Jerry Simms was a rather shy and bashful young man of 24 years of age in 1968 when he entered the Navy to fulfill his military obligation for the Viet Nam War. Jerry was also six feet two inches in height and weighed 175 pounds. Jerry had come from a family of people who had always answered the call to duty to serve in the military in times of war. The difference, Jerry had broke tradition with the rest to serve in a naval service. All the rest had always served in the Army. Jerry wasn't one to keep traditions well, although his ideal was to be as his great--grandfather who had served in the Civil War on the side of the Confederacy as an officer.
He was originally supposed to go to the Great Lakes Training Naval Training Center in the Chicago area, however, due to the increased demand for fresh trainees fortunately he was sparred the bitter cold weather of the Great Lakes Region and sent to San Diego California instead. Needless to say the military was a cultural shock to a country boy who had been born and raised in the Ouchita Mountians of Arkansas in the 1950's. California was a metropolitan and cosmopolitan region with masses of people of all ethnic backgrounds and persuasions.
Upon completion of Navy Boot Camp (complete with a culture shock of it's own) again things went "strange." Jerry had the dubious distinction of being selected to Hospital Corpsman class A School. Not that the nature of the selection had at that time had occurred to him, not at least the nature of what it was that corpsmen did or went for assignments after completion of the school. All selected for the various schools were usually sent to a holding barracks to be used in such grand tasks as painting, mess duty in the local naval kitchens called in the Navy as "Galley's," cleaning up general messes on base, mowing the grass, and other glorious assignments. Such was not the case here. Jerry was assigned temporarily to one of the Navy's Fast Frigates, which was in port for refitting and replenishment.
In 1968 enlisted men in the Navy did not have the privilege that officers had to keep their civilian clothes in the barracks and on ships. Most kept their civilian clothing in locker clubs in San Diego. It was dictated by Navy Regulations that all enlisted men must go on liberty in dress uniform that lead to the necessity of the locker club industry in naval cities such as Norfolk, San Diego, San Francisco and the like. It was also this requirement that caused Jerry to be in the Navy Exchange on that Saturday morning in early May. In fact Jerry's hair style was still in the bur style because he had been out of boot camp only one week and had weekend liberty. No watches for two whole days, and no having to check in with the Officer of the Deck on the ship he'd been assigned to. In addition, he had just been paid all of the back pay he had not received in boot camp for two months. He had a whopping sum of $130. to last him for two weeks until the next pay and for his E-3 pay to catch up with him. Jerry decided to visit the men's department for some slacks and shirts to dress in while on liberty.
Having just purchased three pairs of slacks and three matching shirts (something his mother had always insisted he do) Jerry was in a rush to get to the locker club to change into his new clothing and see the sites of Sunny California. There was a whole new world for which a young man—still a boy in heart—to see. Not to mention scenic Broadway in San Diego with all of it's "attractions." He rushes out of the men's department and makes a sudden right turn into a wall of boxes to crash into something for which he had no idea whom it was. Now boxes are all over the floor and in the isle, the men's department on both sides of the isle. In addition to that standing in front of him is a petite young blonde Woman Marine of approximately five feet five inches in height, dressed in uniform, in Charilies (a green skirt, kakhi blouse, hat, shoes and stockings). You know the type, blonde hair, pale blue eyes, pale skin and crimson from her ankles to her head. Livid with anger from just completed her Christmas shopping in early May of various and sundry items from ceramics to clothing only to have some inconsiderate twit sailor come crashing into her. As angry as she was, Jerry was just as embarrassed and speechless, not just from the blunder he had just made but from the beauty of the young W.M. whom he had just crashed into. It took approximately one minute before he could regain his speech, and for the shapely W.M. to regain her composure.
"I hope you know that you've probably just broke all of my Christmas presents I've spent all morning shopping for." She shouted at him with a distinctly northern accent. By now he feels that a shallow crack in the floor would be appropriate for him to crawl into as he now feels less than one inch in height. " I…I…I'm sorry ma'am!" He stutters with a thick southern drawl, hands shaking and knees quivering for some reason, which he can't explain. He has caused such accidents in the past but now his insides are as jelly shaking. His hands and forehead are perspiring and he feels his heart in his throat thumping a jungle rhythm which he's never heard before. "Don't call me ma'am. I'm not an officer; I'm a Corporal!" She exclaims hotly. "Y..Y..Yes ma'am!" He stumbles out again. "What's the use?" She asked as she throws up her hands in exasperation still ruberant in complexion. "Just help me pick up this mess you've caused and get the hell out of my way." She says as she realizes that he really didn't mean to be so clumsy yet still trying to retain her anger for effect.
