I used to say that I was born 3 years old. That was my age when I was adopted out of a foster home. My biological parents were an America GI and a Dutch war bride. They had split up after returning to the States at the end of World War 2. I truly am a Baby Boomer.
I grew up as an only child living on the shore of Lake Huron in Michigan. I was always a good student, if the subject caught my interest. In Junior High and High School, I played offensive center and defensive linebacker on the football team. I loved playing defense. Tackling was a joy. I enjoyed the out doors as a Boy Scout and learned to sail at a very early age.
Following a long family tradition, I went off to college at the University of Michigan. They put me in a fast track chemical engineering program. The university requested that I withdraw after two semesters. I had been having too much fun and getting poor grades. I moved home and went to school at the local community college. I immediately made the Dean’s list for good grades.
The Vietnam War was raging during that time. I lost my student deferment because I had fallen behind the required pace of acquiring college credits. The local draft board put me at the top of their list.
I did not want to go in the Army so I had to take action to choose my own destiny. Sea duty in the Navy would have suited me just fine but I wanted to prove, to myself, that I was up to the challenge of being the best. I joined the Marine Corps to avoid the draft.
The Marine Corps decided that I would be a computer operator. While waiting for the computer training to start they changed their minds. They decided that they could not fight the war with out me being there.
I spent most of my 13 months "in country" as a combat radio operator in a rifle company of Marines. Fox 2/4, 3rd Mar Div FMF West Pac for those who understand such terminology. I was not trained as a radioman so I had to learn it on the job.
I could not stand not knowing what was happening around us. To keep informed I volunteered to carry the radio at every opportunity. Radio operators know everything.
It was a miracle that I survived and came home in mostly one piece. I experienced a lot of action and was frequently shot at or knocked down by explosions. I still have a souvenir of an enemy mortar fragment in the middle of my skull. After a particularly busy few days activities, I was meritoriously promoted. They decorated me for “Professional Proficiency” for something that I did purely for self-defense.
I did visit Okinawa, the Philippines and Singapore. I cannot really say that I saw Hawaii. I was only there for a fuel stop, I was off the airplane for only 20 minutes in the middle of the night in a rainstorm.
The Marine Corps had promoted me four times in two years, and then asked me if I wanted to get out early! They were caught between an upper manning limit and a policy of not ordering anyone to return to the combat zone until they had a year in another duty station. They needed to replace Marines, like me, with less than a year to go on our enlistment with fresh blood to send into combat.
They offered me a deal; if I would go back to college, for the good of the country, they would give me an honorable early discharge, for the good of the Marine Corps. It took me about two minutes to finish signing the papers.
I was not sure that I understood how my going back to college was for the good of the country, but that was my assigned mission.
After going to the hometown community college for a couple of semesters, I transferred to Michigan State University in early 1970. I married the girl from back home, who had waited for me, that same spring.
I attended school year round taking a very heavy class load. The GI bill paid the rent, my father paid for books and tuition and my wife’s job put food on the table. We each had $5 a week spending money as our cash surplus.
High grades were not a priority. Getting a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, as quickly as possible, was my only objective. I graduated in December 1971 and left telling them to mail my diploma. No ceremony, no party, just move on.
My first job after graduation was as Nuclear Facilities Maintenance Coordinator at a shipyard in Newport News Virginia. I was a troubleshooter tasked with figuring out fixes for problems with the shipyard’s equipment used to fuel nuclear Navy ships.
They launched the aircraft carrier Nimitz while we were watching. It was a very interesting job and they were about to promote me when we left to escape the heat and return to Michigan.
I went to work for a major chemical manufacturer located near Detroit. After starting as Maintenance Engineer, I had three big promotions in eight years.
While working that job I started, my at work, hobby of energy conservation. My efforts saved the company a half million dollars a year in reduced steam usage. I took on the extra task of editor of their in house newsletter starting my writing career. A major trade journal published an article that I wrote about my steam conservation work. They actually paid me $300 for it!
We had started our family with a boy and a girl. The business was not doing well and we were looking for a move to a better location to raise our family.
My next career was as Maintenance and Utilities Manager at a salt making operation. The plant was family owned and in a small town located up North on the shore of Lake Michigan.
These were our real golden years. My wife was the leader of a Girl Scout Troop and I was Scoutmaster of the Boy Scouts. We had a huge 100-year-old house that was always full of happy children and adults. My wife hosted the ladies quilting group and there was a gathering or party all the time. My escape was a 26-foot sailboat and Lake Michigan was my playground.
Then the company that I was working for changed owners twice in two years and I found myself out of a job when the newest owner brought in their own management team.
Wanting to stay there but with no equivalent jobs available, I started my own business. Dancing Rainbows was a specialty mail order flag business with boat owners as our customers. I grew it until it started to show a profit. It became obvious that it was not going to generate the level of income that we needed.
The need for income drove me to take a job as Plant Engineer at a small plant that was part of a big chemical corporation. The location was near Kalamazoo Michigan. Yes, there really is a Kalamazoo.
My main job was to manage a project to build a new production building and move in the equipment from the old building. I also managed the Maintenance Department and the Power House.
After 8 years of thriving at that job, I encountered two problems at the same time. The business and my health were both failing. My wife was told to get our affairs in order because I would not last another six months. That was in 1984.
Since then I have mostly recovered in spite of the doctors. I worked as Production Manager at a small manufacturing plant, Maintenance Department Manager at an electric cable manufacturer and as Utilities Operations Manager at a large Steel Mill and an automotive company. The manufacturer closed, the cable plant closed, the steel mill was a terrible place to work and the auto maker downsized.
I became a Certified Energy Manager and retired from the Defense Logistics Agency where I worked saving your tax money.
I have been blogging about energy conservation since mid March 2007.
My most recent project was to set up a web site for a veterans organization that I am member of. Disabled American Veterans Chapter 43 Manistee Michigan
Maybe helping folks is why I went to college, "for the good of the country."
My daughter is busy with her own family and providing us with 3 grandchildren.
My bodybuilder son recently married lives near us with his family.
My wife and I have been together 47 plus years.
That is my story and I am sticking to it.