How Could I have Made So Many Mistakes and Succeed?

(Dan bottom left played second base for Coronado American Legion team at 13 with mostly 15 and16 year-olds)

How could I have made the impulsive decisions that rocked my turbulent youth? What made me change from a fad-loving teenager collecting popular songs, memorizing major league batting averages, and dreaming of becoming a professional baseball player, into a solemn born-again fundamentalist?  That deflected me from my own purpose. I almost claimed conscientious objector status, and then quit Duke N.R.O.T.C. to enter a pre-ministerial program, only to find the more I studied religion the less I wanted to preach it to others.

(Duke University Chapel and courtyard)

My father said he could not afford the steep tuition and said I should try for an appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy despite my lack of interest in the military! Since he and my brother graduated Annapolis I did the craziest thing to afford college, and entered Columbia Prep School in Washington study how to score high on entrance exams. After three months I took the exams and was only one of 75 people to receive a presidential appointment from Dwight Eisenhower in the United States! Dad took me to see a patriotic movie about the Battle of Midway that changed the outcome of WWII in the Pacific due to our naval power despite Pearl Harbor that did so much damage that brought determination to build a strong military to protect our freedom.


(Midshipmen at the U.S.Naval Academy march into Bancroft Hall)

After entering Annapolis much forced me to realize this journey into a naval career had many negatives from my perspective. During my plebe year an upperclassman in revenge for the way my brother treated him, ran me into the ground with harassment until I developed mononucleosis and was sent to the hospital for five weeks ending my chance to quarterback the plebe football team as my coach and I wanted. Later I had the worst varsity baseball coach ever, who wrongly believed my father "got me into Annapolis" so kept me on the bench after I had a great year leading the plebe team with a .516 batting average. After graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy I wanted to fly airplanes but my eyesight dipped slightly and I could only qualify as a navigator. My plane was called the "Flying Coffin" by aviators because more than 50% were lost in accidents, and mishaps and was an easy target in Vietnam. After three close calls in training both my pilot and I transferred into ships and I navigated 300 marines to Vietnam.

(Dan flew in the RA5C Vigilante and was Carrier Qualified)

Forced to scrutinize my journey, filled with mistakes, nearly killed by a train on a trestle at 10 hitting rocks with a bat; dodging two trains after leading high school football players into a narrow train tunnel in Japan: escaping from two thugs at a beach,  having many confrontations with brutal and malicious bullies at Annapolis and one officer in the navy; surviving the “flying coffin” Mach 2 jet in Florida; I rebounded by earning a Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship for two years as a community civil right lawyer after law school at UC Hastings in San Francisco. Selected as Director of the Farm Worker Project by the ACLU I won my first trial for six picketers accused of disturbing the peace; won many motions and appeals in 17 class actions and other police misconduct cases against growers, prosecutor, a sheriff and the Teamsters. I worked for one of the most effective civil rights organizations battling against some of the most powerful forces in America.

(Dan at his civil rights law office in Encino California)

From a Naval Aviator, to a Navigator of an Amphibious Ship to Vietnam with 300 marines, I eventually resigned, found my purpose and after law school when I went from a legal aid attorney to a staff attorney for the United Farm Workers and then director of the ACLU farm worker project. I had been propelled into a powerful movement that was an answer to a dream. I submerged myself into the cutting edge of civil rights and consumer litigation as a member of a team with all the energy I possessed. Meanwhile, Joan and I raised a family that fulfilled my vision coupled with my quickly learned advocacy skills that enabled me to continue a profession on a path others said would be impossible—it was one few traveled—but I met enough dedicated individuals whose life shined that I knew it was right for me. Recovering from each fiasco and having learned a lesson each time, I began to define a vision of what might occupy the rest of my life: a pursuit of social justice in whatever way I could find appropriate. The pieces fell together through hard work, determination, and a future with a woman who inspired me and calmed my wildness from swirling rapids to a deep river that refreshed and enabled me to continue against all odds.  Once I found a path that consumed me with passion I aimed as high as I could. No matter what confronts the reader, my story demonstrates an ordinary person can survive major conflicts, disappointments, injuries, risk of death, and still flourish.

