Being from Chicago I was actually able to stay pretty close to home when I joined the Navy. I enlisted in 1959, and went directly to NAVSTA, Lake County, Illinois for boot training. That’s important to this story because Lake County is just north of Chicago, which allowed me to stay rather close to home for those first three months. As it turned out, I did very well in boot training, and that’s important to this story because that in turn allowed me to go straight to the U.S. Navy’s Hospital Corps Petty Officer’s school, which was also in Lake County. And because I graduated from the hospital corps school second in the class of 1960 I was the second graduate to be able to pick from the list of available duty assignments.
Many people join the Navy so they can see the world, but that wasn’t me. So even though I had my pick of many exotic duty stations on both land and sea, I chose to serve at NAVSTA, which put me back at the Navy’s Boot Training Center.
I enjoyed that assignment as I was assigned to the infirmary that served the recruit training facility, and most specifically to the Physical Exam Department. All potential recruits were given many tests, including a physical exam to see if they qualified to be in the Navy before they were allowed to join. But because those exams were overseen by their recruiters, and recruiters were graded on the number of bodies they could talk into joining the Navy, there was often some cheating that took place. The Navy’s answer to this problem, was to have all recruits go through a second physical before they actually began their rigorous boot training. That was my department. Annual and discharge physicals happened by appointment Monday thru Thursday, and were carried out very much like normal civilian physicals. But recruit physicals were performed on Fridays, in fact every Friday. Their physicals were carried out in an “assembly line” fashion where the recruits were lined up, sometimes in their underwear, and other times while totally naked as they went from one testing or exam station to the next, until they had all had been through every station.
I worked many stations during my tenure at NAVSTA, but most often the audiology station where each recruit would enter a very small specially designed sound proof booth, put on a special pair of earphones that were marked with a definite left and right sides, and listen for a variety of 20 constantly changing tones while pushing a button when the tone’s volume rose to a point when they could detect it. Their button pushing would cause our machine to mark a tape that was similar to those produced by an electro cardiogram machine, and the markings would indicated at what volume they were able to detect each audio frequency, and that tape would then become part of their permanent health record.
That may all seem pretty dry, but it was while serving in that position that I came in contact with Mark McAlister, a good looking recruit, 18 years of age, and a real physical specimen. Because all recruits have their heads shaved almost the instant they arrive, none of them would be at the top of their game when it came to looking studdly. As a result I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Recruit McAlister until he failed his hearing test with remarkably poor numbers. In fact they were so bad that he was put in the infirmary for analysis to see why his hearing had deteriorated to such a poor level only two weeks after he had passed his first hearing test with normal numbers.
While in the infirmary he was given a battery of blood tests, urine tests, and a more complete physical and ear examination. I was assigned to escort him to my office every morning for a repeat hearing test. He was told this was to see if his hearing was continuing to decline, while in reality it was to see if the volume and frequency detection patterns he produced were consistent. If consistently bad, the Navy would disqualify him on grounds of poor hearing. If the frequency lose patterns were inconsistent, that would indicate that the recruit was purposefully trying to fail the test because it would be all but impossible for a recruit to remember exactly what frequencies were hard to hear and at what level they were detectable from test to test.
As it turned out, I easily discerned that Mark McAlister was purposefully trying to fail his test. That happens sometimes when recruits arrive at boot camp, and realize the horrors of what they have volunteered for. I mean any way you look at it, recruit training is not only very challenging, but extremely intimidating. Especially when you have a drill petty officer shouting in your face while demeaning and ordering you to do all kinds of crazy things the instant you get off of the bus.
Because I was seeing Recruit McAlister on a regular one on one basis, I had taken a much closer look at him, and was getting to know him. And more importantly, I was beginning to fall in love with him. So on his third morning in the infirmary I went to his bedside and had a heart to heart talk with him. I told him of my findings, and explained that he could be court marshaled for cheating on the hearing test, or at the very least be dishonorably discharged. He immediately began to have tears, causing me to want to comfort him. I think at that time I looked at him more like I looked at my childhood teddy bear. I wanted to hug and comfort him. I wanted to protect him. I wanted him to know that loved him.
