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 alone, 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 superheroes 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 counselor 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 in 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 senior yearbook 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 thought 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 but 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 was assigned to the Provisional Rifle Team (base security) for the month-long acclamation period. Our mission was guarding the perimeter and patrolling around the perimeter of Quang Tri combat base to free up the infantry units for operations in the bad bush. The month stretched to three. Weeks of humping the hills in the ridiculous heat gave me a whole new appreciation of the meaning of fatigue. The heat and insects were terrible but the rains of the monsoon season was worse. I also learned that there is no heroic theme music in war. There was only endless searching for 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 where the rules of engagement were ridiculous and the politicians didn't seem to want to win. It was just the opposite of all the history books and novels about WWII I'd ever read. Marines were getting killed and maimed for no gain. I became very disappointed and disillusioned.

    After three months I requested a driving job and was told that I would get the next one available. Two more months passed, days and nights of dodging sniper fire and avoiding 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/ .50 caliber M2 machine gunner on a minesweeping 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 and living in the dirt. 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 when a convoy was attacked. 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 Alexandroupolis, 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 decided not to reenlist. I had become disillusioned with life in the Corps. There were too many southern white men with higher rank who couldn't deal with a black man with a brain. 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 pregnant girlfriend and started a family. I continued my education at 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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