(Dan and his lovely family in 1990)

Daniel C. Lavery

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Book Review of All the Difference from Author USNA Class of ’71


Hello Dan,


Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your book.  I jotted down a few things that resonated for me.


My dad was a Beta at University of Cincinnati.


Reef Points!  How can we ever forget them!

Naval Academy indoctrination of plebes in etiquette

Rifle range.  Who can forget those Marines!Scientist CliffsTarget for BB gun


Heinz Lenz was still there for me, too.  (I think he died only in the last couple of years?)


Joe Duff.  He still coached baseball, but he and I never crossed paths.  I made the plebe and varsity sailing teams while I was there (1967-1971), but was not the athlete you were.  But those T-tables plebe year were a Godsend!  And for the sailing team, it was for BOTH fall and spring sets.


Joe Bellino.  I loved watching those games.  And Roger Staubach, how lucky you were to be there during his era, too.  Roger came and talked at our pep rally in 1967 before the Army/Navy game.  (He was trying to make it with the Cowboys at that time.)  We won that year and received "carry on" like you did.

Bancroft Hall Mishipman in Whites parading to meal

Like you, I thoroughly enjoyed being on the "plebe detail" second class year.  As luck would have it, the very next summer the Academy decided to put first class in charge of the detail, so I got to do it again!

Bancroft Hall USNA 1960  

Pensacola.  Great times!  I certainly wasn't the "ace of the base," but finished high enough (4 of 30 that week) to choose any pipeline I wanted (helos, jets, or props)---and they were all open that week.

Vigilante Clamshell Cockpits opened

My A-7 primary instructor  in T-34's nearly shot me for picking helos, but guys from '68 and '69 were telling us how much fun they were having flying them (while we were still back at the Academy).  Plus, I found that whenever I climbed above 5000 feet, I lost the real sensation of flying.  I also found that to be true as a second class midshipman flying in the back of an F-4 at Oceana (the "Diamondbacks").  In helos I knew I would spend most of my flying career at 500 feet and below.  (In Desert Storm we frequently flew at 10 feet and as fast as that Blackhawk would go!)  I never regretted my decision.


Army helo pilot Hugh Thompson.  What courage!  (I used his example in my first book, Inspiring Leadership: Character and Ethics Matter, now used in the Leadership/Ethics curricula at Villanova and Regent Universities.)

Vietnam Hugh Thomspon forgotten hero

Olongapo!  Amazing place.  If you closed your eyes, you actually thought the Rolling Stones were playing---or any other big name group for that matter.  And those kids diving for pesos!  The helo hangout was the Roofadora Club, as I recall.

CHAPTER 27-Y RA5C landing on aircraft carrier 1965

Our helo squadron aboard the USS Constellation in 1974 made three daily trips ("liberty runs") to Bagio, Manila, and Clark AFB while we were in port at Cubi Point/Subic.  We charged a dollar per person (which went to the rec fund).  Needless to say, we were the most popular squadron on the ship, especially among the Filipino stewards!  LOL.

Cesar Chavez and dogs Huelga and Boycott

And last but certainly far from least, your amazing work as a lawyer for the UFW.  What a legacy for you!  You can be justifiably proud of those years!


Anyway, Dan, thought you should know how much I enjoyed your book.  One of these days we'll have to meet for lunch.