Of course I couldn’t love him, but I did comfort him by telling him that maybe I could bury his fraudulent hearing tests if he would come to my office for a retest, a true and accurate test. With tears in his eyes he agreed, and while escorting him back to my office, for the first time I got a good look at his sexy behind through the rear opening of his hospital gown. This boy was not only cute, cute, cute, but he had a bubble butt that was so incredible that I truly wanted to give him an enema instead of a hearing test.
To make a long story short, we did the re-test and Mark did remarkably well. I then had him do a second re-test so I could replace both of his fraudulent tests with accurate results. What I was hoping was that would cause the doctors to simply declare him well while thinking that maybe he just had a bad day on the day of his recruit physical.
Again, to make a long story short, Mark did well in boot camp, graduated as an engineman, and was assigned to the USS Dawson, hull number 429, a mine sweeper. That would be of little interest, except two years later I was transferred to that exact same ship as their Independent Duty Corpsman, or in other words, their sole medical officer as the ship was too small to warrant a full MD. And on my second day aboard the Dawson, Engineman McAlister came to my sick bay, and asked, “Do you remember me?”
Of course, although he had a shaved head the last time I had seen him, as opposed the full head of hair he was then sporting at that time, I recognized him right off by his cute face, his innocent manner, and his great bubble butt ass. I shook his hand, hugged and patted his back, and said, “Sure I do. How are you doing?”
Instead of answering, he simply said, “I just wanted you to know that I think of you every day, and that I thank you for helping me not make a terrible mistake.”
That was when I realized that Mark was a mix of right and wrong, and strong and week. I didn’t know why, but that drew me to him even more.
It took a while for me to find my way around the ship, to learn the ropes so to speak. I made lots of friends and buddies real quick. I didn’t know it at the time, but the hospital corpsman was ordinarily a pretty popular guy aboard such a small ship. But no matter how friendly the crew was, right from the beginning it was Mark McAlister that I most wanted to know.
Because Mark was a fireman, or “red striper”, which was equal to being a seaman, or “white striper” I ordinarily didn’t see much of him. Being a Fireman was more of a below the deck rating. Seamen became such things as a yeomen, helmsmen, quartermasters, radiomen, boatswain’s mates, or even hospital corpsman, where Firemen became such things as engineman, machinist mates, boiler men, or damage control men, all below deck ratings, and so the two ratings didn’t really mix all that well.
But I was determined, and so began stop and talk to Mark every chance I got. Even at chow I often chose to sit at a the Seaman/Engineman table rather than the Second Class Petty Officer table so we could talk. And so it wasn’t long before he became a regular visitor to sickbay during off hours. We mostly talked about shipboard matters, but also of personal matters and feelings. That’s when I learned that Mark and I were having a very different experiences in the Navy. I was a Second Class Petty officer by that time, while he was still a Fireman. And because of the slower turnover of the below deck ratings, he didn’t have a lot of prospects for quick advancement, and so wasn’t the happiest sailor aboard the Dawson.
Then one morning he reported to sickbay during sick call hours. If we were docked my usual sick call time was mostly spent treating guys for hangovers. If we were at sea, morning sick call was almost nonexistent. So, because we were at sea I was surprised to see him. He was all but doubled over with stomach pain, so my first move was to evaluate him for appendicitis. That proved negative, and his liver and spleen also palpated negative, and so I settled on the possibility of him suffering from colonic problems. I gave him the Navy’s version of Mylanta and told him to return if that didn’t help. I wanted to kiss and hug him, but instead I released him to perform his regular duties.
The Mylanta seemed to work well, but he was reporting to sick call on a regular basis for refill prescriptions. After two weeks of Mylanta relieving his symptoms, while not actually ending them, I decided to perform a more thorough physical exam of his abdomen, and so scheduled him to come in for an after hour’s appointment. It was then that I listened to his bowel function and peristalsis. I did a more comprehensive palpation of his abdomen, and I enquired as to his bowel habits, his alcohol and drug consumption, and even his mental status. When all was said and done we had a heart to heart talk where I told him that I was going to recommend him for a GI series the minute we got back to port. He then asked me what that was, and I told him that it was just another name for a series of special x-rays that were taken after a barium enema had been performed.
