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The First Story - Memories

By Robert Opekun, Navy

Writing Type: Prose

By Robert Opekun

 

It was about May 1951, and the draft numbers were close to my number. I did not want to go into the Army, so I went to a recruiting office in town and signed up for the Navy.

 

After a few questions, they told me to go to the New Haven railroad station at a certain time and what train to take to Grand Central Terminal in New York City. There I was greeted by Navy personnel along with a few other men. Our names were on a roster sheet. We were mustered together, and we got on another train that took us to Bainbridge, Md. There we got off and made our way to the Navy boot camp.

 

Once at the camp, we got a quick physical and received uniforms, bedding, and a canvas sea bag. We learned quickly how to live out of the sea bag. At 6 a.m. the next morning our training started. Up, dressed, and marched to breakfast, then to school and more marching to lunch, then back to school, and then dinner. After dinner, back to the barracks to prepare for the next day. We learned discipline, respect, responsibility, and facts about Navy life.

 

Time went on; the days came and went. I forgot about everything, forgot about girls. I almost believed that they did not even exist.

 

Before I knew it, graduation day was approaching. On that day, I marched with my company to graduation, and we marched in the graduation ceremonies. After that we received our first rank. Many sailors got white stripes; they were seamen. I received green stripes; I was in the aviation department. We were then referred to as outgoing personnel and transferred to another part of the base.

 

This was about a two-week period while we waited for our orders to be printed to know where we would be sent for active duty. We did odd jobs and stood guard duty. On my turn for guard duty, I had to walk from the barracks to the main gate and back.

 

While walking on the side of the road next to a wire fence on my left, I reached the top of an incline and spotted a person coming toward me on the other side of the fence. As we came closer, I suddenly realized the person was a girl. I also realized that she wore a Navy uniform. She was a Wave stationed at the nearby camp.

 

We kept walking closer and closer, our eyes fixed on each other’s. We stopped, eye to eye and nose to nose, the fence between us.

 

We did not utter a word. We stood there for what seemed to be an eternity. I don’t remember taking a breath.

 

We then turned; she went her way, and I went mine.

 

I don’t know who she is.

 

I don’t know where she lives.

 

I do know that as long as I live, I will remember that moment. I wonder if she also remembers.

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