In his latest “Dear Grandson,” Stan Gerding talks about his continuing career and education, and playing baseball with his son.
I am on rotation in the hospital lab and signing up for college classes from Chapman College of Orange California. I am taking an English and Math course that I will be attending two nights a week for ten weeks and I will earn six semester hours towards my Associate Degree with George Washington University of Washington, D.C. The courses were offered on base in one of the lab school’s classrooms.
I thoroughly enjoyed my rotation and the night classes, and I still had some free evenings to spend with your dad. We would go in the backyard and I would pitch to your dad with a plastic ball and he would hit it like nobody’s business. I could see that we would have to either increase the size of the yard or just go to a nearby baseball field and start pitching to him with a real hardball and let him bat with a real bat.
I bought some baseballs and a bat and we headed to the baseball field for batting practice. I got your dad situated in the batter’s box next to home plate and I went to the pitching mound to start pitching to your dad. Lo and behold, the very first pitch I threw hit him in the head. He went down and started crying. I felt terrible and ran to him to look at his head, I pictured an open wound gushing of blood and thought for sure this would end my son’s career in baseball.
When I got to him, I looked at his head and saw a lump on his noggin. I told him, “I am so sorry. We can go home now.”
He looked at me and said, “I don’t want to go home. I want to hit some baseballs.”
I thought, Holy moly, the baseball career is back on, yes!
He took to hitting baseballs like it was nothing and he was pretty good, knocking them out of the infield. We did this for about an hour or so and then we went to the bench to sit down for awhile before we headed home. This gave me a chance to look at the lump on his head and talk to him. I told him he was my “Bud” and that I was so proud of him. He looked at me and said, “You are my Bud too.” From that day forward, we always called each other “Bud” and still do.
I told him he was my “Bud” and that I was so proud of him. He looked at me and said, “You are my Bud too.” From that day forward, we always called each other “Bud” and still do.
Greg was going to kindergarten at that time and all was going well with him adjusting to school. He was like a sponge just soaking up all that he was being taught.
I soon finished my rotation and was back in the classroom for the next three months of the curriculum which included Microbiology, Parasitology, Serology, and Blood Banking (Immunohematology). I really struggled with Blood Banking and I’m not sure whether it was me or was it the instructor.
The concept of antigen-antibody reactions just wasn’t clear to me. I made it through the next three months with very good grades except for Blood Banking, I managed a C. We began our last rotation and my first stop was to Blood Banking (oh no) and I also signed up for two more college classes so I could get my associate degree at the end of the program.
My first day in the Blood Bank was a real dilly, I met the man in charge of the Blood Bank and his name was Mike Pratt and he was a Lieutenant Commander. I told him this was my weakest subject and that I struggled through the didactic phase. He took me to the back room where there was a chalkboard and he commenced to teach me about antigen-antibody reactions. In approximately one hour, everything came clear to me and I totally understood the concept of antigen-antibody reactions and I felt like a million dollars. He told me that this is the way it should be taught in Lab school and no one should ever have a problem with this concept.
I went on to finish my rotation in Blood bank and I got a visit from the Lab school officer LCdr Meyers and he told me he wanted me to take the Blood Bank final one more time. I took the exam that afternoon and I got every question right, so the Commander changed my grade to a solid B. I was on cloud nine.
We had about three weeks to go and we received our orders for our next duty station. I was hoping for a ship out of San Diego, mainly for the experience and it would look good for getting my next rank which was Chief. When they gave me my orders, I was very disappointed because they gave me 1st FSSG Camp Pendleton, California. This stood for 1st Fleet Service Support Group out of Camp Pendleton, California; back with the Marines, just because I had the 8404 designation, Field-trained corpsman with the Marine Corps, and that designation would hurt me later down the road.
I finished up my schooling and we were ready to graduate and there was an award that was given out every class from a civilian organization called The Nuclear Laboratory. It usually was given to the sailor who was 1st in their class and God knows I wasn’t first in the class, but I was given this award for my overall leadership in the class. I was proud on graduation day.
Now, onto Camp Pendleton, California, for a three-year tour with the Marines. That year, there was a recruiting advertisement on the television by the Marine Corps saying, “The Marines are looking for a few good men.” Kind of catchy. But I ran across this bumper sticker that said, “The Marines already have a few good men, Navy Corpsmen.” I bought one and put it on my car. Now, I am not one for putting bumper stickers or anything on my car, but I really liked this one.
Moving again, this time to a home that we rented in Vista, California, not far from the rear gate of Camp Pendleton and next to Carlsbad where your father would be attending first grade and be of age to join the Carlsbad Boys and Girls Club and tee ball.
I checked in at the Headquarters of 1st FSSG and was told that I would be temporarily assigned to the Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton to work in the main Laboratory. I got my temporary orders and went to the Naval Hospital and checked in at the Personnel department and was sent to the Laboratory to meet with the Medical Service officer of the lab to be assigned to a department within the lab. I checked in with a Lt. Greenfield who told me I would be working in the Blood Bank with HM1 Priscilla Walker who oversaw the blood bank. I went to the Blood Bank and introduced myself to HM1 Walker and she quickly told me to call her Percy. We got along just fine.
Now, I could be called back to 1st FSSG at anytime because this assignment to the hospital was temporary.
More later, Grandson.
Stan Gerding is the author of the book The Nam “Doc” A Navy Corpsman’s Story.