I was about 4 years old and had only one good friend to play with within our small Dutch community. The fact that he was over twice my size and was not of Dutch heritage made little difference to me and, in fact, I was happy to play with him because he was not like the other kids. He seemed more genuine and even protective of me… and at four years of age, who doesn’t want a Goliath on their side.
One afternoon during play I threw a rock at Gordy and so he threw one back at me. I don’t think he threw it that hard but it happened to hit a small artery in my forehead and blood began squirting out. A neighbor lady saw the blood and within minutes the whole community was around me. There was a lot of discussion about “Pollock’s” and “Retarded kids” and then someone suggested calling the Police. It was unanimous, except for me and I began to cry. The adults around me coached me to say nothing about throwing the first rock; only to say Gordy threw one at me. I became nauseated when the police arrived. I didn’t need to say anything, everyone told the story they had agreed on and the only thing the policeman asked of me is, “Tell me son, is all of what these people said true?” I wanted to say NO, but instead nodded my head in agreement, hoping it wouldn’t count. I went home feeling ashamed and went straight to my room wishing the day had never happened.
The following morning I had forgotten all about the near-death experience and as I ran out the door with the intentions of playing with Gordy again, Mom stopped me and told me that I could not go over to his house anymore. I sat on our front porch for the rest of the day and watched as a large truck pulled up to Gordy’s house and began putting up a chain-linked fence all around it. Although Gordy and his family continued to live in our community, Gordy was never again allowed out of the cage and I was never allowed to go in it. I bore the weight of Gordy’s imprisonment every time I passed that fence and obviously still do. Gordy was sent to an institution when he was 18 years old and I never saw him again. I don’t think it was coincidental that after graduation from High School, several years later, I took my first job working in an institution for retarded people. That one incident has probably influenced my life more than any other and I think I began pulling away from society at that point.
School was a nightmare for me, from the first day of First Grade to the last day of Twelfth Grade. I made a horrible miscalculation in jumping a mud puddle on the first day of school and was reminded of that humiliating experience by my classmates for the next two years. Fortunately for me, my status was upgraded when Stevie was thrown through the windshield of the family car in an accident and returned a few months later not quite the same. He never fully recovered from the head injury and became the object of everyone’s ridicule, taking some of the pressure off of me. I remained friends with Steven throughout High School but lost track of him once we graduated. Several years later I was told that he had committed suicide at the age of 25.
I graduated from High School in 1963 and got my first job as an orderly in a Psychiatric Hospital a few months later. I was fascinated by Psychology and decided to take a one-year nursing course to determine if I wanted to pursue a college degree in that field. During training, however, the Vietnam War began to escalate, and just before graduation, a reoccurring dream told me I would be going there. In June of 1966, I enlisted in the Navy with the intention of becoming a Marine Corps Medic. The recruiter smiled when I told him what I wanted and said “No Problem son, I can guarantee you an assignment in Vietnam if that is what you want.” It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, however, and so, just after the TET Offensive of 1968, I traded orders with another Corpsman, who broke down when he received his orders. He had just gotten married and his wife was expecting their first child. Several years later I wrote this account of my experience. For those war buffs who would like to follow the military account, you can look it up on the Internet under Operation Allen Brooke. There is mentioned in that account of a short unnamed operation, which we were told was Operation Mallard Duck, but evidently was never recorded as such in any of the military records.