I appreciate our military – I really do. Anyone who serves is doing an honorable thing defending our freedoms and making the world a better place to live in for all. I remember once trying to become a part of that dream.
When I was in high school, I had given a lot of thought to serving in the armed forces, and the branch that really got my curiosity was the Navy. I think the Navy is the neatest branch that exists – mainly because of the variety of vessels they serve on. I dreamed of someday serving on an aircraft carrier. That was ever since the days of watching the movie The Final Countdown, which featured the USS Nimitz. Aircraft carriers are basically (as I found on a poster) 90,000 tons of democracy, and how cool is that!
I took the ASVAB test when I was in high school, and scored a 91, which really tickled my recruiter pink. He said I could basically sign up for any job I wanted, so the top paying job at the time was a Tactical Nuclear Engineer – a 6-year enlistment with a re-sign up bonus of $300,000 – this was in 1984, mind you. I also remember, as I was thinking about it, going to an arcade one day, and as I was playing pinball (yes, they still had them in those days), a couple of fine Marines came up to my machine and asked if I had thought about signing up for the military. I told them “Yes sir, I have.”, and they then asked “Do you know what branch you’re signing up for?”. I said “Yes sir, I have.”. They were a bit deflated when I informed them of my intention of joining the Navy. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have a HUGE respect for the Marine Corps – they are a kick-butt bunch of men & women, but the Navy just seemed more my interest, so that’s what I went for.
After I graduated high school, I signed up at the recruiter’s office, and got my orders to get on the bus to take the five-hour ride to Butte, MT to take the physical. I was stoked! I was going to be part of the American dream – to serve our country in a branch that I really liked. I got to Butte, and was put up in a nice hotel room for the night. The next morning, I got up, had breakfast, and then went for my physical. I made it all the way through the testing, and then got to the vision part – I was told I had Alternating Exotropia, and was therefore disqualified from serving in the Navy. I was then told thanks for being interested, and then took the five-hour bus ride back to Billings.
Needless to say, I was deflated. Here my dream was – shattered before my very eyes. To elaborate, Alternating Exotropia is almost the reverse of cross-eyed. Your eyes see fine, but where most people’s vision comes together in a single picture and you can see true 3D – well, that doesn’t work for me. Magic Eye puzzles are a bad idea for a gift, and I don’t enjoy 3D movies as much as other people do (although when I went to see Tron Legacy, that’s is all they were showing it in). I still enjoyed the movie, but didn’t get the immersive effect I had paid for.
Now, I don’t really blame the government for giving me the 4F – they were just making sure that the people they took in could do everything they were asked to. I was willing to, but I guess my vision didn’t align with theirs – no pun intended. I still have a lot of respect for the Navy and all they do. I just wished I could have been a part of it.