All the best,

Stew Fisher (USNA '71)

book cover all the difference                 [contact-form][contact-field label='Name' type='name' required='1'/][contact-field label='Email' type='email' required='1'/][contact-field label='Website' type='url'/][contact-field label='Comment' type='textarea' required='1'/][/contact-form]

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Honor at the U.S. Naval Academy Turned Upside Down


(Meal time at Annapolis requires strict discipline)

How the Naval Academy handled an accusation of an alleged honor violation by a Black first team football player when he had a positive drug test raises some serious questions. Despite recommendations, he was not dismissed for a marijuana violation. A Navy slotback, was the center of a controversy that divided midshipmen and professors at the academy. The academy superintendent,has decided to allow him to remain at the school even though he tested positive for marijuana. The midshipman failed a random drug test administered by the academy.

front gate USNA 1960

His company officer and the Commandant of midshipmen recommended that he be dismissed from the academy. The Academy Superintendent decided against separation and instead punished him with 21 days of restriction and 100 demerits. According to the Navy Military Personnel Manual, the service has a "zero tolerance" policy for drug use. Any academy or Navy service member suspected of drug use is to be administratively processed for separation. But there is wiggle room in the policy that allows the commanding officer to consider extenuating circumstances. The Navy's illegal drug policy requires the commander to ascertain if a service member knowingly consumed an illegal drug.This aspect is one of several issues that must be established for the commander to determine if the Navy's drug use policy was violated.

(Rigid discipline is expected at the Academy)

The midshipman told academy officials he did not knowingly smoke marijuana, according to multiple sources . He said he accidentally smoked it after being passed a cigar he didn't know contained the drug. A witness provided a statement supporting the defense. The Navy Military Personnel Manual indicates if the commanding officer determines the urinalysis result was caused by administrative errors or the drug use was not wrongful because of a prescribed medication, or unknowing ingestion, then the service member shall not be identified as a drug abuser and the positive urinalysis is not a drug abuse incident.

(Instruction to plebes by an upperclassman at the Academy develops character)

Several midshipmen and others at the academy were angered by the decision and one said the result was a double standard involving standout athletes at the academy. The reaction of the brigade to this decision was 100 percent negative some said. Others said this athlete had accumulated multiple honors violations prior to the drug use incident which made him a repeat offender. Some questioned the academy's apparent relaxation of the Honor Concept, and said illicit drug use in the 1960s would have resulted in automatic expulsion with no questions asked.

(All midshipmen take the Oath of Office and are bound by strict rules of conduct)

Yes, times have changed, but some sanctimonious naval officers and midshipmen really believe taking a puff on a cigar and learning it was marijuana qualifies for character assassination, dismissal, and the end of a career while some states and countries recognize marijuana is much milder than the alcohol that runs through the veins of  pompous and self-righteous windbags. Sure discipline is important and violating rules have consequences, especially at the Academy. We had a plebe get miserably drunk and piss on a first classman plebe year in 1960. He received 100 demerits. What is the real difference? Somehow the zero tolerance policy has been elevated to an honor violation? Under whose morality does that make sense? Had he tortured a suspect, massacred any of the unarmed 500 in My Lai including women, grandfathers, children and yes babies, he would have been treated quite differently by Richard Nixon as Lt. Calley was: “In the end, Charlie Company’s commanding officer, Lt. Calley was the only one to be convicted. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor. Within three days he was out of prison, pending appeal, on the personal instructions of President Richard Nixon.

Bancroft Hall Mishipman in Whites parading to meal

He spent the next three years under house arrest at Fort Benning in Georgia. Freed on bail in 1974 his sentence was then cut to 10 years. Later that year he was paroled after completing one third of his sentence" according to historical sources. Capt Medina ordered the operation and dodged guilt somehow. Whose morality prevails? What is the proper punishment for sending men to war to risk their lives on a lie? The Gulf of Tonkin and the invasion of Iraq account for more than 60,000 American deaths and until Nixon was caught trying to attack his accuser credibility with psychiatric records he sent burglars to purloin (Daniel Ellsberg with the Pentagon Papers), he continued to act sanctimoniously about the peace marchers and labeled them, as did Agnew"effete snobs" out to destroy America with their pot smoking and rowdy behavior.