Jerry now nervously in on his knees gathering boxes from the isle and stacking all the smaller ones on the larger one. When finished, the height of the boxes are close to three feet tall and all are heavy. He looks up at her starting at the ankles involuntarily and raising his vision from there to her no longer livid complexion. "She's got the shapeliest pair of legs I've ever seen." He thinks to himself. "Could I carry these for you?"
"After all they are heavy, and we could go over to the Gedunk and I'll get you a hamburger and a coke." He exclaims. "That will give you time to check out your boxes and see if anything is broken. If it is, then I'll pay for it." He tells her.
Not knowing whether to accept or not and not knowing how to remain angry which she can't explain why, she takes him up on his offer. "I guess it couldn't hurt, after all it is close to lunch time and I am hungry, but don't get any ideas. I saw you starring at my legs." She says, voice full of retort trying to maintain the effect, as she takes him up on his offer. "After all, he is trying to make amends." She thinks. With that he picks up the packages, which are heavy even for an Arkansas farm boy, and carries them to the exchange dining room. A corner booth is empty and to her looks rather romantic so she chooses the corner booth. As they are sitting there with food and drink, she commences to look through the boxes nervously as her hands tremor—he notices. Her hands are now trembling and fumbling through the inner packing paper as she searches for any broken ceramic figurines.
As the two sit, he is silent and eats nervously, most of the time his mouth is dry and he couldn't "spit if the building were on fire." He thinks to himself. His food is tasteless and the cola drink has no flavor to him. She continues to search through the same boxes over and over again, rustling paper and not really looking at the contents of the boxes as she says, "Oh, I forgot to check this one." As she briefly looks the contents of the box and then looks at him while she rambles on, dropping little hints to him for which he doesn't pick up on. "You'll have to excuse me maam, I really don't know how to talk with women that good." Jerry says in the thick hills drawl where he was raised. "I never was taught how to talk much especially to women. Just mostly how to work. I growed up on the farm in Arkansas." He drawled. "I noticed that." She declared crisply in her distinct Pennsylvania accent.
"Do you know how to ask a girl out?" She asked him as she surprised herself not knowing why she would be so bold as to make such a suggestion. After all a girl from Pennsylvania Dutch country usually didn't make such proposals. It wasn't proper that a proper girl ask a boy. It was the boy's duty to ask the girl where she lived. "I guess so!" He replied shyly. "Would you like to go to the White Hat Club with me tonight for a drink?" He asked feeling as though his tongue were made of wood. "I'd be happy to sir." She replied. "That's good Ma'am." He responded. "I told you earlier not to call me that. I'm a Corporal not a Lieutenant." She again retorted. "I'm sorry but that's the way I was raised. When you talk to a woman or a woman enters the room you usually stand. I can't help it. That is unless I know your name Ma'am." Feeling rather embarrassed now she suddenly realized that after the last two and one—half hours neither of them knew each other's name. "I'm Vickie. Vickie Holzgraff. And you are…?"
"Jerry Simms "
"Where are you from Jerry Simms?"
"Arkansas, Ma'am. Uh…that is Vickie. And you?"
"I'm from Avoka, Pennsylvania sir. Uh…that is Jerry." She said as she giggled a bubbly little laugh. Jerry noticed that each time she giggled her pale blue eyes sparkled which made his insides quiver. They both then laughed nervously as she reached across the table and touched his hand. As she touched him the hair on the back of his arm raised in goose flesh as he shivered. She noticed and again giggled that bubbly little giggle of hers. Jerry smiled at her. Suddenly her insides were "Jiggly" as she superficially attempted to remain composed.
