Thursday, November 30

Mama Kat Thursday: The Decision

Every high school grad reaches the point of having to decide, "What's next?"
Just get a job? Go to college or trade school? Join the military?

My year of decision was 1975.
At that time, Vietnam had only just ended a couple years earlier. The country was in a Recession, so jobs were hard to come by. Plus I lived out in the country. Town was a fair distance away and I had no real job skills.
As for College, I just wasn't crazy about the idea of more school. I didn't know what I wanted to aim at and it was so expensive, I wasn't going to waste good family money just stabbing at it.

That just left military service.
Luckily, recruiters were trauling the high school for interested applicants on a regular basis.
I recall my 10th grade science teacher allowed the Army Recruiter to show our class an Army video. It was kind of neat---he had a video playing device in his briefcase. When he opened it, a 15 inch screen popped up to show us the video on. Pretty high tech for 1973.
However, I wasn't evenly remotely interested in joining the Army.

Later in my Junior or Senior year, I made an appointment to speak with the Navy Recruiter in the high school library.
My Dad had been in the Navy for WW2, so I was open to considering it. When it came to talking about a specific Navy job, though, all he could offer me was "Yeoman." 
That's an admin clerk---basically a secretary. 
This was 1974--such a job would've meant typing on a electric typewriter all day and frankly, though I'd taken a typing class, I'd barely passed the minimum requirement of 35 words a minute. (In that era, secretaries were expected to type 70 wpm or better.)
Two years later, the same Navy recruiter offered my sister a job as a photographer. Way more impressive then Yeoman!
(She didn't take it, by the way, because it required a 6 year enlistment.)
The other thing that turned me off about the Navy was I had long hair and for their Basic Training I would have to have it cut short!
Not a chance was I going to do that.
It was the 70's and we were all about the long hair!

Finally, I talked to the Air Force Recruiter. 
My number one question was, "Will I have to cut my hair for Basic?"
He said, "No, you'll only have to wear it up."
I sighed with relief.
The other winning point to the Air Force was it's Basic was shorter then 
anyone else's---a mere 6 weeks!
He didn't make any job promises and, unfortunately, I didn't know I could've asked for a "guaranteed job."  
In the end, I went Air Force, though I didn't enlist until the end of summer, so I could allow myself one last summer with my family before leaving.  

I chose to join because I was an intelligent young woman who wanted a chance to travel and see the world. I wanted time to think about college more and decide what sort of education goal I might like to aim at. Most importantly, I wanted that G.I.Bill, which would allow me to pay my own way through college.
I was a honor student in high school and graduated among the top 10% of my class. I mention this point because there are people in this country who actually go around saying that "the people who choose to join the military do so because they are too dumb to make it in college!"
Humbug. Not true.
Military people are among the smartest, most well-educated people I've ever known, particularly nowadays with online education. The service encourages higher education and a program called Tuition Assistance allows active duty members to take part-time classes at no cost without detracting anything from their G.I.Bill benefit, which they can still use later if they get out. 

Looking back, I consider those years in service the best in my life. I made all sorts of friends from all over the United States. I traveled in Turkey and through Europe. I enjoyed my job and gained life experience. When I got out, I did go to college, eventually earning two degrees using my G.I. Bill. 
I believe joining the military was a very smart move.
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Of my graduating class of 1975, of 94 students in all, only 3 of us joined the Armed Services: two boys joined the Army and I joined the Air Force. 
Of the two boys, one died in the summer of 1975 in Paratrooper school training accident; the other, I think, did a full career to retirement.  I served 4 1/2 years and then went to college.
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What decision did you make for your life after high school?

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