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Story time, kiddies. After I graduated high school my future looked kind of bleak. I was young and inexperienced and about to have a baby (well, not me, but you know). I decided the best thing to do was to get married and go into the army. This was the best way I could figure out to be able to support my new family. My plan was to go to the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, CA. I had passed the tests and been accepted to the program, which was great, since Monterey was just a few hours from home. To make a long story short, during basic training I was denied a top security security clearance which was required for the program and so had to make a decision what to do with the four years I owed the military. I looked through their list of jobs for the one with the longest school, which turned out to be x-ray tech school. My logic was, the longer I spent in school, the less time I had to do actual work and the more likely it was to be marketable in the real world.

So I went through x-ray school, got stuck in hell (Ft Hood, TX) for a couple years and finally busted out by applying to and being accepted to nuclear medicine school. I knew this would land me a cushy job in a hospital, not to mention being even more marketable IRL. (Yes, the army is like online in that we called the outside "real life" or "the real world") After graduating nuc med school I was stationed at Ft Lewis, WA. I felt some sense of arrival but I also felt that I had lost my real chance at success and happiness. Much of this was due to the oppressive nature of the military and the lack of quality people to surround yourself with. I felt desperation sinking in. I was ~26 or so and I hadn't really made anything of myself. During my tenure in the army things had steadily grown worse and worse between the kids mother and I. I was unhappy. I felt like a loser.

Luckily for me, there was one person who was exactly the opposite. Unlike most of the people in the military, he was a rational, intellectual, non self-destructive guy and I was immediately drawn to him. Just being around him made me want to do better. Finally, after I don't know how long, I had a challenge. It started out simply, we would try to outdo each other in getting done with our work quicker, striving for efficiency. We mastered the computer systems and found enjoyment trying to tweak them more and more. And the best part? We PLAYED! We did all sorts of crazy things when business was slow. We'd make soccer balls and play soccer in an imaging room, or throw nerf balls at targets to knock them over, nuclear medicine volleyball, whatever, we were always screwing around and I'd end up rolling on the floor laughing until I was red in the face and panting.

He was starting a master's night school program which inspired me to go back to school. But in every one of my steps I was terrified. I had hardly any real life experience and I just didn't know where to begin or what to do. He showed me the ropes, got me going in school. I finished my associate's in two years, going to school full time while working more than full time. The reason I could work more than full time was because of him too. He got me my first job and then got me another job later on. He walked me through every little step of it. Now, I have always had a good work ethic. That was something my mom did a great job on, but I learned other work ethics from him. More of an ethic of living, an ethic which involved helping other people become successful. It was an incredibly important lesson and I've tried to live it.

We used to hang out a lot and he could play guitar like a mofo, which inspired ME to play guitar. He taught me chords, started me out playing, laying out some tab for some easy and not so easy songs. Interspersed with the lessons were other lessons in music theory and just general music appreciation. There was a point where I was getting pretty decent but I eventually dropped it. I think I could have got to a point where I was good but I just don't think I have the talent and there were other things I wanted to pursue.

He also got me into cycling. I remember the first time we went for a ride. He kicked my ass all over the place on just a short ride and I was pissed and determined to catch him. It was the same way after that with all the rides after but I steadily grew stronger and better until I was really good. Cycling became a therapy in itself and I was riding about 100 miles a week during the season (which was short in WA) and doing lots of mountain biking in the off season. I still love riding and I think it's something I'll do for the rest of my life.

Most importantly, though, it was the conversations about relationships we had and the example he set that has really made me into the man I am today. the man I am proud to be. The husband I am going to be proud to be. In the military I was surrounded by people who disrespected their spouses and family and who really had no self respect. It was really awful to be around people like that. While we are ultimately responsible for the people we become, constantly being around people like that makes it seem almost normal and I could feel the claws of that base lifestyle dragging me down, but he never even faltered and was a pillar amidst the detritus (ha, detritus! (sorry, inside joke)).

Reading over this it doesn't really scan very well. That's because if I really wanted to write about how he helped me, it would be a list of a hundred thousand little things that I have tried here to summarize in a few paragraphs. Ah well, the point is, if it weren't for him, I don't know what would have become of me. I know I wouldn't be the person I am today. I know I wouldn't have achieved what I have. I might still be in the army, bitter, lame, depressed, who knows? Perhaps I wouldn't have found Shannon. I'm not perfect by any means, but I'm 100 times the man I was before and I owe a large part of that to him.

So, I just wanted to write this out to say thank you, Andrew, for everything.

Anyway, he just called me a little while ago and said he was going to make it to our wedding in June. We haven't seen each other since January of 99, I think, after which we both left the military and went our own ways. He lives in San Diego now and is working on building his own law practice. I am so god damn excited I can't even express it.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 21st, 2003 09:12 pm (UTC)
That's a great story, Vince. And from what he described about your relationship, I wouldn't have doubted that he would've tried to make it to your wedding. Don't forget to introduce him to all us! :)
Apr. 21st, 2003 09:50 pm (UTC)
I love storytime
Thanks for sharing this, pretty amazing stuff. :)
Apr. 21st, 2003 09:59 pm (UTC)
That's so cool that you will get a chance to hang out with him. Have you kept in touch with emails and phone calls over the years?

Thanks for sharing the story. I agree with Mrs. Polk, I look forward to meeting him.

Apr. 22nd, 2003 04:15 am (UTC)
That's awesome! It sounds like it will be quite the reunion!
Apr. 22nd, 2003 05:00 am (UTC)
I can imagine the scene...

[dreamy music]
Minister: "If anyone present knows why these two should not be married, speak now, or forever-"

[/dreamy music]
Apr. 22nd, 2003 06:15 am (UTC)
Don't you mean Vermont?
Apr. 22nd, 2003 06:17 am (UTC)
He's from California, prolly gets all those itsy bitsy New England counties, I mean states, confused.
Apr. 22nd, 2003 06:19 am (UTC)
Well, once they're in NH, VT is right next door anyway. Quick trip across the state line, and bingo!

Oh, and Vince, way cool story!
Apr. 22nd, 2003 06:44 am (UTC)
This is a great story!
Apr. 22nd, 2003 06:48 am (UTC)
This is very inspiring. Not only is he an exceptional person, so are you for recognizing and acknowledging it.
Apr. 22nd, 2003 07:55 am (UTC)
I like hearing about the good people.
Apr. 22nd, 2003 08:07 am (UTC)
Thank GOD that story ended the way it did! I had a terrible feeling that you were going to say he died at some point.

I think I watch too many movies or something! Anyway, he sounds awesome, and I wish I could meet him.

Apr. 22nd, 2003 09:58 am (UTC)

Reading a story like that makes me want to be a better person. Its contagious, you hear how one person made such a difference in your life... and I can only imagine that its made you want to do the same for the people in your life... sheit. Now I want to go out and better my life after reading what you've done with yours. Damn, Vince... if that new job doesn't work out, you may want to consider Motivational Speaking as your next choice... seriously.
Apr. 22nd, 2003 10:07 am (UTC)
That's *exactly* it, man. It *is* contagious. I guess a corny allegory would be like a Pay It Forward type thing.

Unfortunately I couldn't be a motivational speaker since I cower in fear every time I have to speak in front of a group. ;-)
Apr. 22nd, 2003 10:15 am (UTC)
How wonderful!!!!
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )