Select a veteran:   

Dave Sekol - United States Navy

I met Yolanda for the first time when I arrived at my last duty station in Long Beach.  She’d seemed interesting when I saw her photo, and meeting her confirmed it.  Interesting and full of surprises.  Imagine my dismay when I learned the girl was still in high school.  A child!  At twenty-two, I looked, felt and acted decades older.  What could I possibly have in common with this schoolgirl?  I hated ice cream and cherry Coke.  Would I be her prom date?  The whole thing was crazy.

Notwithstanding her tender age, young Yolanda and I were fond of each other from the moment we met, and our evenings were filled with laughter and talk of the future.  You think it strange for a bearded combat veteran to date a girl barely old enough to drive?  You bet, but what really mystified and intimidated me was her large Mexican family.  Yolanda had grown up in Torrance, California and had scores of relatives on both sides of the border.  Family is everything to a Mexican.  I constantly worried I’d say or do the wrong thing, and my fragile ties to this charming person would be severed forever by an overprotective parent.  Always on my best behavior, my deference and solicitousness to her mother eventually won the day, and I was accepted and welcomed into the family.

Compared to Yolanda, nothing else mattered in my life.  During the day, I was a radar operator on a boat that never left the dock, so I went to work and sat around and shot the shit until my shift ended.  Nights were for my girl.  Four months of doing nothing but bullshit stateside duty flew by, and almost before I knew it, I found myself in civilian clothes descending the quarterdeck boarding ladder for the last time.  The end of four years in the navy, and hardly anyone noticed me leave.  I tossed my things in my car, drove off the base and never looked back.

One other thing happened almost before I knew it.  Yolanda and her mother had planned and organized our wedding, complete with sixteen ushers, sixteen bridesmaids, two maids of honor, two best men, a ring boy and a flower girl.  Marriage Mexican-style.  Yeah!


1. The Vernon County
2. "Fine, I’ll join the army."
3. Rewarding conformity
4. The LST
5. Freedom tax
6. Interrogating VC
7. Zombie-like
8. Yolanda
9. Dog therapy
10. Anger rush
11. EDMR therapy