Fork in the Road

More old photos, more memories. Not that I need a photograph to recall the summer of 1984. Summer camp that year was spent not at Camp Shenandoah, but at Camp Upshur, for Officer Candidates School. At Camp Shenandoah I carried a walking stick; at Camp Upshur I carried an M-16. At Camp Shenandoah I was trying to earn merit badges; at Camp Upshur I was trying to earn the gold bar of a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

I wonder about the guys in this photo. How many of them went to Kuwait? To Afghanistan? To Iraq? Were any killed or injured? Are any still in the Corps? If so, the guys in the khaki shirts in the front row would be addressing them respectfully as “Colonel” and not contemptuously as “Candidate” now.

As for me, the summer of 1984 was the sum total of my experience in the Marine Corps. Four or five weeks into the program, I felt like my body was falling apart. Slowed by a bum knee and fatigued to the point where I was letting the drill instructors get inside my head and stay there, I believed that I was at risk for washing out, and that was a prospect that I could not bear. So I “dropped on request”, with the stated intention of reapplying once I was healed up.

Long story short, I didn’t reapply. As I look back over the last 42 years, this was one of the proverbial “forks in the road” of my life that stands out. If I had stuck with the Marine Corps, would I have met my wife? Would I have my 4 kids? Would my life bear any resemblance to what it does today?

Doubtful. And so, while I have immense respect for those who have served, and an occasional twinge of remorse at not finishing what I had started, I am grateful beyond words that I took the fork in the road that I did.

By the way, I’m in the middle row, 3rd from left. My wife hates this photo – says I look “mean”. Believe me, I felt mean.

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10 Responses to Fork in the Road

  1. Rick Jansky says:

    Similar fork. Similar ending. My summer camp was in 1981. While I did get through to graduation, subsequent college years presented too many choices and obstacles resulting in my path taking me away from The Corps. Now at 43 years of age I too often wonder what if. Excellent post. Semper Fi!!

  2. El Donaldo says:

    What if? I spent a summer at Upshur 30 years ago and ended up a lieutenant for 4 plus years on active duty. OCS was the best time in uniform. So you really did not miss anything! The FMF was one big letdown, where brown nosing, bureaucratic boredom, and playing golf with the field grade officers were the keys to success. One guy in my Upshur platoon is still active as a full bird col. naval aviator. Another became a reservist and went down with his f-18 in the Atlantic a few years ago. Not a cool way to die. Semper Fi? More like FTMC! Be cool, man!

  3. […] So what’s next? Probably one more marathon in the fall. In a couple of weeks I’ll be submitting my entry for the lottery to get into the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26. I’ve always thought there would be a satisfying “so there, take that” sort of irony in me running that race. […]

  4. Gary Krupp says:

    I found this site by googling ocs camp upshur. Like yourself and another post, I completed PLC juniors in the summer of 1982. Did not return for seniors. Have always regretted not returning but sure am glad I have my kids today. It seamed back then the military was not looked upon favorably as a career option. I think that is sad and am glad things have changed. I remember all the strange comments I received once I returned to campus. Maybe feeling out of place stopped me from continuing. I have always felt a draft would be a good thing for everyone to have the same experience. Oh well.

    • Dan Chandler says:

      Don’t know if you’ll ever see this. I was there the same summer. Lima 1, I think. Seemed to be a strange time for the Corps. I remember they day they announced they sent the Marines to Beirut to evacuate the PLO. It was like Christmas at Upshur. A year later the barracks was bombed.

      I have the same wonders about the fork in the road. A friend just retired this year, a full colonel.

      Dan Chandler

  5. David Mott says:

    I was a member of Kilo company 4th platoon during the June 1-July 15th 1984 class at Camp Upshur. From the photo you must have been in the second class; July-August 30 as I do not recognize either your Seargent Instructor, Platoon Seargent nor you Platoon Commander. While I finished the entire PLC junior course, like you I did not return for PLC senior. I sometimes wonder ‘what if’ and ‘I wonder who stayed in and what they are doing’, but more often than not I simply look back on those 6 weeks fondly and decide that the road I took was pretty good too.

    Semper Fi

    • Wags Outside says:

      David, looks like we just missed each other. Matter of fact, I was originally scheduled for the first session, but I caught some kind of bug before reporting and they let me defer until the second session. Glad to hear that the road you took has been a good one.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Candidate Wagoner! I was surfing the net and your photo caught my eye. I have the same photo in my living room. I went on to spend 11 years on active duty as one of Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. I’m now completing 20 years as an FBI Agent, currently in Minneapolis, MN. The only other one of our group I know anything about is Candidate Johnson (top row, third from the left) who is now a Secret Service Agent in Minneapolis. I’m Candidate Lokensgard second row down, all the way to the right.

    • Wags Outside says:

      Candidate Lokensgard – Wow! I really appreciate you checking in. It’s been 32 years since OCS, and you are the first contact I’ve had with anyone from Kilo/3. I remember you and Johnson – congratulations on (and thank you for) your service. As I said in the post (written nearly 10 years ago) I wound up taking a different path – went to law school, became a litigator, and then moved into a career in legal publishing – currently in Arlington, VA. I hope that life is treating you well.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sounds like you’ve done very well for yourself. I went to Pensacola with a flight contract and got NPQed and became an aircraft maintenance officer for a CH-53 squadron at Tustin, CA (now closed). Made a couple of deployments to Okinawa and then went to the Naval Post-Graduate School in Monterey and got a Masters in Weapon Systems Engineering. Married a girl I met in southern California and transferred to the US Naval Academy and taught physics there for three years before resigning and joining the FBI. Spent 10 years in Chicago with the Bureau and am finally back home in Minnesota, looking for my third career. I know what you mean about “forks in the road”. When I left the Marines I was ready to leave govt. service and had several job offers in the engineering field. I’ve often wondered what life would have been like if I had taken one of those jobs.

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