Bancroft Hall USNA 1960

Why is Annapolis the center of such controversy when no college on the planet would dare treat a student that way. Yes discipline at the academy is expected to be harsh to weed out the undesirable. However, we all know G. I.'s smoked  dope, did heroin, and crack, and abused pain killers (meth, etc.). Alcohol abuse is rampant. The Superintendent did a reasonable thing by not jumping to conclusions, ordering an investigation, and imposing 100 demerits to enforce the no tolerance rule and make the point this is not tolerable conduct. The Superintendent acted like a man with life experience rather than a hanging judge that would accept this misconduct as if it were an intentional and malicious act like stealing. To charge him more than that would require a finding that he lied during the investigation. That is an honor violation we all recognize. Meanwhile these opinions on how bad the Academy has become usually start with moaning over the relaxation of plebe year and the introduction of women who wear different uniforms, caps, etc and of course always complain about sexual harassment! Didn't they hear about the gauntlet the women had to run? We naval officers know how to treat a lady! OK it was just an aberration. Ask most any naval aviator. The recent investigation into sexual harassment uncovered 26,000 cases mostly male on male. How does that conduct measure up for the fleet?

Naval Academy with chapel in Middle

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Annapolis 40th Reunion for the Class of 1964 Part II

  • The famous Tailgate for the Navy Football team’s Homecoming celebration preceded the game against Delaware University. On a spectacular day, like many a perfect fall Saturday for any outdoor activity, with a clear blue sky and seventy-five degree weather, the tree leaves glistened with sparkling red, yellow, and shades of brown hues this glorious day, so different from our first drizzling grey experience upon arrival.

(Annapolis walking up Main Street toward State Circle: Click on all photos to expand)

Andy Douglas and his wife, Barbara, joined us for a walk through the city to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. We purchased the tickets from another roommate of mine, Mike Pemberton, who had to offer them to the first buyer when he couldn’t make the Reunion.  Mike was trying to sell his house in Ventura, California and had unexpected delays. He and I communicated to arrange the transfer and ever since became golfing friends.

(Famous Naval Academy Tailgate Shuckers of Oysters)

Eventually we arrived at the Stadium and walked directly to the most amazing Tailgate ever. Under large white canvas canopies, tables with everything you might expect at ritzy Hotel Del Coronado stood inviting everyone. In the middle people hovered alongside a huge salad bar with strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, melon, bananas, mangoes, kiwi, pineapple, apples, oranges lettuce, olives, radishes, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, avocado, red peppers, bacon chips, walnuts, and a wide selection of salad dressings. At the end of the salad bar at least a hundred Bloody Mary cocktails stood waiting for takers at a table where many classmates sipped them mingling with the crowd. Caterers constantly replaced the tall concoctions with celery, olives and horseradish as they disappeared.

(Sumptuous offerings of the Tailgate)

So many classmates from other companies appeared I met friends I had not seen for forty years. Next to the Bloody Mary table, a man in a Budweiser uniform dispensed ice cold Bud Light or Michelob into convenient sixteen-ounce paper cups. To the right outside of the canopy three caterers shucked raw oysters they pulled from barrels of ice. The aroma of roasted garlic, fresh herbs, and oysters fusing into rich chowder lingered beside the shuckers in huge vats. A table with Styrofoam soup bowls stood alongside with plastic spoons, forks, and knives.

(Tables under Tarpaulin for Class of 64 Tailgaters)

A carving table for prime rib roast beef, smoked turkey, and spiral honey glazed ham stood on the other side of the salad bar with a table alongside for rye, wheat, and sourdough bread. All the condiments appeared alongside stacks of paper plates and napkins. Another covered area had more than fifty circular tables that sat eight tailgaters. The next table contained soft drinks, lemonade, ice tea, coffee, and stacks of plastic cups. Across the way, an open bar with bottles of red, rosé, and white wine invited all comers. Another table with vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch, and rum with stood next to another full of mixers and ice where many tailgaters gathered with drinks.