I really didn’t think that would upset him, but for the first time since knowing him he got a panicked look on his face and began to cry. He tried to suppress his tears, but that was beyond him. As my sick bay was a single room with its sleeping quarters, operating room, pharmacy, and treatment room being all the same room, there was no place where I could take him to insure our privacy. So I went to the door and locked it, and then came back to talk to him as he sat on my treatment/operating table. He was still trying to get control of his crying so I put my arm to his shoulder and stroked his back as I said, “I think you had better tell me what’s bothering you.”
He kept saying was that he was sorry, which didn’t make any sense to me. So I told him that he didn’t have anything to be sorry about. Still the crying continued. So in a moment of bravery I told him to stand, and the instant he complied, I took him in a hug, held him tight to my body, and told him that I would never let anything bad happen to him.
I truly thought he might try to push away, try to put some distance between us. But instead he put his arms around me and pulled me tight to his body. Even though there was no kissing, or other intimate contact, I have to tell you that that was a very sexual moment for me. Because I truly felt that I loved him, I also need to tell you that I wanted to kiss and comfort him. But instead, I let go and once again asked, “So what’s bothering you?”
Instead of answering, he took me back in a hug. It truly felt wonderful to be in his arms, and so I of course hugged him back. And only then did he begin to plead, “Please don’t make me take an enema. Please, I hate those things.”
I understood that most men hated enemas, so I said, “Mark, I wouldn’t order it if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary. You’re probably fine. I really mean that. But you could also be very sick. And because I really care for you, I don’t want to take a chance with your health, so we need to know exactly what’s causing your pain. There is an alternative though. I could order a colonoscopy instead.”
He pushed away, and asked, “What’s that?”
“Well, a barium enema is where fill your gut with a radio opaque fluid so its exact shape and size will show on x-ray film, where a colonoscopy is where they actually insert a camera into your colon, so the doctor gets an even better idea as to what is going on inside you. It’s an even better procedure, because it will not only tell us a whole lot more about what’s going on in your tummy, but it also allows the doctor to fix most problems right through the scope.”
Mark’s eyes were cast to the floor when he asked, “Will it go up my ass?”
“Yes, I’m afraid so.”
“Isn’t there some other way?”
“No, I’m afraid not. If I just keep giving you Mylanta we could be covering symptoms of something that could be very serious.”
“Like what?” he asked.
“Like cancer.” I said.
Mark had stopped crying, but when he looked back to me he still had tears in his eyes. I don’t know why, but those tears made him seem even more appealing, more sexually attractive than ever before. Not wanting him to hate me for making him go through such an intimate and invasive procedure, I said, “Look Mark, I wouldn’t put you through this if I didn’t think it was absolutely necessary. I mean it. I really wouldn’t. We won’t be back in port for another week, so that will give you a little time to kind of get yourself mentally prepared for this. In the meantime I don’t want you worrying. As I said, it’s probably nothing, but even though there is only a slight chance that it could be cancer, not testing could let it get out of control, and I’m not willing to chance that. Okay, Buddy?”
Instead of answering Mark all but ran from my little sickbay. I ran after him but didn’t catch up to him until he was at the stern of the ship. So it was there that I said, “I can’t let you run away from me like that.”
While looking out at the sea, he asked, “Why not?”
“Because you scare me.”
“I scare you? How do I do that?”
“Because I’m afraid you might do something to hurt yourself.”
“Yea, well you don’t know the half of it.”
“So come back up to sickbay with me, because I want to know all of it.”
Without another word, Mark led the way back to sickbay. Once inside I closed and locked sickbay’s door again. Mark was quiet for a few seconds, before he said, “I just hate it when anyone sticks something up my ass, that’s all. I hate it, and I don’t want anyone doing it.”
“Well it shouldn’t hurt. In fact if we go for the colonoscopy you’ll be asleep when they do it.”
Mark was quiet for a few seconds, and then said, “Well guys still get boners when they’re asleep.”
“Is that what’s bothering you?”
Mark sat on my exam/operating table, and as he looked out of sickbay’s only porthole, he said, “Yea. You might as well know that I get boners every time someone sticks something up my butt, especially if they give me an enema. So now you know that I’m a fagot.”
“Yea, well I’m not saying that you aren’t gay, but if you are, you certainly not a fagot. In my mind you are a really good guy who I want to call my friend.”
“You mean you still like me?”
Mark slid off of my exam table, and said, “Well I still don’t want people sticking anything up my ass.”