30-Years Ago Today

Posted on 24 Sep 2010 at 3:44pm

Such an interesting anniversary to come back to writing at Pam’s House BlendImage: Autumn Sandeen on graduation from RTC San Diego's boot camp in November, 1980 to today. (There is a lengthy story as to how I ended up offline for two-and-a-half weeks, but that’s a story for the weekend.)

Anywho, let me talk about my 30-year anniversary – my 30-year anniversary of joining the Navy as an enlisted man.

Back in June of 1980, I had just come back to the San Fernando Valley from a year of living in Portland, Oregon. There was a major recession going on, and I couldn’t find another job in Portland after losing my job as a shipping and receiving clerk.

So, I moved back in with Mom and Dad, and got a temporary job at Jack In The Box. At age 21, I realized I had no appreciable job skills, and I figured out that I actually needed some. I figured I could join the Navy like my Dad had, and then get paid to learn some job skills — giving up six years of my life for a slot in the Navy’s Advanced Electronics program.

On August 8th, 1980, I signed up under the Navy’s Delayed Entry Program. On September 24th, my recruiter  drove me to the Military Entrance Processing Center (MEPS) in Los Angeles where I was sworn in as a United States Navy Sailor.

I swore an oath of enlistment:

I, ________ Sandeen, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; Image: Autumn Sandeen reenlisting in 1988that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

A bunch of men and I were driven in a bus from the MEPS station to the Naval Recruiting Training Center (RTC) in San Diego. My first meal in the Navy was at the Denny’s off Interstate 5′s Pico Ave exit. We had left late enough from MEPS station in Los Angeles that we wouldn’t have made it for dinner at RTC San Diego, so we stopped for a salad, hamburger, and fries at that Denny’s in Dana Point, California. We arrived late at RTC San Diego where those of us on that bus were put in a barracks we only slept in for just one night on the way to becoming US Navy recruits.

That all occurred 30-years ago today. To mine and my family’s surprise, I didn’t just spend 6-years in the US Navy, but I actually spent a full 20-year career in the Navy. And oddly, my Naval career really did live up to the Navy’s 1980 slogan: “Not just a job, but an adventure!

And too, 14-months after I retired from the US Navy, I was declared a disabled veteran — a disabled veteran with service connected disabilities.

During my whole career in the Navy, I was closeted. Fire Controlman First Class Petty Officer Autumn Sandeen (Retired). Portrait taken in April, 2009If I admitted to you that I was crossdressing at all, I would have told you I was a transvestite (a term for crossdresser that now is considered by many, if not most, in the United States’ transgender community to be a pejorative). I knew at age 14 that I was a transsexual, but because I wasn’t attracted to men as sexual partners, the version of the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care (HBSOC –the standards of care for crossdressers and transsexuals) of that time would have excluded me from the then University System that was in place from being diagnosed as a transsexual. I didn’t acknowledge I was a transsexual again until I was age 43 — just under two years after retirement from the Navy — which occurred after a number of revisions of the HBSOC.

In my last year of service, I was sexually harassed. You can read about my Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) story here.

Again, 30-years ago today I enlisted in the US Navy. In six days (September 30, 2010), it will be the 10-year anniversary of my retirement from the US Navy.

During a week where we saw that the US Senate couldn’t pass legislation that would have allowed for the eventual repeal of DADT — legislation that over 3/4′s of adult US citizens support the repeal of — I’m reminded that the freedoms that those in the US military services are in place to protect from enemies, both foreign and domestic, don’t apply to all US citizens. But, even so, I’m still proud of my 20 years of service — service that began 30-years ago today.
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