learning to drive…

U.S.Coast Guard
Originally uploaded by jayfherron


I have often stated in the past-my sons and I raised each other…I am not sure from which direction that originated,meaning-my sons did the better job of it! They raised me…or,better yet-we grew up together.

The way I lived during the days of their youth was miserable-filling my nose with drugs and my belly full of alcohol. How they came to forgive me is heavens providence-but I believe it is because I kept nothing from them…nothing!
I lamented every chance I had about my ‘failure’ in the United States Navy….pleading with them not to be like me.
Prayer helped too-most certainly the foundation which held us together and turned out to be the solid rock of our seeing the success they both are.
My oldest son heard me the loudest-he entered the U.S.Navy the day after he graduated from high school….missing the graduation celebrations that went on in a local arena-instead,packing his gear to carry along to boot camp. He did not listen to me-they would be sending it right back (I remember him thinking there would be ample time to play Nintendo on off time-he has since learned)!!
My oldest graduated 18 years ago. Now a US Navy Chief Petty Officer-and drug and alcohol counselor,winner of three ‘sailor of the year’ awards,he has become Mr.Navy. He did it for me-proudly sending home the awards saying ‘this is for you Dad’.
I have no better friends then my sons!

As a father you begin on one level and then revert to another as they grow older. I am a grandfather now-you see the change in yourself as you look down on these little ones that call you Poppa. Sober and thankful for being so to be able to enjoy every pleasure of the little ones. Relieved that God answered those many millions of prayers….please Father,don’t let them grow up to be like me! God heard….but yet,God knew-God knew the truth!

My youngest son…how can I begin? His active duty in the Navy lasted two years. The poor kid was stationed on a ship that proudly welcomed new sailors to its decks with a sign above the gangway stating ‘Welcome to Hell’. The ship was a replenishing vessel-fueling and supplying fresh food to the Navy ships at sea,a treacherous and dangerous job.
During my youngest sons sea time they refueled the USS America-at the same time my oldest son was stationed with a helicopter squadron on board. My two sons actually got to ‘visit’ while miles out to sea…the two ships connected by hoses and cables as fuel and supplies were transferred. They were hooked up to telephones and spoke from ship to ship.

My sons heard all of what had happened to me in the Navy. They saw me try to drink and drug the memories out of my head….trust me,both actions are inaction-it does not work. The pain is always there the moment the drug wears away! I can not tell you how rewarding it is to be forgiven by them…and how they took what I said and flew to the highest peaks with it!
I even raised another mans son-Jeff. He is half my own sons age-he saw them as big brothers and one day he came to me and said that I was the only man in his life that he could look up to-his own father a heroin addict that took the last spike to eternity,just when Jeff was an infant. He wanted to know if he could consider me his dad. I told him he had to quit calling me Jay.
One day Jeff came to my door wearing pants so baggy he had to hold them up with one hand-I’ve come to see that is the newest style. He had earrings in his lip and eyebrow and his hair was a color from somewhere,but not natural. He was concerned about his future-at 18 he was already a father himself-and nature was teaching him something was wrong. I expressed how a father should at least have a belt! (mocking his manner of dressing)
Wondering what he could do to escape his crowd of friends-his instinct knew they were wrong for him….I told him to enlist in the Navy.
I didn’t see Jeff for a few years after that and then one day a car drove up and this young man got out-it was Jeff,and he had changed. The Navy changed him. Now he too is seeing the Navy as his career-he is in his second enlistment and serves as a Second Class Petty Officer-he too serves on a helicopter squadron.

I am proud of the fact that most of my sons friends from school-the boys they grew up with almost to the last one of them enlisted at my encouragement!
One young man was stocking shelves in a grocery store after high school and right there in the isle of the store I convinced him the Navy was a choice to help him in the future. He is proof that is so-he enlisted and was sent to aviation mechanics school…he served his term and returned to civilian life to work for a company that calibrates aircraft instruments.
He now owns the company!

My youngest son has never left being in uniform. He completed his tour on the ship dubbed as ‘hell’ and after his two years of required reserve duty he re-enlisted,but this time in the National Guard. There he served two tours of training-never seeing the wars,but used the GI Bill to complete college in the ‘criminal justice’ field-and now serves Alachua County (Fla) as a Deputy with the Sheriffs office.
You’d think that he would be settled with that….but NO! He has re-enlisted!
Now I have a son in the Coast Guard Reserve.
At the moment he is on inactive duty…a stupid injury has delayed his ‘boot camp’-he broke his finger playing a tag football game with some children at his church. But in a matter of a few months he will be sent to Norfolk Virginia where he will train to Captain a ship-just like the one in the photograph.

It is in awe the way I look at my sons-the three of them…the way they listened and learned from me. The military IS an honorable position in life,not just a job-but a definite duty to country and democracy.
I had hoped for a career in the US Navy. How much I wanted to drive the ship (yes,they call it driving) and never could because my uniforms had been mutilated by a jealous brother-my brother,who I chose to be stationed with…the biggest mistake of my life!
Because of my uniforms-I was restricted to general areas of the ship…restricted from many others. I had learned after my discharge that any sailor could enter the wheel house and volunteer to hold the wheel….but not me because of the uniforms.

All of what I write about in this journal of my life is true! The best parts of the story is how my sons grew up in an environment that was unstable because my reaction to my experience in the Navy was so devastating to me that I chose to sop my self into a sorry path…a drunk and drug user. It was easy to select that as an alternative-my DD214 (the official military discharge form) kept me from being able to find a decent job. There is a code number on the form that employers could look at and determine what kind of man they were about to hire….my code said ‘drug use’.
I never used any kind of drugs while in service….it was after when the way everything went I figured it out that since I was so blamed to be such-that why not go on and be such,kind of like…if you can’t beat them join them! If its said so…it must be so!
It was never so!

I have come around the corner in the last 10 years. I had a stroke in 1998-at age 46- which really opened up my eyes and finally gave me control over the way I was living….the only part there is no control over is the PTSD which lingers and will always remain. It can’t ever go away…my family sees to that-my distant family,those who were brothers or mothers or the father I only wanted to please,but never could.
I am thankful that my eyes have opened. I am thankful that God did hear and answer my prayers-giving my son’s a life that was far better than the one I have lived…seeing them in military uniforms instead of prison uniforms! Seeing them grow into fine upstanding men-adults and mature,and not raking leaves in the prison yard-or buying crack when ever freedom came,if ever-having homes…not living under an overpass.
And best of all….when ever we speak to each other we never end the conversation with out saying “I love you son”…or them saying “I love you Dad”.

MICAH  Chapter 7 verse 8 and 9:  Therefore I will look unto the Lord;I will wait for the God of my salvation:my God will hear me. Rejoice NOT against me,O mine enemy:  when I fall,I shall arise; when I sit in darkness,The Lord shall be a light unto me.

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