At age 17, I dropped out of High School and decided to join the U.S. Navy.
This was back in 1964, and the Vietnam Conflict was ramping up so you did not have to have a high school diploma to get in.
I was sent to New York to get sworn in with a bunch of local hoods. Somehow the boot camp got word that a bunch of New York wise guys were on their way.
So off to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center we went.
The training was brutal and by the time we completed our training, there were no more punks in the crowd.
We trained and learned to be a team for what was ahead.
During the training, we were forced into the tear gas chamber where we had to remove our masks and endure the burning eyes and coughing spell like we had never done before.
Upon completion of our training, I was sent to California and reported to the U.S.S. Galveston, CLG-3.
Shortly after that, we set sail for Vietnam. We had to go up into the Gulf of Tonkin in the black of night with Vietcong on both sides of the channel.
Upon arriving at our designated area, we had to begin a special mission called “Operation Starlight.”
During this mission, we had to shoot Star Shells up at night to light up the battlefields for our troops to see the enemy.
During the day we would shoot inland with our 6-inch gun mounts and drive the enemy out to the beach so that we could shoot them on the beach with our 5-inch mounts, or guns.
At one time we had to shoot out a bridge using spotters and not hurt anyone down below. The mission was a success and we were awarded a Presidential Citation for our success.
Six months felt like six years over there.
There were no parades and welcome home crowds when we returned but I would gladly put the uniform and do it again.
This country is the best in the world so tell a Veteran thanks when you see one because he fought for the freedoms you have today.
Mesa resident and Pastor Thor Strandholt is associate pastor of Valor Christian Center, 3015 E. Warner Road, Gilbert. Reach him at 480-545-4321.