Did You Say IF?

A few days after I started school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I was ordered to report to the Navy & Marine Corps Reserve Center in Durham, 12, 13 miles away.

And, of course, I did.

I had joined the Navy Reserves when I was 17 and still in high school in Charlotte. My three brothers, John, Pop, and Dave, had also been sailors, and had joined when they were 17.    I had agreed to served two years on active duty and, as I recall, five years on inactive duty — attend drill one weekend a month and train for two weeks in the summer.

After I finished boot camp I served 20 months aboard a heavy cruiser, USS Los Angeles, and now I was back in North Carolina, going to college, waiting for The Letter.  When my orders arrived, I reported for duty.

The enlisted man who showed me around the Training Center said something very odd: “If you decide to come…”

Journalist Third Class
Journalist Third Class

I stopped him right there, “Did you say ‘If‘– do I have a choice?”

Yes, he said.

If I had been a radarman, I would have had no choice. The Navy needed radarmen; it did not need journalists and that’s what I was, a Journalist Third Class.

I told him, “If the Navy ever needs me, call me.  I’ll be here. Until then, see you.”

That, it turned out, was the end of my Navy career.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Journalist Third Class is a rate. It’s not the same thing as third class journalist.

Coming Friday: Call me “Lucky”

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