(Kathy and Rich Umfrid enjoy ice cream bars for dessert)

Ray Snyder I knew from the Academy baseball team, sat at a table nearby. He attended Long Beach Millikan High and played halfback on the football team and second base on their baseball team. Having tackled him many times as the safety for Long Beach Jordan after he broke away from our lineman, we had much to discuss. Fast, muscular, and always full of energy during a game and cool, calm and collected afterwards, Ray played any sport with intensity and great skill. He mentioned he had served as a Marine and lived in San Diego area. “Are you going to play in the alumni softball game with the other baseball players in our class?” he asked.

“I didn’t receive an invitation and know nothing about it.”

“That makes no sense. I’ll see what I can do to get you on our softball team. I can’t believe what an incredible Plebe baseball season you had. You hit everything they threw at you Plebe year!”

“Yeah, I had a great year then but after that I had to deal with Joe.”

“Joe never gave me any trouble.”

“I know you did well under him, but he got under my skin until I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and eventually quit.”

“Look me up when you are in San Diego and we’ll play some golf.”

“You can find me at the Lowe’s if you find out I can play ball.”

Joan and I carried our plates full of oysters, roast beef, and salad with Bloody Mary’s in hand when I noticed another baseball player,Chuck Pinney, seated at a nearby table, “Hey Chuck, remember me?”

“Yeah Dan, how could I forget. I just told someone Roger Staubach beat me out of an outfield position on the baseball team that wasn’t too bad. How’re you doing?”

“I’m feeling very fine right now. This is my wife, Joan.”

“Glad to meet you Joan, I knew Dan on the baseball team.”

“Well, we’re going to sit over there with some of my 20th company classmates. Good to see you again.”As we made it to a table with Charles and Elisabeth Heath, I had to laugh about Chuck’s remark, he had such a “gung-ho” attitude that made him a natural for the Marine Corps.

(Naval Academy Cheerleaders held up high Singing and Yelling Cheers)

Halfway into our meal the Naval Academy Cheerleaders arrived to energize the alumni with a strong dose of Navy spirit in preparation for the Delaware game an hour from starting. Shapely and attractive female midshipmen, or should it be midshipwomen, performed admirably making me glad they had advanced into areas only men previously filled. Their hard sensual bodies made me wonder how smooth the transition first occurred.

(Lon Cooke Shouting a word of Encouragement Looking for Seats before Game)

Since that time, unfortunately, a number of Naval Academy Midshipmen, like Air Force Academy, and West Point Cadets, had sexually abused some women. That criminal behavior ended in severe discipline and expulsion from the Academies for some and at least one criminal prosecution. Regardless of that dark side of the relationship, these cheerleaders seemed a welcome addition to the fighting spirit of the Naval Academy Football Team. They performed a pre-game series of acrobatic maneuvers and rousing cheers and songs. When they concluded we gave them a standing ovation.

(Naval Academy Choir Warming up before Football Game)

Harmonic voices drifted through the stadium from it’s loudspeaker system magnifying the men’s choir singing“The Star Spangled Banner” a cappella. Since I belonged to two choirs and loved singing, I quickly moved to a location close enough to see the singers. The Naval Academy Choir, stood behind their director, warming up for the game, and began by singing Navy Blue and Gold. Their rendition sung with feeling in four-part harmony sent chills down my spine. They measured up to my highest expectations as I moved even closer with Joan.

(Navy Mascot Billy The Goat with Handlers before Game)

The sound of drums in cadence with the Naval Academy Marching Band signaled the Brigade had entered the stadium. The crowd had nearly filled the stadium, so Andy, Barbara, Joan and I made our way to the end zone with the alumni. By the time we found our seats through the crowd, the Brigade had filled half of the football field. We watched the precision of the midshipmen making their column right maneuver to the end of the next available portion of the football field.

(Brigade Beginning a Column Left Maneuver before Game)

Each company filed in one by one until all twenty-four filled the field. On command, they shouted in unison a cheer to beat their opponent for today’s game, the Delaware University Blue Hens. That name should not fool anyone into thinking Navy faced a weak team. First in the Atlantic-10 Conference, they had won six of their seven games and led East Coast colleges sending many graduates to the National Football League.

