My story so far is almost 72 years long. It is different from most of your stories. I was born in 1950, the first of six children. I was named after my father. From an early age, I felt different. It wasn’t until I was in my sixties that I admitted it, but I digress.
I grew up just outside of Ithaca, New York, on the old family farm where my Dad had grown up. Being the oldest, I was also the firstborn to my Mom and Dad. I went to the last one-room schoolhouse for first grade, the same one my Dad and his brother had gone to. The next year it closed and became part of the Ithaca City School District. That is probably too much detail, so I will move along.
My hometown, Ithaca, is a university and college town. I was exposed to many cultures and nationalities as my grandparents had a huge house near Cornell University. They rented rooms to Ivy Leaguers. As a kid, I was involved in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, as were three of my brothers. I love the outdoors and nature.
Leaping ahead a bit, I graduated high school in 1969. Before graduation, I joined the Naval Reserve. My uncle, who was a Navy Master Chief, suggested it as it would give me more control over my near future. My eventual goal was college. My family couldn’t afford my going to college so I chose the Navy. I went to Great Lakes for Bootcamp and then after a few months back home attending weekend reserve drills, I went to Great Lakes again for electronics school. At the time, my uncle was in charge of the Class A electronics school at Great Lakes. That helped inspire me to excel. I would spend many weekends at his home with my cousins, who were a year younger than me.
After graduation from Class A School, I drilled at the reserve center for a couple of months waiting for orders for active duty. By then, I was an E-4 petty officer, ET3. I went to NYC Brooklyn Naval Station to start my active duty. I got orders for the new ship, USS Shreveport, LPD-12. It was being built in Washington State. I connected with the crew in Norfolk, VA. For three months, we had training in fire fighting and I was sent to more schools for various types of radios and navigation gear. In December 1970, most of the crew flew out to Seattle, Washington for commissioning. I was sent to San Diego, along with other members of the ET gang, for more schooling and training. We met…