educational Development) tests I could take to get a high school diploma. They showed me where I could get study manuals for taking the tests. All three of them had taken some college before signing up for the Navy. They offered their help getting me prepared to take the G.E.D. Tests.
One of the times they were “working on me” about taking the G.E.D.tests, we were all sitting above deck on a beautiful, sunny day when I asked, “If you guys had already started college, why did you decide to quit and join the Navy?”
Jim answered, “I can probably explain for the three of us. We’ve been good friends for years. We went to high school together. Joe and I were friends even before high school. We figured that between us we could probably make some pretty good decisions about life if we put our heads together and thought things through.”
Ralph piped up, “Yeah, and we also learned that if we wanted to stay out of trouble with Jim’s parents, we better listen to them too!”
“Ralph’s only saying that because he likes their cooking and wanted to be sure he was invited whenever my folks would decide to have us together for dinner,” said Jim with a huge grin on his face. “But he’s also right to say my parents did offer good advice about life, not only to me, but to Ralph and Joe as well.”
Joe nodded his head and said, “Yeah, that’s true. They were more like parents than my own parents were sometimes. My parents were good to me, but they never got into talking much about life.”
Jim lit a cigarette as he shifted his position so he could lean his back against Ralph’s and said, “It’s true. My parents did have a talk with the three of us at dinner over at my house. The war was picking up steam and it looked like the draft process was going to be accelerated. The draft was excluding guys in college, but my parents were pretty sure those exclusions would end soon. Since none of us wanted to be drafted into the Army, we decided it would be smart to put college on hold and enlist in the Navy.”
Ralph, who was always looking to avoid any serious talk, broke in and said, “So here we are, but if we’d known we would have to bring Rollo into our lives, we would have stayed right where we were!” He followed that up with a good poke in my upper arm.
Jim went on, “One of the reasons we’re harping on you about this is because you have the chance for a decent future. Getting into the Navy was a huge break for you. The other alternative, prison when you reach eighteen, would have ruined your life. This way, if you do this right, you get out with no criminal record – and if you get a high school diploma the door is open for you to go to college. A college education is really important if you want to get good jobs and make a fair wage. Without it you could end up pumping gas or finding some other mediocre way to provide for yourself. You may want to get married and start a family someday. It will be a lot easier for you to provide for a family if you’ve got some education behind you. In order for you to eventually get into college, you need that high school diploma. So, what do you say, Rollo?, will you take the G.E.D?”
I got a smile on my face as I nodded and Jim said, “Good answer! We’ll get you the study manuals. I asked the Exec about it yesterday and he thought they might have them on board as long as nobody else is using them.”
Once I began the study for the tests I realized I would definitely need some help. Once again, the guys came through. I did alright with the practice tests on the reading, writing, grammar, basic math and social studies, but the algebra and geometry threw me for a loop. Fortunately, Ralph was a wizard with these topics and dug right in to teaching me what I needed to know.
We continued our cruise to Korea and were busy being trained in the finer points of our jobs on our way, especially the guys who were on the guns. Jim, Ralph and Joe were among those gunners. However, when we were almost ready to go to our assignment we were ordered back to Midway Island for some repairs. By the time we arrived at Midway, I had taken all the GED tests and passed with good results. I would soon be receiving my high school diploma in the mail. I was surprised at how elated I was to complete this project successfully. It was like learning a piece of music so well that I could play it all the way through in my mind.
I still didn’t understand fully what it would mean in the long run, but I was feeling tremendous gratitude to Jim, Ralph and Joe for being as stubborn as they were to get me to take this step.