ROCKWALL COUNTY, TX (Aug. 24, 2022) With the exception of physicians, most people end up in their life career path more by accident than carefully well thought out planning.
Think about that. When you got ready to graduate from high school, the really first decision you had to make in life was “what am I going to do now”? Those who had decided they wanted to be a doctor knew that decision had to be made early. To get into the right medical schools, these potential Docs knew they had to focus on their grades, or they would never be accepted into the medical schools needed for them to achieve their goal.
But for the rest of us, what happened after that senior year in high school is anybody’s guess!
Take me for example. I graduated from high school in 1954. For those who can remember that far back, the Korean War was just ending. Papers and magazines were full of talk about the economy and how the United States needed more engineers to keep up with the arms race and to meet the manufacturing requirements of our rapidly growing economy.
Since I had been pretty good in math and physics in high school, being an engineer seemed a logical choice.
I applied for entry into our state university, the University of Illinois, and was promptly admitted as the entrance requirements in those days were: not being in the bottom 10% of your graduating class, have $50 for tuition, and be an in-state student.
However now the quirk of fate settles in. In those days many of the state universities were “land grant” schools. This meant that each entering male student was required to enroll in two years of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC). In this program, the students were issued uniforms, taught how to march and drill, and learned some of the basic military subjects.
Registration day came where each student had to physically walk around to the various buildings where each department was located and sign up for your desired course. As you might expect, it was not a friendly environment, and the day became longer and longer as one trudged from building to building trying to get the right classes at the right time.
Finally, all courses were signed up for and it became time to go all the way to the other end of campus and sign up for ROTC. It is also noteworthy that the ROTC sign up was in the same building where you paid your tuition and fees and completed the registration process. There was some urgency to “get it all over with and go do something a lot more fun”.
When signing up for ROTC back in those days, the student had two choices: the Army or the Air Force. For some unknown reason, when enrolled in the Air Force ROTC, they provided each student shoes to go with their uniform. With the Army, you had to buy your own shoes.
Will, since the intent was to only spend the required two years in the ROTC program, it was an easy choice….go with the Air Force and get the free shoes to keep.
But you should have seen the line to sign up for ROTC. The Air Force line stretched all the way around the building where the Army line was hardly a line at all.
Just sign up for the Army and registration is over and no more standing in line. Easy Choice! All I was going to do was spend my required two years and then go on to be an engineer and enter the work force and make “Lots of Money”.
Long story short. I really liked the Army ROTC, signed up for an additional two years and was commissioned as an officer in the US Army Signal Corps on graduating. Twenty years later I retired from the Army, and because of my communication experience, went to work for an IBM company and then MCI Telecommunications.
I retired from there and moved to this area where I became dissatisfied with some of the local politics and how decisions were made. I knocked on about 3500 doors and was elected as County Judge.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would make a career out of the Army, then work for IBM and then get elected as County Judge.
I am sure there are exceptions and some people carefully plan their career down to the last focus. But there are others like me that are very happy with the way things have worked out.
Just don’t ask them to lay out their plan when they first graduate from high school!!!
Submitted Letter to the Editor/Guest Column contributed by Jerry Hogan, a former Rockwall County Judge. He can be reached at email@example.com or 214-394-4033.
Views expressed in Letters to the Editor are the opinion of sourced authors.
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