Recruiter’s Office

Recruiter’s Office A Character Sketch Because he was level headed and calm, he was no good at being mad. He wasn’t mad often. The only times I can remember seeing my father mad was when he was mad at me for one of my bonehead moves. Oh, how I hated being in trouble with him! His voice would drop an octave and he spoke slower than usual, as if he was carefully selecting his words. There were no unnecessary words and he never repeated himself. He would tell me why what I had done was wrong and why he was disappointed in me. The look on his face was a crushing blow, though I cannot describe that look now. All of my recollections of his face are with a smile with a twinkle in his eyes. So when I came home from college one day, exasperated and with a “ready to quit the world because this is too hard state” of mind, it was simply his look–sans grin, sans twinkle–that made me quit complaining. Contrary to my father, I often speak faster and without care; and I frequently repeat myself, especially when I am mad. At 19, I was in my first semester of college and working full-time to pay for it. I was coming to the realization that dad was right about two things. First, that I needed an education; second, that I should join the guard to pay for it. On that day, Dad wanted me to join him on a visit to the recruiter’s office. However, the recruiter, Steve, was the last person I wanted to see in my ready to quit state of mind. After months of visiting the guard, I had decided I wanted to join the Inertial Navigation shop. Since there were no vacancies in Inertial Nav, I knew that Steve would try to get me to join the Photo Sensors shop. After all, there was already a woman in the shop, so it would be easier on me. Well I wasn’t looking for easy, I wanted Inertial Nav. Once in Steve’s office, it was the usual – coffee for Dad and Steve and a smoke for me and Steve. As predicted, the first words out of Steve’s mouth were “you can’t have Inertial Nav”. Dad was ready to go for another walk around the base. Although dad walked pretty slowly do is due to his prosthesis, he could sure get around when he wanted to. He enjoyed our near weekly walk around because he got to visit his friends and meet new people. These were his kind of people. They were members of our nation’s military – a noble calling in his eyes. He would still be serving if it weren’t for circulation problems in his right leg. They operated three times to try to save it, and then amputated. After the second amputationto take off more of his leg, he finally decided to quit smoking. Lo and behold, he never had another trouble with circulation, but it was too late for the military and he was discharged. He enjoyed walking around on base with me and I suspected that all these visits were for him, not for me. Dad was just sure there was another shop that we hadn’t seen; Steve and I were sure there wasn’t. Hence, my ready to quit attitude, I had it–no more walk a rounds because this place wouldn’t give me what I want. Still, we enjoyed visiting with Steve. Another coffee, another cigarette, and the phone rings. Steve answered and had a short conversation while writing a five digit alphanumeric code on the code on his notepad. Dad knew what the code was – it was an Air Force Specialty Code–and he knew that the only reason someone would call a recruiter with one is that they wanted him to recruit for that job. When Steve hung up, dad asked “what shop is recruiting”? Steve immediately shot back, “Vern, I know what you’re thinking – it isn’t Inertial Nav”. Dad pressed him again, and Steve answered again that it was not nertial Nav. Dad’s final answer was “If you don’t know what it is, then look it up”. Steve gave a good-natured grumbling and got out his book. He looked through the book using his index finger as a pointer. When his index finger stopped, his eyes got wide and he shook his head, as if to clear the fog. It was Inertial Nav. He checked again and made a phone call to confirm that it was true. Suddenly, my ready to quit attitude was gone. I was ready to join and I did the next day. Steve and I were stunned, but Dad wasn’t fazed in the slightest. He knew it would all work out. I asked him later how he knew, and he said “God did it”. He couldn’t explain it and he didn’t elaborate on it. For the second time in six months, I conceded to dad’s better judgment. The first was coming back home to finish high school and then go to college. Now, I was a member of the Nevada Air National Guard. I was excited, but I think Dad was beside himself. We spent the next few months with our heads together, plotting and planning, so that I would be prepared for basic training. Basic training was the first time I actually tried to succeed. And I did–I graduated number one in my class—thanks to Dad’s  guidance and coaching.

The Rock and the Ragged Edge; Jo Meacham; March 9, 2014   Image   Lt Col Jo Meacham and My Father, Vern Rockswold

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