"You need to smile more often Jerry. It makes me melt inside." She suddenly and unexpectedly said trying to catch herself before making a fool of herself only to realize it was too late. She giggled again and those blue eyes sparkling. Jerry, however, didn't pick up on the little hint she'd just let slip. Jerry was after all very shy and backward. It was this quality, for which Vickie had just discovered that had swept her off her feet, and that she realized she was in love with him although she wouldn't admit to anyone. "Can I help you carry these boxes anywhere?" He asked looking at the clock which he had noted that they now had been there for a little over two hours. When they entered the dining area it was 1145 and now the time was 1420.
"Oh my gosh!" She exclaimed as she looked at the clock. "I've got to wrap these and the Post Office is already closed. Would you be a dear and help me get these to my barracks?" She asked.
Jerry was only too happy to help although why he didn't understand. As they walked across the base to the Marine Detachment he kept noticing other Marines starring at them but didn't quite know why. As they arrived at the Female Barracks he was ascending the steps to the Women Marine quarters when he was suddenly meet by a taller female Staff Sergeant who very boisterously declared "Where the Hell do you think your going Sailor?" Vickie at that point addressed the sergeant explaining that she had asked him earlier to help her carry the packages and that everything was quite proprietary. The rather tall female Staff Sergeant then instructed Jerry to "Sit them on the desk on the quarter—deck and get the Hell out of the W.M. barracks. "Aye—Aye Ma'am!" He said while leaving.
Vickie accompanied Jerry back out to the sidewalk where he was now safe from harm's way, if that was the female sergeant's name which seemed appropriate to him anyway. A time was set and that was 1800 at the White Hat Club.
Jerry being taught to always be punctual arrived at the club at 5:45 P.M. or 1745. It was a full 6:15 (1815) before anyone arrived that he knew. He was sitting with a coke and nervously considering his options as to whether or not to wait for the pretty little marine or to flee for his life. "There you are. I've been looking for you." An effervescent feminine voice declared. Jerry looked up to behold a young lady in a white with yellow and green floral print dress with a full cut skirt which hung just above the knees of two of the shapeliest legs he had ever beheld. At first he didn't recognize his guest. "Uh yes ma'am can I help you?" was his reply. "I told you to quit calling me that." Vickie again flushing in the face declared. "I'm sorry Vickie. It's just that you're so pretty in that dress, and you don't look anything like you do in uniform, that I didn't recognize you." Jerry stumbled out. "Why did he have to go and do that again?" She thought as her stomach turned to butterflies. "Oh, I guess it's alright. You just bother me with that Ma'am stuff you know." She said with a demure smile at the corners of her mouth.
"Let's go sit in the corner and have a beer." She said taking the lead. "Yes Maa…I'm sorry yes Vickie." Again a slight smile came to her mouth as she felt a flutter inside her stomach. At first they sat across from each other talking about mindless little things which she lead in the conversation and he mostly listened agreeing with her for the most part because he didn't know what to say. Not only was she the most beautiful girl in the world to Jerry, she was witty, intelligent (more than he was anyway), not an airhead like some of the blonde girls he'd grown up with, and she could read him like a book. She knew exactly what to say to him. At least it seemed that way to him although he wasn't sure about everything she had to say. "I've got to go to the little girl's room." She said, and again giggled, after she'd consumed one beer. I'll be back in a moment."
When she returned a few minutes later, she wanted to sit next to the wall on his side of the booth. He accommodated by standing and starting to sit across from her again. She suddenly grabbed his hand and said, "I didn't tell you to sit over there. I'm a little cool and want you here next to me."
"OK!" was all he could say, and sat next to her. At first he sat about a foot from her but before he knew it she was next to him. "Did I push you against the wall?" He asked. "No silly, I'm cold and want something next to me that's warm. Can't you understand that?"
"Oh!" He again exclaimed.
"Will he ever take the hint?" She asked herself. "Would you like me to put my arm around you to help you get warm?" He asked. "It might help if you'd like to." She nervously responded with her fingers crossed feigning a shiver.
Slowly he raised his left arm and reached around her shoulders for which she nearly fell on him, again feigning a shiver. As she did her right thigh was suddenly against his and he nearly jumped. Vickie giggled. Slowly over the course of the evening Vickie would let her right hand lightly brush his leg. Each time he blushed. Each time she would giggle that little giggle of hers as her eyes sparkled. Needless to say that after four beers on his part he was less inhibited, as was Vickie. As the evening progressed with the two sitting close to each other, inhibitions waning, and more alcohol on board to loosen the conversation Jerry was becoming a different person which he enjoyed more. Vickie was relaxed and touching Jerry in places other that the thigh—although not in private places that shouldn't be touched—but such as his abdomen above the waist, his chest, his nipples and above all, his face to kiss him. She would touch his nipples just to watch him jump, and then laugh.
