All through school and even before, Don Brown and Tammy (Tamara) Stone had been a pair. From the first day of school when their mother's had put them on the bus together they had sat with each other, played with each other and, later, learned about the opposite sex with each other. Unfortunately, Don had a dream—a dream that not even the love of Tammy or the needs of the family farms could dissuade him from following. Don had fallen in love with the sea when he began reading history in school.
Don, like his mother was a voracious reader and one day in the school library he found a book that would change his life—Carry on Mr. Bowditch—a book about a young boy that had ran away to sea and learned navigation. He rose to Officer's rank and became a fantastic mathematician and navigator. Don spent many hours sitting in his room dreaming of going to sea after he read that book.
From the first book on sailing ships he branched out. He read history of all the great naval battles and the great ships that fought in them. He read about the clipper ships sailing across the pacific to China and he dreamed.
Of course, it didn't hurt too much that his father was a little bit hard for him to live with. Young Donald was like many young men. He liked to play and screw around. He knew what his chores were on the farm but he would rush through them so he could read more history, historical novels or science fiction. Oh, yes, he fell in love with the works of the old school Sci-Fi writers too like Robert Heinlein, Poulson, Pournelle and many others. He would rush through his chores and many times do a poor job so he could get back to reading or down to the river that ran through their farm and fish or swim.
The summer he was 18 his parents were building a new house and his father always gave him a long list of work to do during the day while he was occupied with a part time job in town or with more pressing farm work. Of course to Don this work was not as pleasurable as reading or spending time on the river or with Tammy so he either didn't complete his jobs or did them in a haphazard manner. This resulted in spirited discussions with his father.
One day Don had spent much of the evening rereading about WWII submarines in the book "Down Periscope". He read about the Wahoo and her cohorts during the battles in the Pacific. The next morning his father told him he had to carry bricks up onto the scaffold so they could brick the new house. Don started the work but ... well, about 9 a.m. he quit to go to the local town for a drink. While he was there he saw a sign about the Navy Recruiters office in the next large town and began dreaming about the sea once more.
Somehow, when he left to return to the farm his car turned toward town and the rest is history. He found the recruiter in the office and bought the spiel. Before lunch he had signed on the dotted line and had even been taken to the local MEPS for his testing and physical.
At 3 p.m. Don returned home to his very angry father who was doing the work he had assigned to Don. When Don got out of his car Howard came down from the scaffolding and started for Don. He said, "Where the hell have you been son? I told you to get the bricks up on the scaffold so we could lay some this afternoon and when I got here you were gone. If you weren't so old I would warm your ass! No get your gloves and get to work. We'll have to work until dark to get the work done I had scheduled for today."
Don's mother walked up behind Howard and looked at Don. Her face seemed worried and she cringed when Don opened his mouth to speak. He said, "I joined the Navy today. I leave the middle of August."
Don's father stopped his yelling in mid thought. His face turned white and he walked off after his wife Barbara put her hand on his shoulder and said, "Howard I told you if you didn't take it easy on Don he was going to leave."
Don watched his parents for a moment then put on his gloves and returned to work. That evening he had a date with Tammy and he was excited to tell her what he had done. He knew she would be happy for him. Don rushed through work and finally at dusk his father cleaned up the masonry tools and put them away. He and Don rode back to the old house in silence, neither spoke a word. Don rushed through his shower and took off without supper to see Tammy. He didn't have far to go as her parents owned and operated the farm next to his families.
Don rushed up to the door of Tammy's house. She had seen him coming down the road and met him with a smile, a hug and a deep kiss. When they broke apart Don saw her mother standing in the kitchen door watching them and smiling. She said, "Hello Donnie. You're late tonight." She looked at him a moment longer and sighed then continued. "For once I'm not sure if we want to hear the explanation or not. I talked to your mother earlier and she was crying about something you had done today. I..." She took a deep breath and continued, "From what she said I don't think any of us will like it so why don't you just come on in and tell us before we die from worrying about your news?"
Don smiled and almost bounced into the room. He grabbed Tammy's hand and pulled her along with him. He never noticed the scared look on her face as he pulled her to the couch and sat down then pulled her down beside him.
He looked over at Mrs. Stone and said excitedly, "I joined the Navy today. I leave in two weeks for recruit training then I come home for a month and go to the fleet for three years. I..."
Tammy screamed, "WHAT! Don how could you? What about our plans, what about college this fall? How could you do something like this without even talking to me about it?"
"Tam, I've talked to you about the Navy lots. I don't understand what you're talking about. You knew I was thinking about going into the Navy. I just got ... well, I don't know, I saw a poster today and went in to talk to them about it and, well before I knew it I had signed up and even have a job if I can pass the class. I'm going to be a Fire Control Technician."
"What? Don you could get on the Rural Fire Department here. Why do you want to go into the Navy to be a Fireman? Oh, I can't believe you did this!"
"No, Honey, a Fire Control Technician works with electronics. I will operate and maintain radars and computers that aim the guns and missiles for the ships. When I get out I can get college credit for the education and I can even take courses while I am in. This won't mess up college too much and I will have the GI Bill to help us when I get out in four years. We'll be set then!
"Get out! I can't believe you did this to me!" Tammy hit Don with her fist and ran down the hallway to her room. He sat there with his mouth open in total shock. He looked over at Mrs. Stone and saw her watching him with sorrow on her face.
Mrs. Stone sighed and said, "This wasn't the smartest thing you ever did Don. I think she'll get over it but you have a really pissed off young lady here now."
Mrs. Stone walked into the kitchen to return to her work and Don sat on the couch. After a few minutes he walked down the hallway to Tammy's room. She was laying on the bed crying as she talked on her phone to one of her girlfriends. He sat on the bed beside her and began rubbing her side and back as she cried. Finally she hung up the phone and turned to him. He wrapped her in his arms and held her until she quit crying. All the time he told her how he did it for them, about the GI college benefits and he reminded her of his dreams to go to sea and see the world.
Tammy hugged him to her and replied, "But Don we could go to college and get an education then we would have a good job and we could take trips and see the world together. Now I am here all alone for four years while you run around and play. Don I don't want to be without you that long. How could you do this to us?"
Finally after almost an hour Tammy agreed to go out with Don as they had planned but the evening was not as enjoyable as the rest of their dates had been. There already seemed to be a wall growing between them. The next two weeks things were touchy between the two young lovers and the adults in both families. Don was excited about leaving but also sad to leave his girlfriend and parents.
Finally the day of departure came. Seaman Recruit Donald Brown stood outside the departure gate with his parents Howard & Barbara Brown and almost fiancée Tamara (Tammy) Stone. He was struggling to remain dry eyed and to keep his voice from breaking. He could see the tears glistening in his mothers' eyes and running down her cheeks. His father's voice had been unnaturally hoarse when he had wished him goodbye and given him a self conscious 'man hug'. This would be the first time the small group of neighbors had been separated for any length of time since he and Tammy had been born. Their parents had been neighbors and friends all their lives and they all knew Don leaving would leave a hole in their lives.
Don gave Tammy a last kiss and walked through the departure security gate. He was so excited. He was off on the adventure of a lifetime. Almost before his family was out of sight he had forgotten them and dreams of adventure were running through his head.
When Don arrived at the airport in Chicago he looked for the sign he had been told to find directing all new recruits to their ride. When he found the sign he found three 'real' sailors and a large number of new recruits just like him. He gave the Petty Officer Second Class (PO2) his name and was checked off the list. The PO2 looked at him for a moment, pointed to a chair and said, "Sit over there with the others. We'll leave in a few minutes if the other assholes on my list ever get here."
.... There is more of this story ...