Altoona, Pennsylvania - United States Navy
Growing up in Altoona made me a peculiar African American in the Navy. The way we grew up here, I could come home in my uniform and be respected. My friends from the cities, however, wouldn't even bring their uniforms home because they had to go through so much.
It was March 1968 when I enlisted and it was April when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The country was in turmoil; lives were lost and I went into the Navy. My brothers thought I'd be safe because they thought the Navy was safe. Who could have known my first tour would be Vietnam. When the day came, my brother, who didn’t' serve, took me down to the pier and dropped me off. I was walking to my ship and suddenly I was swept off my feet. My brother picked me up and was running me back to the car. I said, "What are you doing?" He said, "No. You are too young to go to war. You weren't supposed to go."
I'm a combat veteran. There's some people who don't understand and think if you're in the Navy, that's not combat. The same ship I was on a year prior actually had a misfire inside the turret and twenty sailors were killed including my best friend. You see, what people need to understand is whether you are in the air or on the ocean or on the ground, it's live ammunition and people can still die.