Enlisting in the Navy was the best move I ever made in my life.
I took recruit training in San Diego and was transferred to hospital corpsman school in Bainbridge, Maryland. As a hospital corpsman, I was transferred to Camp LeJune Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, North Carolina.
At LeJune, I helped treat severely wounded Marines back from the battlefield, and helped remove, surgically, shrapnel from their wounds. I also worked in the psychiatric ward, helping with Marines who were traumatized by war.
After LeJune, I went to electrocardiogram school at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia. My next duty station was the Norfolk Naval Air Station Infirmary in Norfolk, Virginia. My last duty station was aboard the battleship USS Iowa.
I like to tell the story about the only ship in the U.S. Navy with a bathtub. The Iowa transported President FDR to a meeting with Churchill in North Africa in 1943. FDR was suffering pain from his bout with infantile paralysis. His doctor prescribed warm baths every day. The U.S. Navy installed a bath tub on the Iowa for FDR. The bath tub is still there. The USS Iowa is now a museum at a port near Los Angeles.
Using the G.I. Bill, I entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I graduated with a bachelor of science degree in bacteriology, with a minor in chemistry.
After graduation, I worked mainly in medical research projects at the University of North Carolina, Duke Medical Center and the Veterans Administration hospital in Durham, North Carolina.
While at the VA hospital, I discovered the synergism between sulfur drugs, Polymxcin and Neomycin. The discovery is printed in a 1964 copy of Nature magazine, published in London, England. My former supervisor at Duke, Dr. Osterhout, tried this combination on severe burn patients with life-threatening infections and it worked.
From this publication, some pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey developed the ointments Triple Antibiotic and Neosporin.
In 1965, I took an interest in computer science and took as many courses as I could find. With the Veterans Administration, I got a job in Washington, D.C., in developing an automated computer hospital system. A group of us worked on the project. My contribution to this project was with the laboratory reporting system, blood analysis, etc., because this was my field of expertise.
I taught several computer courses during evening hours for many years with the graduate school in Washington, D.C. I developed a few of these courses. I authored a book, “Abend Analysis Made Simple,” a subject I taught for several years.
I later took a job with the Environmental Protection Agency, shortly after it was created. They were looking for someone to head up the water Quality Data Base System—someone who knew computer science and who could also communicate with biological scientists out in the field collecting water samples for analysis in the rivers throughout the nation.
I got the job. I became the data base administrator for the water quality file at EPA.
When I moved to Charles Town in 1999, I met doctors Dick and Fran Lateral. They both were professors at Shepherd University. They both worked and taught biological science, including bacteriology. So, we had a lot to talk about. Especially, when I learned that Dick collected weekly water samples from the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, analyzed them and stored them in the West Virginia state EPA database.
I told Dick that I edited and stored that data in the national EPA computer database in Washington, D.C., every weekend.
During my career, my wife Carol, who passed in 2014, dragged me to a square dance. It was an introductory dance to get people into lessons. I wanted to watch a Redskins football game that Friday night. She won. I had so much fun that evening I signed up for 25 lessons. After three lessons I asked the caller how I could get started calling square dances. He loaned me a couple of records and said “practice, practice and practice some more.”
I went to callers school. The teacher at each session would say, “square dancers are the friendliest people in the world.” I called square dances and taught lessons for the Mountaineer Twirlers here in Charles Town. I also filled in for the regular caller for the Panhandlers Club in Martinsburg. The most fun in my life has been square dancing. The best part of square dancing is the people you meet and the friends you make.
I owe my entire career to the four years I served in the U.S. Navy and the G.I. Bill. It was a good trip. I, as well as other corpsmen, have received praises from former Marines who were on the battlefields, where corpsmen tended the wounded. Some would say, “You guys saved my life.”
To them, I say, Semper Fi.