He became a little bolder and decided to cup her breasts, which for some reason she allowed. Although she had never allowed a boy to touch her breasts before, when he touched her, she felt a warm sensation stirring which she enjoyed. When Jerry finally placed his hand on her thigh she allowed that touch also. Again after a short time when he ran his hand up her leg she stopped him and said a very definite "NO!"
Jerry being taught as he was stopped and never again that evening placed his hand on Vickie's thigh. This had an effect on her which told her that he not only had the manners to respect her wishes, but her virtue also, which had been different from the other guys in the military which she'd known. Another feeling aroused within her at that moment and nearly overwhelmed her to the point that Vickie very nearly swooned. It was one of complete warmth and overpowering nearly taking away her breath. Perspiration broke out all over her trim body and every area was both warm and sticky but Jerry didn't know this until much later when Vickie told him in a letter. The two remained there a bit longer and around 2130 Jerry suggested that they leave for fresh air. The Southern California night was balmy and warm and a slight breeze blew over the 32nd Street Naval Station. Jerry didn't notice the night's beauty for the beauty under his arm. Jerry still could not believe his good fortune. Jerry could not believe how aroused he was with an overwhelming passion that he did not understand and no one had ever told him about.
Just how large the base was did not occur to either of them as both were lost in each other. After all, youth only occurs once and this type of emotion rarely comes to one more than once. Thirty days ago, when Jerry was in boot camp something like this seemed so far away. Tonight was special and both knew this, and may never be again. Vickie again lead the conversation, which didn't seem to mean anything, after all who ever said such conversations must be of any relevance. It seemed that the night would never end to the two, but it did.
Close to her barracks Jerry told her that the next day was free for him but if she didn't want to meet him he would understand. Vickie informed Jerry that she had duty the next day but he was welcome to get with her when she wasn't on watch. Jerry accepted.
That next day, Sunday, the two again met and she was in her uniform that he had met her in the day before. She stood an administrative type watch and was there for such things as emergency leave, paper work and the like. He was able meet with her most of the day but she couldn't leave the base that day or go to anything such as movies, clubs or the like. She could however go to the mess to eat and the small local exchange in the area of the barracks. This is what they did although they didn't do much looking at things on the shelves, nor did they eat much when in the mess.
Jerry informed her that he was awaiting his school which was Hospital Corps A School which was scheduled to begin sometime in June or July, but that was tentative due to the large influx of students who were getting ready for South East Asia. Suddenly Vickie couldn't believe her good fortune either. This was going to work out well for the two of them. She could get to know him more and decide whether or not this was a passing fancy. After all she'd always been level headed about things and there was nothing logical—in her mind—about this whole situation. She knew deep down that she'd been smitten and smitten hard. She needed time to sort out all of these feelings she had experienced the night before.
Jerry didn't understand what was happening to him either but he knew he liked the feelings that Vickie stirred in him and he really liked her. Of course all Jerry could think about was Vickie. As it turned out school for Jerry began around late May. In the mean time the situation became more intense. For Vickie, she had known that this was it from that first afternoon in the exchange cafeteria. School was 16 weeks and if he went to a class C school in San Diego there would be additional time again for the both of them.
During the time Jerry was in A School the rules again changed. The increased demand for Hospital Corpsmen with field medical training had necessitated a faster turnover in schools training medical personnel. The Tet Offensive of 1968 had changed all of that with the massive call up of another five hundred thousand men to be drafted issued by President Lyndon Johnson. Therefore, all class A medical training was now shortened to 14 weeks instead of 16 weeks. Jerry's training had been cut to end in August instead of September. Not to worry was his attitude as he would still get into a class C school of some sort. He was of course correct, but the training would be Field Medical Services School class C school. This was not what he expected but it wasn't a major setback either because everyone who went to Balboa Naval Hospital for A School went to Camp Pendleton for Field Medical Service School Training. Jerry and Vickie would still be together.