W&L for all of its tradition and revelry offered no practical education. Professors had taught only theory and mostly uninteresting theory at that. With Vietnam awaiting anyone who quit the dull game, frat boy Ansel Head had focused on perfecting his social graces and maintaining his draft deferment with gentlemen’s C’s. He knew so little, he thought that work important. Despite the fact that in four days any boy could have learned everything practical being offered during the four years, graduation had been unclear for the three Natural Bridge renters until the final grade from the last exam. Two of the three made it. Head was one of them.
No young man who had wasted four years on a four day course could resist the recruiting poster showing a Navy F-4 Phantom jet armed to the teeth, poised on the catapult, engines at full throttle, steam escaping from behind the shuttle, the catapult officer on one knee, arm extended, pointing straight down the deck. To be a Navy fighter pilot, now there was a practical education.
The alternative – a platoon leader in a Southeast Asian jungle – seemed less instructive. And so, with little more analysis than that, he answered his country’s call, before first being called, and asked to be considered by the Navy. He received his answer soon after graduation: Report to Aviation Officers Candidate School in Pensacola in October.
His father, showing his apprehension, was uncertain whether this war was worth his son’s exposure. Things seemed less clear than when he had volunteered immediately following Pearl Harbor even though he was almost thirty, had a wife and baby, and could have skipped the whole affair. The would be Naval Aviator’s mother and grandmother wept upon hearing his decision.