Tom Dalton and I were best friends in high school.
When the time arrived when we realized that we were going to graduate high school we did what most kids do at that point – we panicked.
Well, I can only speak for myself – Tom always seemed like he had things under control.
I always envied him for that quality that he possessed.
On the bowling league, when our game was not turning out as one would hope, I would just panic – but Tom never panicked – he just smiled and somehow ended up with a great game at the end of the day.
When our teachers broke the news that we would have to decide what we were going to do with our lives after graduation – I panicked. Tom just smiled.
Tom gave me confidence to look at things that I otherwise might be too afraid to see.
One day, I talked with a Marine Corps Recruiter. He gave me ideas that I had never thought possible. Sure, I did alright in school – but I knew I was not going to be a rocket scientist. I also knew I was not college material.
So I took the test, and the recruiter informed me that I did pretty well. I was happy – a bit surprised – but happy. I was being told by so many people in my life – including my teachers – that I wouldn’t like being a Marine. Some people went as far as assuring me I wouldn’t make it.
Tom and my recruiter were the only two people that thought otherwise.
My life after high school appeared to be taking shape. There was only one problem – it seemed it was taking me away from my best friend. That made me feel uneasy – to the point that I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go through with it.
I woke up one morning with a solution swirling around in my head.
The recruiter mentioned that they had a “buddy” program where they would guarantee that we could go to boot camp together. Sounded like a good plan. Now I just had to find a way to share this plan with Tom.
Once I got past the laughs and jokes, Tom promised he would go home and talk to his dad. Tom had a pretty cool dad and I was confident he would get some good advice from him.
The long and short of it is that Tom decided he would give it a try. He talked with my recruiter – in fact, our recruiter actually made a trip to our school to talk with him.
That was a bit embarrassing for us, but we got passed it – there even came a day when we were pretty darned proud of the decision we made.
Tom did quite well on the test assuring himself a pretty good career in the Marine Corps.
On June 28th, 1978 – we walked onto a plane headed to San Diego. We were laughing most of the way – a sort of nervousness just underneath the surface.
By the end of that day – we were bald, confused, and wearing green. We finally got to bed at about 2 or 3 am in the morning.
The first time I had an opportunity talk with Tom was at chow – he wasn’t so sure he was happy with me for talking him into this world of hurt that we found ourselves in. I was sure that he would never talk with me again.
We made it – we became Marines and we went our separate ways in service to our country.
Except a brief visit in 1984, we haven’t really been in much contact – life has had a way of keeping us apart – until we met again in Sumpter just recently. This is a reunion that will be ongoing – lots to get caught up on. But one thing is for sure – our hair is a bit longer and grey now.
As it turns out – we’re still friends!