The Value Of Your Eagle

In 1969, while a senior in high school, I decided I wanted to go through college in the Naval Reserve Officer Training program (NROTC). I applied like any other high school senior would do. Unfortunately I was rejected. The reason was because a few years earlier I had surgery on both knees for cartilage issues (known as Chondromalacia, not caused by injury). When I received the rejection notification, I asked for an appeal.

The process for appealing the decision meant a full-blown medical exam in the Boston Federal building by Navy doctors. They took x-rays and lots of other tests. Their decision, again, was that due to the stresses involved with training, my knees would continue to give me trouble and I would not be a good risk.

My response, in a nutshell, was hogwash. I sent a letter of protest to the Director of Medical Services for the Navy in Washington, D.C. to have them review my case. Buried in the application process for NROTC was information about organizations you had been involved in and awards and honors received. I had mentioned that I was an Eagle Scout. To make a continuing long story somewhat shorter, the ultimate response back from Washington was that "if the boy could handle the rigors of earning what was necessary to become an Eagle Scout, he would very likely be able to handle the physical requirements of the NROTC program". The doctors in Washington reversed the decision and I was given a clean bill of health.

Unfortunately it took almost my entire senior year in high school to get this resolved. There were no more NROTC slots available at any school in the country. They suggested I reapply again in a year. I was a bit upset, to say the least and I did not go to a school the offered NROTC.

In my sophomore year of college, a Navy recruiter was on campus talking about the Aviation Officer Candidate (AOC and AVROC) program. This program trained you to become a Navy pilot. The program did not pay any of your college costs, but upon commissioning gave you "over 2 years" pay status. I applied. Because I had the medical stuff from the NROTC application, there were no issues this time. When the doctors, this time in Cleveland, started to say "oh oh" because of my knees, I dragged out the letter from Washington and all questions stopped.

I entered the AVROC program at the beginning of my junior year in college and was commissioned as an Ensign in the USNR after my college graduation and solo flight from Basic Flight training. I went on to become a Naval Aviator. As much as my knees are from time to time sore, they did not have any effect on my training.

A few years later in life, I was able to beat out other competitors for a specific job because I had been a Navy pilot. The interviewer (future boss) was a Colonel in the Air Force reserve. 

The moral of all of this is that had I not received my Eagle, I would not have been able to be a Naval Aviator and would not likely have gotten that other position. 

Your Eagle is important. It is valued by many, including those that were not lucky enough to have received it themselves.

Randy Wilson
ASM, Troop 729