I grew up in the Atlanta area and graduated from Marist, a private Catholic military high school at the time. The grades were, frankly, average but I was expected to attend college, any college, to have a chance at success in business and life in general.
I enrolled at UGA in the spring of 1964 and fell into poor study habits and too much partying, having discovered the girls and pledging a fraternity. It was a recipe for disaster and I left school in the summer of 1965.
To please my parents and to defer being drafted, I attended a technical school back in Atlanta, but I was very restless despite making decent grades in a mechanical technology field of study. I made a decision to join the Marine Corps before completing the program, in May of 1966.
After Parris Island and boot training, I attended a Combat Engineers School and more infantry training at a Staging Unit in California, bound for Vietnam. I arrived in Vietnam in March of 1967. The majority of my duties included probing for land mines during mine sweeps (today known as IEDs,or Improvised Explosive Devices), running a mine detector, humping an M-60 machine gun and standing a lot of guard. I lasted approximately eight months before being badly burned (36% of my body) in a bunker explosion which ended my tour in Vietnam.
I was hospitalized in an Army hospital in Yokohama, Japan for almost 3 months. During this time, I thought about the educational opportunities I had squandered and made a firm decision to attempt to get back into UGA and complete my degree. I was interviewed by a very understanding Dean of Admissions who granted me another opportunity by allowing me to enroll in the fall of 1968. I finished my Marine Corps enlistment on August 28, 1968 and began classes around mid-September. I am very proud of my service as a Marine, but regret every day the loss of so many fellow Marines. Our Engineering unit, the 7th Engineers, took more casualities than any other Marine Engineering Bn. during the course of the war.
To say I was experiencing a totally new resolve, or an educational awakening, would be an understatement. Protests of the Vietnam war were frequent at this time, and students not taking part were scorned. Since I had to literally fight my way back into school, no one was going to tell me I should not go to class. Several of my class Professors would inquire as to my thoughts on the war and I never shied away from expressing them. I completed my studies in the summer of 1970 and received an ABJ, from the School of Journalism. The last two years at UGA were perhaps the best years of my life.
I also believe to this day that returning to the class room helped me tremendously in adjusting, especially mentally, to what I had been through. I have had some health issues possibly related to Agent Orange exposure, but harbor no anger over the unavoidable. I was not real sympathetic to the plight of those young men facing military service through the lottery. I wished them no ill will, but vividly remembered my Marine buddies who made the ultimate sacrifice. At this time, I thought the war would be won and their loss would somehow be justified. I did feel some real anxiety as a reserve Marine subject to being called back into active service, during the Cambodian incursion by the U.S. military. As a student and veteran, I knew I had a lot to lose.
My working career was spent as a sales rep, mostly involving diagnostic medical equipment and supplies. Several large Corporations, DuPont, General Electric and Siemens were my employers. I learned to accept rejection and experienced elation with large order wins, but felt my experiences had conditioned me to cope. Today, I am no expert with a computer, but embrace the challenges they offer. I also know one’s education is never finished.