(Brigade Facing Choir and Home Crowd before Game)

After shouting a cheer for Navy, the Brigade on the next command made a classy about-face in unison. They acknowledged the Delaware supporters with a cheer for the Blue Hens followed by tipping their white dress caps toward the opposing fans. Joan mentioned she had never seen such an act of good sportsmanship at any football games she attended in Chicago or at the University of Florida. After the game went back and forth with neither team dominating the score, half time intervened.

By the time the players returned to the field a group of huge Delaware fans some said were their freshman team because of their size, lined up behind the alumni section. They loudly screamed for their team during the most of the third quarter. Some of them made snide and obscene remarks to the alumni fans that offended a few who had more than enough alcohol to challenge them verbally from their seats. Many of us yelled back remarks to their solid line of brutes abusing us with obnoxious taunts to everyone in the Navy end zone section.

Fortunately, Navy got a few breaks, made some good runs and passes to win the game 34-20 overwhelming the Blue Hens and silencing the despicable hoodlums standing behind us. The Brigade with the Naval Academy Choir and Band played and sang with Navy fans standing, a traditional song the midshipmen sing at the end of every football game:

(Naval Academy Choir Singing the National Anthem Facing Brigade)


Now, colleges from sea to sea

May sing of colors true.

But who has better right than we

To hoist a symbol hue?

For sailors brave in battle fair

Since fighting days of old

Have proved a sailor's right to wear

The Navy Blue and Gold.


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Early Shades of Conscience and a Conversation/Confrontation with Dad


(Dan when a Freshman at Duke with Chip at the Naval Academy; click to expand)

Each NROTC midshipman had to swear allegiance to the United States Constitution and to follow the orders of superior military officers to protect our country against all enemies, foreign, and domestic. He must agree willingly, and not under any force or coercion.

The coercion from my Dad’s pressure about the decision made matters worse. Time was closing in on me. In twenty-four hours, I had to pursue an eight-year contract, or drop out. Recalling the professor on the train to Florida who said the National Guard could shoot civilians at civil rights demonstrations when they refused to follow police orders,  made me feel a dread the Navy would soon own me. These thoughts crashed into my mind and left me in a sweat in bed that evening.

The next morning my meeting with the counselor occurred. “Follow your conscience,” he said after interviewing me at length. “Only you can make your own life’s choices. No one should feel they must do what their father wants. Consider what your father and family will think and all the alternatives.”Then he looked me squarely in the eye like my grandmother would when anyone she loved faced a serious life decision. “Many parents believe they owe their sons and daughters a good education without coercion about choice of study, but not all can afford Duke, so it makes an NROTC scholarship desirable,” he offered placing the ball in my court.

Staring out into space as if my mind had encountered an impenetrable fog, I realized he understood my dilemma. Mortified and unnerved, “Thanks. You’ve helped me,” I said.

Considering my options on my knees, I discussed them with Steve, and decided to change my life’s course. The pre-ministerial program offered me the best option and that left open the possibility of baseball if I excelled at Duke.


(Duke Chapel at West Campus)

An hour before the swearing in ceremony I arrived at the NROTC office. “I can’t attend the ‘swearing in ceremony’ due to religious beliefs, will enter the pre-ministerial program, and drop my NROTC scholarship,” I said to the officer in charge.

“Are you sure?” he asked with a quizzical look.


His expression became stern, “You must speak with your father before the ceremony and report the outcome to me.”

During the next thirty minutes I wrote a script of what I should say to Dad, knowing he would try to change my mind and criticize me. Shaking from nerves, I called the Commanding Officer of Military Sea Transportation Service in Washington, D.C.“Captain Lavery will answer from his office,” an office worker said.

(Captain Richard J. Lavery, Jr. USN)

(Click to expand)

“Hello, Dan.”

