It was 27 years ago today, Decemver 3, 1988, that I landed at the airport in Naples, Italy to begin a 30-month tour there. I had been in the Navy for six months. Naples was my first and only duty station. I had just finished training as an “Aerographer’s Mate,” and my job was to take weather observations. It was a terrific job. It really was.
I had just turned 19. I had graduated high school earlier that year. At the time me being in Naples just seemed like the natural order of things. Looking back, it seems a ridiculous thing to be doing as a 19-year-old. But as a 19-year-old, I could not contain my excitement at the opportunities that awaited.
I was met at the airport by my “sponsor” (a co-worker who was assigned to show me the ropes) and her boyfriend. They drove me to the hotel that would be my home for the next 3 weeks while I waited for an opening at the barracks. I should have been exhausted after flying across the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, but I was too excited to be tired.
They took me to Pompeii.
I remember watching a film on Pompeii in the sixth grade. I recall being amazed that a flourishing town could be buried as it was under volcanic ash and be completely snuffed out. I was even more amazed that, centuries later, the town would be re-discovered and dug out and that something that old — more than 1,900 years old — could even still exist. Never could I have imagined that I would someday visit that place. So there I was, on my first of what would be a long list of excursions during the next two-and-a-half years.
I am grateful for that experience and all that came with it. I’d do it again. Sometimes college can wait.