I should never have made it, according to the doctors who treated me so many years ago for third degree burns on my back and buttocks after I was run over by a car at the age of 5. They said I could never be athletic nor do any strenuous type of work, that my back would never be strong enough. But I showed them, my family and myself that I could do anything I set my mind to do, that I didn’t recognize any barriers. I have dived under the sea in submarines, parachuted from planes, landed and taken off aircraft carriers (as a passenger only), soloed in the T-34 aircraft, and survived plebe year as well as combat duty in South Vietnam. All of this from a gay man who didn’t really acknowledge until his junior year at the Academy that he was gay.
I enlisted in the Navy in 1960, with the desire to attend the Naval Academy. I achieved that desire through a SecNav appointment after attending Naval Academy Prep School at Bainbridge, Maryland. I had been en route to duty on board the USS SEAFOX in San Diego when I got the change in orders to report to Bainbridge (I was home on leave at the time).
After graduating in June 1966, I went to flight training but left of my own volition after determining that I could never be a Phantom (F-4) Jock (which was the pipeline I was in). Following that, I joined the Black Shoe Navy – in Minesweepers and saw duty off the coast of Vietnam in Coastal Interdiction and then in-country as a member of COMNAVFORV Staff.
However, prior to the COMNAVFORV Staff duty, I was sent to Destroyer School at Newport, RI. While in Destroyer School at Newport, I met the first man I would love and have a relationship with. He was a playwright from New York City, living near Provincetown, MA, and because of my feelings for him and because I had been the subject of several investigations by Naval Investigative Service, I decided to end my Navy career and resign my commission. In doing so I lost the first man I loved and I gave up a career that I loved, because I really did (and still do) love the Navy and all that it stood for, except of course for the policy on homosexuals.
Do I have regrets? No, not really, because the Navy and the Naval Academy provided me the opportunity to grow and be that normal guy I had always wanted to be and to show the world that I was good enough physically, emotionally and mentally to achieve things that I doubt I would have accomplished had I not served and to recognize that I was more capable than I thought in all aspects.
I am proud to say that I am a gay man and I did serve my country well. I wish I could have served longer but life is what it is.
I am now retired and living in southeastern Florida.