“Dad, I’ve decided to drop my NROTC scholarship…

“You did what?” blasted my ears from Dad’s shrill interruption.

…and enroll in the pre-ministerial program at Duke.”

Outraged, he tried to interrupt, but I continued my first sentence.

“Why have you done this immature thing?”

Taking a deep breath and trying to sound calm and rational, but with my hands and legs shaking, and my voice wavering with emotion, “I prayed about this decision, Dad.”

“You’re throwing away a future as a naval officer.”

“An adviser warned me of the consequences.”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“He felt sure you wouldn’t support my decision.”

“This is unacceptable.”

I took a breath, “He emphasized I should follow my conscience.”

“You’re about to make the worst decision of your young life,” Dad said in a gasp.

“He warned me I would face criticism for waiting so long.”

“Damn it Danny, you’ll live to regret this.”

“He said I should do what I want to do in my life; not what anybody else wants.”

“The hell with him. You mustn’t do this.”

“I’m sorry I led you to believe a naval career was what I wanted for my future.”

“Do you understand me?"

“I know you and Chip chose the Navy.”

“You can’t do this.”

“The Duke Football team pays for my meals.”

“You’ll be throwing away an extremely valuable scholarship.”

“I’ll only need to pay for my books and room.”

“You’ll cost me money I don’t have.”

“Please accept I’ve made up my mind.”

“I can’t afford Duke.”

“Duke will pay my tuition.”

“You must reconsider now before it’s too late.”

“I have to make my own choice.”

“You’ll cost me much more than you think.”

“I have decided.”

“You’re acting selfish.”

“The officer in charge stated I had to speak to you...

“You’ll regret this for the rest of your life.”

…before I inform him of my final decision.”

“Take out a piece of paper.”

“I’m sorry you don’t agree with me …”

“Write the cost to me of everything caused by you dropping the scholarship.”

“…but, I’ve made the decision.”

“No, I won’t accept this.”

“I’m going to inform him I’ve spoken to you…”

“You’ve made a very foolish decision.”

“…and you’re not happy with it…”

“You’ll regret this.”

“…But I’ve decided what I must do.”

“How could you throw away this scholarship?”

“I must leave now as the ceremony begins shortly.”

“Danny, Don’t…”

“Goodbye, Dad, I have to go.”

Turning and walking to the officer in charge, I said shaking from my father’s attack, “I have told my father of my decision to drop the NROTC scholarship.” His angry expression told me to leave his office.

“Very well Mr. Lavery, I’m sure a happy replacement will fill your spot. Stay here for awhile. You must sign papers to make your decision official.”

My body trembled as I signed the documents. Running to my dorm to release the stress, I informed Steve of the conversation. He tried to help calm me down, but waiting until the last minute made the situation as bad as possible. Unequipped to buck Dad’s plans for me until an intelligent counselor focused my mind to face the consequences, I felt confident the NROTC was not right for me and needed to explore my options without Dad’s coercion. Abandoned by my father when I had finally asserted myself to follow my conscience against his plan for me, I was still unsure of my future. To the officer in charge and my father, I had disrupted the routine of the conveyer belt that moved military men into endless mechanical motions before they had a chance to grasp their freedom. Now my future would depend on my decisions as I had dodged an eight year train to the military life.

Dad wrote a series of nasty letters to me from that day for the next two months. The first three demanded details for every dime he had to pay from my decision. He referred to me as immature, unable to make decisions, unstable, and a failure. The barrage came at a time I needed to take charge of my future, prepare for an adventure in advanced academics, seek intellectual stimulation, and embrace personal discovery. Instead, he bombarded me with critical letters and phone calls repeating the drumbeat of my failings. After grueling football practices, I was depressed instead of enthusiastic.

(Click twice to read: Post card to Grampa after Duke Finals,Note in the Duke Paper about varsity baseball prospects, and Dan at Athens the next month as Merchant Marine)

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