Stan Gerding

Dear Grandson: And Then Your Dad Arrived

In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding talks about returning to work life after his tour in Vietnam, having a son, and deciding to reenlist in the Navy.

 

Dear Grandson,

I moved back to Northern Kentucky looking for some normalcy in my life and I knew that I had a job waiting for me at Kroger’s. You see, by law, your previous employer had to give you a job when you came back from the service.

Here I am, back from the military, with a pregnant wife—by the way, Grandson, that is your father—due sometime in May 1971. I went back to Kroger’s and talked to the manager there, his name was Tom Theis, and I think he felt like I was putting pressure on him by asking for my job back and he did not have to give me full-time hours nor did he have to give me the same job that I held when I left for the Navy.

He started me out working 32 hours a week on the day shift doing various assignments, just to see what kind of worker I was, and he quickly found out that I was a go-getter and no assignment was to tough, because previously I worked almost every department in the store. I heard there was a position opening on the night shift and, sure enough, the manager came to me and asked me to go on nights—of course, with a raise in pay and it would be full-time. I needed the extra money with a baby on the way.

Nights? Yikes! No fun, lots of hard work. It was our job to make sure the shelves were fully stocked and the floors were cleaned before we opened in the morning. The night leader was a fella I knew in high school, but he was kind of a weak leader because he used to let the guys walk all over him. The manager finally let him go and the manager came to me and asked me to take over the night leader position, which I did because it was more money.

On May 12, 1971, your dad was born. We named him Gregory Wayne Gerding and I already knew he was going to be a star. He was chunky, had a big head and crossed eyes, what more could you ask for? I was a proud father and thought he was beautiful. Your dad was a wonder to me, he was a good baby but did have a lot of ear infections. It seems we constantly had him on antibiotics. Many times, I worried about him especially with high fevers and being very lethargic.

Here your dad is, as a baby:

 

 

He was a beautiful baby, but something must happen to those stupid looking mutton chop sideburns on his dad, I guess that was the style at that time.

I started looking around for colleges to go to, even took a ride to Bowling Green Kentucky to visit Western Kentucky University because they had a good Business Administration program, but there wasn’t any work for me there unless I wanted to deliver pizzas. Not for me, back to Kroger’s.

Kroger’s did have a degree program where you could go to school and work as an assistant manager and upon graduation you could possibly work as a manager of a store. For me to be seen, I needed to be back on days. I went to the manager and asked if he would put me on as the head grocery clerk, but he said that was not up to him, because that position was selected by the district manager. So, I asked the manager to talk to the district manager and he said he would.

I heard the district manager was in on this one Friday and I asked the manager if he had talked to him about me and he said that he did not and promised me that he would the next time the district manager came for a visit. The next time came and went, and the manager told me that he did not talk to him about me again and that he would the next time.

In the meantime, I went over to the Navy recruiter’s office and talked to him about me reenlisting. He said, “Absolutely,” and he got on the phone right away and talked to a detailer in Washington, D.C., who agreed that they would take me back. I told them I would get back to him the following Monday. That night, I went into work and went to the manager and asked him if he talked with the district manager about me and he said he did not, so I gave two weeks’ notice. He looked at me in total amazement and said, “What the heck are you going to do?” I looked at him with the most serious look I could muster up and said, “I’m going back in the Navy, but it really is none of your business.” I proceeded to the time clock, punched in, and went to work. Later, he came back to me and said, “Let’s talk about this.” I told him, “There’s nothing to talk about, I made up my mind.”

That Monday, I called the recruiter and told him I was ready to join again. The detailer called me and said he wanted to send me to an AFEES station in Philadelphia. AFEES stood for Armed Forces Examining and Entrance Station, which was what they called places where new recruits and inductees would go for entrance exams and physicals to make sure they had some intelligence and were physically fit. This was also the station that examined individuals that were drafted.

Most often, if a person back then was drafted and were qualified, they would be sent to the Army or the Marine Corps. I never saw anyone drafted in the Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard, because those recruiters usually had plenty of candidates for their prospective service and, by the way, you had more of a chance going to combat in the Army or Marine Corps. This would be a two-year tour for me, but my reenlistment was for four years, which meant two years in Philly and then on to someplace else.

 

We saw all kinds of people that were there for physicals: 1) people who really wanted to go in the military and 2) we had some real characters that would do almost anything not to go into the military.

 

I had to go to the Naval Base at Philadelphia before I checked in at the AFEES for a little indoctrination back into the Navy and for uniform issue. I was there about two weeks and then I checked into AFEES, downtown Philly at 401 N. Broad Street. Since I was a corpsman, of course they sent me to the medical department where I would assist in the physicals of the recruits.

The NCO of the medical department was an E-7 Sergeant First Class Hemphill and under him was an E-6 Air Force, E-6 Army, E-5 Army, and three E-3’s Army, there were two Army medical doctors—one a captain, the other a major—and one Navy guy, me. I got along with everybody and worked as a team, of course the job was a piece of cake. The physical consisted of height and weight, vital signs, blood pressure, pulse, and temperature, and if they wore glasses we had to get the prescription by checking their glasses with a lensometer, color vision, chest x-ray which was done by a civilian x-ray technician, blood draw also done by a civilian lab tech and all they tested for was syphilis, and then we would test their eyes before going on the line for the doctor to do their part of the medical exam.

We saw all kinds of people that were there for physicals: 1) people who really wanted to go in the military and 2) we had some real characters that would do almost anything not to go into the military.

There was one large room in the building that was used strictly for the draftees and the Army put a small but muscular Corporal in charge of that room and the draftees. His name was Rodriquez, but I don’t remember his first name because people only called him by his last name, or just Rod. This was one tough son of a gun and these draftees learned really quick that he was in charge. I saw him physically pick up a guy by the neck and had him off the ground about two feet in the air, because he was not doing what he was told to do.

Another time, there was a bank on the first floor of the building and Rod went down there with his paycheck to cash it when some guy started to rob the bank. Rod grabbed the guy’s arm that had the gun, held the arm up in the air, and told the robber you are not going to rob this bank until I get my money. The police officer that was in the bank quickly came over and placed the robber under arrest.

Now that’s tough.

The draft was still going on for the first year that I was there and then congress stopped the draft and made the military all voluntary. Vietnam was over, and congress didn’t see a need for the draft anymore.

More later, Grandson.

 

Love,
Grandpa

 

Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.

 

Stan Gerding

Stan Gerding is a retired veteran after 23 years in the Navy that included a tour of duty in Vietnam as a Corpsman, 1968-1969. He has since been the administrator of various healthcare organizations, a high school science teacher, an author, a singer, and is the father of Greg Gerding and grandfather to Jack.

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