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I was a third semester senior at NC State — a physics major. I had applied for graduate school in physics at State and the University of Virginia, but hadn’t received word on acceptance. Later that October, I was sitting outside a classroom waiting for my next class, when I glanced up at a poster on the bulletin board. It showed a picture of a guy looking through a periscope, with words like “Join the Navy” and “Nuclear Power.” It sounded cool to me. I was taking nuclear physics and quantum mechanics at the time, and I thought “This sounds like a job opportunity.” I pulled off one of the tear-away post cards, filled it out, and mailed it in to the local recruiter in Raleigh.
Things happened fast after that. I got a call from the local recruiting office. They wanted to meet me. I drove there one afternoon, met my recruiter — a Navy pilot — and we got down to business. I took some kind of standardized test and had an interview. I must have scored well. A few days later, I was invited to fly to DC for a series of additional tests, and possibly an interview with … Admiral Hyman Rickover, the father of the nuclear navy.
So, I flew up to Washington, did the tests and interviews, and the rest was history — I got accepted into the US Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate program. Now, we get to the meat of this post’s title — why did I join in the first place?
As I stated before, I had applied for graduate school, but no word yet on acceptance. What was I going to do in December after I graduated without a path forward? After talking with the recruiter, I realized a few things that added up to my decision:
- I was tired of going to school and I wanted to get out there and earn a living.
- I didn’t know if I was going to grad school, so my academic future was uncertain.
- Well … being an officer on a nuclear submarine actually sounded kind of cool. It appealed to the kid in me that used to play war with all my friends — except this time, I could do it with real weapons!
So there you have it. No patriotic motive like joining after 9/11 (although my patriotism increased 1000 percent shortly after I joined), no initial desire to serve my country (I cringe when I hear liberals talk about writing a bill to introduce mandatory “National Service” when a kid turns 18), no family tradition to uphold (although I had tons of older relatives who served in the Navy and the Marines during WW2 (including one great uncle was in the Naval Academy when Rickover was there). No, my initial reason was simply to get a job. Ironically, my first one and a half years in the Navy was spent going to school (see Reason #1). However, getting paid to go to school made a big difference…
Fellow Ricochetti who have served in the military — what stories do you have about why you joined? Chasing the dollar as I started out, or patriotism from the git-go?
Regardless of the reasons you folks joined, my military service ended up with me loving this country with all my heart and soul.