ELKHART — John Witt, of Elkhart, decided to join the military right after he graduated from high school in 1957 — mostly to keep himself out of trouble.
“I knew I wasn’t disciplined enough to go to college and do a good job,” Witt said during an interview in his Elkhart home on Monday, Nov. 4. “In the military, it was either do it or get your butt kicked.”
Witt was interested in becoming a veterinarian, so he pursued medical training in the Navy.
“Four out of the first six years, I spent in different schools,” Witt said.
He decided to stay in the Navy, and became a hospital corpsman serving on several ships and submarines.
“I liked it,” Witt said of his military service. “I got to travel, I had some fun. I made rank fairly quickly.”
His daily responsibilities included giving shots, doing inspections, and spending time on electronic counter-measure and sonar watch.
One incident he remembers is stitching the upper and lower eyelids of a sailor who had cut himself, barely missing his eye.
Later, Witt had to sedate a kitchen worker who had “gone beserk” and was threatened to stab people with a knife.
Though Witt was primarily serving in a medical area, he said that personnel on submarines had to know everybody else’s jobs, in case of an emergency.
“Whoever’s in that space has to know what to do and when to do it — and in the dark,” Witt said.
He also spent time as an instructor, teaching others the things that he had learned.
Witt retired from the Navy in 1977, after he had achieved the rank of chief petty officer.
He returned to Elkhart where he worked in the mobile home and recreational vehicle industry, mostly because “I lived in Elkhart,” he said with a shrug. He added that he looked into working in nursing homes first because of his medical training, but decided that wasn’t for him.
Today, Witt doesn’t have any regrets about his decision to join the Navy.
“Probably one of the more intelligent decisions in my life was when I decided to go into the service,” he said.