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On an anniversay, a thank you to veterans ...


I’ve always been kind of intrigued about the power that anniversaries hold over us, often unconsciously for good or for ill, but perhaps more frequently quite brazenly out in the open for all to see and evaluate. As you probably suspect, this is a personal reflection that maybe has no remote connection to collecting or even sports, so I beg your indulgence.

This musing came about when I noticed the date of Oct. 22 – today – which, for me, is the 42nd anniversary of the day I joined the Navy.

I can recall the day I got out of the Navy perhaps just as vividly, but I would have to look up the actual date. But going in, that was a biggie for me, mostly because it was such a terrifying prospect.

I assume my terror was just about the same as it was for anybody else, though of course there are always degrees and differences. For me, in addition to the normal anxiety about signing on for something largely unknown, there was the absence of any tolerable exit strategy in the event that it didn’t work out.

(That is actually Coca-Cola and it ain't water that darkens that work shirt.)

In hindsight, of course, I can see there was no reason to be concerned about such things, but at the time I was but 18 years old and didn’t have a clue about much beyond memorizing the batting order of the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers. See, I was able to make a link to collecting after all.

After tearful farewells to family and friends that afternoon at Albany County Airport, I boarded a propeller-driven airliner headed to Chicago. Just flying commercially in those days was scary enough – they had those ubiquitous insurance counters everywhere at the airport to remind you of the life-or-death crapshoot that you were undertaking – but the ultimate destination this time made it even worse.

At some point, there must of been a helluva introduction to the beloved Armed Services concept of sitting around and waiting, because the bus from O’Hare Airport in Chicago didn’t get to the Great Lakes Basic Training Center in nearby Waukegan, Ill., until grotesquely early in the morning.

The combination of the cold and being tired and scared poopless made for a horrible welcome, which only got worse as some noncommissioned officer started screaming incredibly rude things at us as we ambled off the bus.

It was all downhill from there, but eventually it got a bit better, or at least bearable. I think about my time in the service a bit more now as we more properly honor the considerable sacrifice of our all-volunteer military.

Back in 1968 we faced the potential prospect of going to Vietnam, though doing so as a sailor was not commonly on par with what was confronted by in-country ground forces.

So that was part of it, but more acutely there was simply the widespread conventional wisdom that if – for whatever reason – you couldn’t hack it in the military, the awarding of a dishonorable discharge would ultimately lead to a lifetime of pumping gas. Who knew that within a decade most gas stations would be self-service anyway, with apologies to New Jersey.

The Navy turned out to be one of the best things I ever did in my life, and it’s left me with an abiding appreciation of what the 18-year-olds of today are doing with their service at a time with two combat theatres beckoning them.

Maybe I can really link this up to collecting and the hobby after all: In a blog next week, I am going to figure out a way to raffle Ernie Montella’s amazing Green Bay Packers plaque that he sent our way several weeks ago. Every nickle that we raise with that program is going to go to an organization that provides for veterans and their families.

Right down to the postage required to send Ernie’s heavy – 13 lbs. – masterpiece to its proper destination. I will spring for that myself.

As Veterans Day approaches, I would just say thank-you to all who serve and all who have served. It is no small thing that you have done.