Pinning on the Gold Bars: 28 Years Later

On June 19th 1983 I was sworn in as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army at the University of California Los Angeles.  I was a history major in college and had actually completed my degree the year prior and played around with Masters level classes as I took my last year of ROTC. I was commissioned into the Medical Service Corps and would report for active duty 22 days later at Fort Sam Houston Texas where I would complete the Army Medical Department Officer Basic Course for Medical Service Corps officers, go on to Fort Know Kentucky for the Junior Officer’s Maintenance Course and then in January 1984 head to Germany where I was assigned to the 557th Medical Company Ambulance in a little Kasserne on the Nahe River called Neubrücke.  The rest is history.

Looking back at what the world was like in 1983 is rather interesting. Ronald Reagan was President of the United States and George Herbert Walker Bush his Vice President. Thomas “Tip” O’Neill was Speaker of the House.  The internet and the TCP/IP was beginning to take flight as a program of the Department of Defense, Sally Ride had just become the first female Astronaut and the United States sent the Marines into Lebanon as part as a peacekeeping force.  The Soviets were deeply embroiled in Afghanistan while Jedi returned, destroyed the new Death Star, killed the Emperor and Darth Vader while redeeming Anakin Skywalker.

The Cold War was reaching its zenith as the United States using its great economic power built up its military and developed technologies that the Soviets went broke trying to keep up with.

We still wore Olive Green fatigues; the BDUs were just being introduced and the Army still worn Greens sans jaunty Black Beret.

The Billboard Top Singles were led by Michael Jackson who released Billie Jean, Culture Club with Karma Chameleon, Irene Cara joined in with Flashdance What a Feeling, David Bowie came out with Let’s Dance the Police had Every Breath You Take

The Baltimore Orioles won the 1983 World Series taking down the Philadelphia Phillies in 5 games, Rick Dempsey was the MVP hitting .385 in the series and having a .923 slugging percentage. Dempsey who played across 4 decades as a catcher only hit .233 for his career.  Cal Ripken Jr. made the final putout of the series which was the last that the Orioles have won since then.  In the NFL the Washington Redskins defeated the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. Larry Nelson edged out Tom Watson in the PGA U.S. Open while Jimmy Conners won the U.S Open Men’s Singles championship.

Terrorism, nuclear crises, political scandals and Tsunami in Japan were all part in the news.  AIDS was rearing its ugly head and by 1987 I was working with AIDS patients and dealing with personnel policy for HIV infected Soldiers.

Since that day I can only quote Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead that my life and career has been “a long strange trip.” I continue to serve in the military only having switched services to the Navy and going from being in the Medical Service Corps where I was a platoon leader, company XO and company commander as well as Brigade Adjutant to being a Chaplain.

Back in 1983 I had no intention of going into the ministry but somehow the Deity somehow worked that out much to my surprise.

Finally a mere six days after being commissioned I would marry the love of my life Judy Keiser and well somehow she has put up with me 28 years and hasn’t killed me yet, not that she didn’t want to a few times. Now we deal with a geographic separation due to my assignment after missing far more wedding anniversaries and birthdays than we have been together in our 28 year marriage.

Anyway, the future is still to be written and this long strange trip promises to go on. As Captain Kirk said in Star Trek VI “People think the future means the end of history, well, we haven’t run out of history just yet.” I don’t think that I have either.


Padre Steve+


Filed under Baseball, Batlimore Orioles, film, Military, movies, music

3 responses to “Pinning on the Gold Bars: 28 Years Later

  1. John Erickson

    I love the mustache. Nothing personal, but it just reeks of a late 70s Camaro with oversized rear tires, fuzzy dice, and an 8-track in the dash. All that’s missing is a polyester shirt, open at the neck, and some gold chains. 😀
    “A long, strange trip”. Ah, yes. In 1983, I was on the road to being a mainframe programmer (which I did), had thoughts of moving west to either Colorado or California (never made it), eventually getting married (did it), and working my way into the aviation industry (never made it). And here I am,unemployed, stuck in Ohio, working with a church (my folks were agnostic), and finding unique friends, including a goat named Blackjack! Oh, and a very interesting and witty Navy Chaplain who’s into baseball. I’ll have to introduce you to him someday, Padre! 😉
    Hope you had a good Fathers’ Day. Something tells me you do indeed have a lot more history to experience. All I ask is for occasional updates, and your continued patience with my … unique …. brand of humour!

    • padresteve

      I had the 8-track but no Camaro or fuzzy dice. Thank you for your thoughts and regards as always my friend. I like the way that you do life, give my best to Blackjack. After all as a goat he has to be a Navy man..

      • johncerickson

        I’m not sure if Blackjack has ever seen blue water, Padre. I was thinking more along the lines of Blackjack being a Marine. You know, hard head, charging around, not taking stuff off nobody….. 😉
        Oddly enough, I never had a Camaro or dice either, but I did have the 8-track player – and my dad still has the 8-track recorder. It’s a family thing. We tend to grab onto a tech trend and ride it to death. Me, I’m stuck in the late 80s. I never lose my car phone, though, ’cause I had to have the floor specially reinforced to hold it! 😀
        Have a good evening, Padre!

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