I joined the Navy reluctantly and would have guaranteed on the spot that I would never, ever consider staying in the service. But, as they say, “Never say never.”
As the expiration of my enlistment approached I was making plans to attend the University of Iowa. Then one day...
The Navy waved a reenlistment bonus in front of me. It was a substantial sum and for the time being I had to at least consider reenlisting. I needed the money. My wife had been in the Navy also, but after our daughter was born she was released from active duty. Unfortunately, while she was in the service we had spent money and had incurred debt, based on two salaries. When one of those salaries went away...well, let’s just say the money would come in handy.
I didn’t want to just reenlist for the money so I thought I’d ask for a choice of duty and location. I asked for recruiting duty in Iowa (my home) or Minnesota (my wife’s home). I figured that the Navy wasn’t about to give me money, my choice of type of duty AND location, so if I didn’t reenlist I could use the excuse they Navy hadn’t been fair to me.
But, quite the contrary, the Navy gave me all I asked for, money, and recruiting duty in Minneapolis, MN. I decided college could wait, plus I could always attend college at night. My time in the Navy had been good. I had been stationed at Oceana, Virginia, and served with a Fighter Squadron, met and married a young lady from Minnesota, and even got to act in about eleven community theatre productions at the Little Theatre of Norfolk.
The three years I had spent in Virginia also saw me getting to make two deployments to the Mediterranean. I had met a lot of people, became “worldly” and generally had a good time.
Now the Navy was going to give me a pile of money, send me to a school in San Diego, CA and then send me on to Minneapolis, MN where I would be a classifier (one of the people responsible for putting people into the right job) stationed with the Navy Recruiting District in Minneapolis. So, I reenlisted for four years. I reenlisted at sea, I don’t recall the exact longitude and latitude, but the Commanding Officer of the ship allowed me to “take command” of the USS FORRESTAL (CVA-59) for 30 minutes. His only warning, “Don’t run in to anything.” I didn’t.
I left the ship when it anchored in Naples, Italy. Now, I had already learned my lesson about flying military aircraft when I almost had to jump out of one, so I arranged a commercial flight for myself and my personnel officer who was also being transferred. We traveled by “slow” train to Rome, stayed a couple of days in Rome, and flew on to New York with layovers in Geneva and London.
Up to the point when we arrived in New York we had not been in any big hurry. We had time to sight see and explore some of Europe. But, once we hit New York we were both anxious to get to Norfolk, VA – our home port.
My personnel officer made up a story about how we were “needed” immediately in Norfolk and asked if there was anything the ticket agent could do to get us there quickly. (At this point we had to fly on standby, with no guarantee of how quick we could get a flight). The agent put us the next flight and upgraded us to first class. It was a good end to the journey. I called my wife from the New York airport before I boarded since she had no idea I was coming home and her first response was, “You can’t, the house isn’t clean.” I went home anyway...
Next...the trip to California on our way to Minnesota.