Where to start? At the beginning... I was raised in Louisiana where my mother's family is strong in Cajun heritage and traditions. She was born and raised in Opelousas. My grandfather was born and raised in Ville Platte, LA. My cousins have traced our ancestors to the Canadian French that were kicked out of Eastern Canada by the British in the 1700's and the direct line ancestor that traveled from Marcellies, France to make a new life in the New World circa 1785.
My dad was raised in rural Nebraska on a sweet corn farm, the middle of five children. Their ancestry goes back to the German immigrants who traveled here 100 years ago. The family has its orgin in the 12th Century of medieval Germany.
Joing the cultures, I was raised in southern Louisiana enjoying the rich life and traditions of Louisiana heritage which include Roman Catholic mass in celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ, agricultural festivals across the state ("Yam" Sweet Potato, Crawfish, Strawberry, etc), the Mardi Gras season before Ash Wednesday, and the fantastic flavor of the Louisiana cooking of my Mom, Justin Wilson, Paul Prudhomme, Frank Davis, and many, many more. I graduated from high school in 1983 and went off to college that fall.
But some kids are not ready for college right away. I certainly was not. I started out mediocre and repeated one class. Then I transferred to Southeastern Louisiana University where I did better, at first. But I allowed the usual college parties and girlfriend problems to distract me from my studies too much. When they kept raising tution each semester, I realized that working at the gas station for bad grades was not the right way to go through college and it was not worth it.
Determined to return to college someday, I decided to force my head back on straight by enlisting in the U.S. Navy. There was training, salary, college benefits, and most of all the teachings of maturity, responsibility, and dedication to one's goals. I served on active duty for three years stationed at NAS Cecil Field, FL with Air Anti-Submarine Squadron 30 (VS-30). We deployed (that's "sailed" for non-sailors) on the aircraft carrier USS SARATOGA (CV-60). We also had a short cruise on the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV-62) from Virginia, around South America, to San Diego. We stopped at St. Thomas, Rio de Janeiro, and Acapulco.
By the time I left Jacksonville I had decided to attend college in Pensacola, FL and work toward my Bachelor's degree at the University of West Florida (UWF). I worked several minimum-wage jobs to support my living expenses until I was hired by the Department of the Navy's Naval Computer Telecommunications Station (NCTS) into the cooperative education program at UWF. I worked at NCTS New Orleans and NCTS Pensacola alternating work semesters and school semesters. My favorite restaurant in Pensacola is Jerry's Cajun Café where I can get real Louisiana-style food and atmosphere that makes me feel right at home!
With professional experience under my belt (and more importantly on my resume;), I was accepted into a professional position after graduation working with Oracle Software RDBMS, Oracle Forms 4.5, PL/SQL, and Oracle servers, data conversion, and Oracle database administration.
Now speaking political again, I didn't need the almighty federal government to give me a federal grant or a loan. As stated, I worked my way through college. I didn't have rich parents or a scholarship to put me through school. I spent three years on active duty in the Navy and paid $1,200 of my first years income to sign-up in the Montgomery G.I. Bill program which paid me benefits for tutition during the months I was actually enrolled in college. That's a three-year period of my life invested in my nation to earn education benefits. It also delayed my graduation that I required of myself because I screwed up the first time. Most of my classmates were considerably younger than me.
I continued to serve in the U.S. Navy Reserve for seven more years on one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer while I was in college and after graduation. So if you realize that I worked three weekends a month at minimum wage and the fourth weekend at Navy Reserve drill, then you might wonder when I had a weekend to myself. For almost two years, I didn't. While most of my classmates partied on the weekends, I worked night shift on three weekends a month and went to school during the week. I paid my rent, car insurance, gas, food, and utilities out of my income and scraped by during the semester start month when tutition and books needed to be paid also.
So after reading my college sob story, you might realize that if I could do it, then why can't other people do what I did also? I'm not better than other people or special because of what I accomplished. But apparently I am more determined than most who would rather stick their hand out to the almighty federal government and get a check than work for their own subsistence like I did. I am proud of what I did. I think that people who get a handout have no pride and appreciation for the college experience.