A Brief Personal History:

I grew up poor in the Millvale projects with few outside experiences. I was a tall, skinny, shy and introverted kid. I spent a lot of time by myself reading and drawing. I often felt out of sync with most of the kids around me and my imagination was often my best friend. As I look back I now realize that I constructed a huge imaginary world of high adventure, largely through reading comic books.

As an aspiring artist, I spent many childhood hours sketching people, comic book characters and animals. As I grew older my tastes in comic books evolved from the super heroes like Spiderman to the military heroes like Sergeant Fury and Sergeant Rock.  In high school I desired to understand the world around me through math and the sciences and my interest in all things military grew as well. I was sixteen when we got our first TV and I became an instant fan of shows like Combat, The Gallant Men and the Desert Rats. I could watch war movies endlessly. The Sands of  Iwo Jima was my favorite. I think I read every book in the school library on World War I, World War II and the Korean Conflict.

    By my senior year I was firmly committed to joining the Marine Corps and seeing combat in Viet Nam. My mother, my teachers and especially my high school councilor were mystified by my plans. They all told me I was such a good student and it would be a shame if I didn't go to college. They finally wore me down but I insisted on a two year technical college. I figured the war wouldn't end in two years and I would still have a chance to see war first hand. I enrolled into the Ohio College of Applied Science but my heart wasn't in it. I spent more time watching and reading news about the fighting in Vietnam than studying. I dropped out in the second quarter and enlisted into the Marine Corps. All of my friends thought I was crazy. Young men by the thousands were enrolling in college to avoid the draft or were running to Canada. As my graduation photo shows I was a studious young man so no one around me could understand why I was running towards the war. But the lure of war and the call of high adventure was more than I could resist. On the fifteenth of January,1969, I boarded a plane for San Diego, California and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot for what I though would be the start of a twenty year career in the Corps. Boot camp was a shock to me and all of the training bordered on brutal but I was determined to see it through. I grew stronger and was soon able to do things that I'd never dreamed of doing.

    I'd enlisted to be an infantryman, a warrior, a grunt, but the Marine Corps in its infinite wisdom decided I should be a truck driver. After all the weapons and combat training they wanted me to drive a truck—a truck! I was outraged! I tried several times to have my MOS changed. To no avail. I finished my drivers training course and three weeks of jungle warfare training on the island of Okinawa. By July of 1969 I was at last in the war zone, in Vietnam. I volunteered for guard duty over mess duty for the month long acclamation period and for base security over a driving job. Our mission was to patrol the perimeter of Quang Tri combat base to free up the infantry units for operations in the bad bush. The next three months of humping the hills gave me a whole new appreciation of the meaning of fatigue. The insects were terrible and the heat was worse. I also learned that there is no heroic theme music in war. There was only endless searching for enemy snipers, mortar pits and rocket launching sites the Viet Cong used to attack the base. There were no Sgt. Rocks or John Waynes. There was just a lot of young men desperately trying to stay alive in a war that the politicians didn't seem to want to win.

    After three months I'd had enough and I requested a driving job and was told that I would get the next one available. Two or three more months passed. Days and nights of trying to avoid the snipers and booby traps. When I noticed that other Marines new in country, especially white Marines, were getting the driving jobs. I Requested Mast (an audience with the company commander) to vent my frustration. Well, I did get a driving assignment... but as an assistant driver /.50Cal. M2 machine gunner on a mine sweeping detail out of Dong Ha, along the most dangerous road in the I Corps of South Vietnam. But, I was riding instead of humping the hills around Quang Tri. I quickly found out that machine gunners were a prime target of Viet Cong snipers and I'd climbed out of the frying pan into the fire. Although it was more dangerous, I grew to like the job. I got to see a lot more of the country and I just loved blazing away with that big fifty caliber machine gun. Finally, after six more months I was assigned as a primary driver... for a month and a half... before my tour ended.

After thirty days leave, that was over far too soon, I was ordered to take part in a NATO training exercise in Europe. We staged a practice beach assault landing at Alexandropolis, Greece to blunt a hypothetical invasion by the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact assault troops. The cruise lasted two months and included liberty ports in Athens, Greece and Barcelona and Valencia, Spain. At the end of my enlistment I had decided not to reenlist. I had become disillusioned with the way the war was being fought and life in the Corps. In later years I would become angry when I read the whole history of the war. In spite of those feelings I have no regrets about enlisting and serving in Vietnam. I lived a part of world history, something beyond the mundane lives most Americans live. I will always remember that period of my life and I will forever have the confidence it instilled that I have the strength and the ability to address any challenge in my life.

    I was discharged in January of 1971 and spent the next four months transitioning myself into civilian life. I gained employment with the City of Cincinnati as a laborer, married my girlfriend and started a family. I continued my education in the University Of Cincinnati Evening College, earned a BS in Civil Engineering and later the State of Ohio certification for a Registered Professional Engineer. I served the City of Cincinnati for twenty-eight years in various capacities as a laborer, truck driver, survey technician and crew leader, civil engineering technician, civil engineer and administrator. 

I never lost my love of drawing and over the years created many works of art for family members and friends. I always had dreams of being an artist. I retired in May of 1999 to pursue a second career in art and realize my dream of living the life of an artist. The last photograph was taken a week before I retired. Notice the big smile. My dream, since I was a kid, of living the life of an artist would finally come true. Later I got the writing bug and published my first novel in 2001 which I was inspired, by Obama's election to the presidency, to completely rewrite in 2011.

I am still living my American dream!

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