Bill's Vignettes

This is my story. It will consist of little pictures, snippets, or vignettes, from my past. It is a legacy to my children and grandchildren and those that may come after and hopefully will also be of some interest to the casual reader who doesn't know me from Adam.

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Leaving Home

Posted by sundoulos2005 on August 23, 2007

Forty-three years* ago today I enlisted in the United States Navy. I was living in Rochester, NY at the time, had graduated from Monroe High School the previous June, was working at the Lincoln Rochester Trust Company and was anxious to get out and make my own way in the world.

We were a very close family and I did not want to hurt my parents by just up-and-leaving. Sometime after I got out of high school I volunteered for the draft. At that time we had Special Forces operating in Viet Nam and some troops in Laos, but the Vietnam War had not yet got underway. My dad, a World War II veteran, was opposed to my going in the service and had tried to dissuade me of any idea of joining up. I, on the other hand, was enamored of the slick advertising the services had created to lure youngsters like myself.

Late in February, 1964 I came home from work and my mother handed me a letter from the Selective Service Board. “Here’s your draft notice,” she said. When I opened it and read, “Greetings from the President of the United States,” I blanched. Reality hid hard. I was both shocked and surprised because I thought the summons would be much later.

On the appointed day I reported, along with more than a hundred others, to the Armed Forces Examining Station (AFES) in Buffalo, NY. There I and the other draftees were subjected to poking and prodding by Army doctors. Even though we were still civilians, the military personal treated us like we were felons in the penitentiary. The doctors told me I had scoliosis. Someone else told me the Army couldn’t induct me until I was cleared by the court in Rochester for an incident I was involved in a couple of years earlier. So it was back to Rochester to wait for things to clear.

Three days later I went to the military recruiting offices, which were housed in the Federal Building, determined to join the Marine Corps. Unfortunately my friend, Sgt. Johnson, wasn’t in that day. The sergeant that was there was gruff and impolite. I walked out and went to the Air Force recruiter. He had me take a test and told me I would excel in electronics. I wasn’t interested, particularly since I had had only one year of math (elementary algebra) in high school. I then went to the Navy recruiting office, signed up for three years with no guarantee of anything. Next, I visited the judge and asked him to release me from the court’s jurisdiction. He was happy to oblige.

On April 20 I was back at AFES where I went through all the examinations of a week earlier and was sworn in. I had joined the Navy.

* This post originally published at on April 20, 2007

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