This story has been going around for years, and as with all stories that I tell from this time frame, this is told to the best of my memory. The other part to this story, that I must disclose before the telling, is that it is something that, in a very weird way, has become a mark of honor for me. For my wife… well… that is for her to tell you.
Now, TO THE BACKSTORY!! (said in my best Adam West impersonation)
I joined the Navy in August of ’89 (that’s with a 19 in front of it), and by the time I was half way through boot camp, I had already decided I wanted to become a Navy SEAL. Trust me, that was a huge ambition, especially for someone that was 6 foot tall and, at the time, weighed in at 165 pounds. But it was my goal. Over the course of the next year, I graduated boot camp, went on to “A” school, and got assigned to the USS Tattnall, all the while holding on to my dream of trying out for the SEAL’s (eventually).
In March of ’90, my ship got underway for a 6 month cruise to the Med. I figured I would use that 6 months to finish up my physical training and take the test as soon as I got back. My goal was set, my mind made up, now I just needed to get my body prepared.
During that cruise, my girlfriend and I wrote letters back and forth. (Letters are those things where people write on paper and then mail them back and forth to each other, sometimes taking up to a month to correspond back and forth). I had, on a few occasions, the opportunity to call, but it was expensive and so, most of our communication was through that archaic means of writing.
So, there I was, all set. Then, on one of the few phone calls I made home to my girlfriend, I told her my dream. I can remember this part like it was yesterday. She got quite, then simply asked, “Would God want you to kill people?”
Ok, first, it wasn’t condescending or any of that. It was simply a question. A question asked by her to weigh how much I had really put thought into this (my opinion). A question that stopped me and made me think. A question that, well, I just didn’t have an answer too.
So I was stumped.
This is where Alfred shows up, but instead of Alfred, his name was Doug Updyke. He was a lot older then me and a great source of wisdom. So, I took my problem too him. His solution to me was simple, set your mind on what you want, and go for it.
So, there was the problem. I had set my mind on two things. Marrying my girlfriend or becoming a SEAL. I had just under two months left before I got back home, so I was pressed for time (at least that’s what I felt).
I would say I fasted and prayed about this, however, I really don’t know if I did or not (probably more on the not). But, I finally decided that it was her I wanted (ok, hindsight, I could have had both, but limited perspective of a 19 year old know it all has that effect of severely diminishing your options).
We pulled in Toulon, France on July 29th, 1991. This was to be our second to last port of call before we headed home. I got off the boat (it’s a ship, but I can call it a boat.. so), headed to the phones on the pier, proceeded to call (collect I might add) my girlfriend and when she answered, this is how the story goes (after she accepted the collect charges, of course):
Her: I’m so glad you called.
Me: So, I was thinking.
Me: Want to get married?
Me: September 12th. (btw, this is the anniversary for the first time we dated, another long story)
Both: Bye. (hang-up)
And that is how I proposed to me wife.
One for the history books I tell you.
A sure classic.