military me 1963- foto Smith
military me 1966- foto Smith
I enlisted in the Navy Summer of 63 because we were too poor for me to go to college and I was too dumb to know about scholarships. The Navy had a program where for every two years you served, they’d pay for one year of college, so I figured 8 years in, hop out, 4 years college — my 12 year plan.
I confirmed this with my recruiter and he said no problem, the Navy did indeed have such a program.
But when I got to boot camp they said screw you, you have to be 21 for that and you’re only 17.
They got me.
I did 3 months boot camp San Diego California
9 months aviation radar school Memphis Tennessee
9 months U.S. Naval Academy Prep School Bainbridge Maryland
2 1/2 years U.S. Naval Academy Annapolis Maryland
Then I got caught smoking marijuana January 1968 and they kicked me out of both the Academy and the Navy. But because I was enlisted, they either had to Court Martial me or give me an honorable discharge, and the Academy didn’t want the negative publicity of one of their own smoking dope (along with 11 of my mates) splashed over the front page so they gave me an honorable and paid for two more years of college at Loyola Baltimore on the G.I. Bill.
I was willing to give them 8 years of my life for 4 years of college. They screwed me out of that deal, yet turned around and gave me 4 years 8 months 4 days of schooling on their dime before kicking me out and giving me two more years of school — which brought my 12 year plan down to 7, and all of it education.
There’s something delicious in this.
And karma-saving too because had I graduated in 69, I would have flown jets and dropped napalm on Vietnamese civilians, because when I was in the service I believed in the rightness of the war, and I fear what killing and maiming others would have done to me, much less them. I fear how easily I might have been lead to murder, how close I came to finding out, how grateful I didn’t have to confront such choices.
~ ~ ~
Used Karma Lot
I cut the cockroach off at the watering hole
Sent his brown backed soul
To that great black crack in the sky
May God have more compassion than I
— Smith, 2001
after military me 1975 – foto Smith