By Vivian Blevins
What adventures await a 1968 Bethel High School graduate who enlists in the U.S. Navy?
Sheryl Roegner Glover of Troy, Ohio, can tell you all about it after she calms down from being awarded a Quilt of Valor at the November meeting of the Miami Valley Veterans Museum. She was accompanied by her daughter, Stephanie Anderson, and when Sheryl returned to her seat after the quilt was wrapped around her, Stephanie said, “I want that quilt when you die.”
And as I captured Sheryl as she was leaving the museum and asked if she would consider an interview, Stephanie’s eyes bugged out as she heard her mother reveal something about her military service that she had told no one in all these years. If you’re interested in knowing, read on.
As a senior in high school, Sheryl, captain of the volleyball team, and two of her friends, Carolyn Lewis and Patty Pattenger, signed up for the navy buddy system. Why did Sheryl do it?
She says, “I didn’t want to go to college, didn’t really like any of the subjects I had studied in high school, and the three of us just decided on the navy as we walked by the recruiters in the hallway of the high school. I had never been out of Miami County and had never been on an airplane.”
So what awaited her after she boarded the plane at the airport in Dayton and landed in Maryland? When she and her friends arrived at the base in the middle of the night in December of 1968, the first thing Sheryl noticed was “rows of girls standing at attention. Some, however, were falling out, fainting due to being tired or being afraid of what was to come.”
On the base, Sheryl shared a room with three other recruits, and the bell that signaled wake-up time was outside her door. She, however, admits that she was a heavy sleeper and confesses that at least twice she slept through the signal and was reprimanded.
Adjusting to living in a room with three other women was no problem, easy for her as she came from a family of six children and had a sister and four brothers. All had engaged in the normal tussles/conflicts that characterize stair-step children.
She remembers her basic training as a time of marching. And more marching. And even more marching.
The next stop was specialized training, and she was off to Long Beach, California, with a classification of yeoman which she defines as secretary- at least for women at that time. That was an abrupt end to the buddy system, as “one friend went to San Diego and the other went somewhere out East.”
Sheryl’s job involved paperwork: getting recruits into the U.S. Navy and handling the necessary forms when it was time for them to exit. After a short period of time, Sheryl approached her supervisor and asked, “Can I get a more exciting job?”
She believes he had never fielded that question, so after a time, he responded, “Well, I’ll look into it.”
She was soon transferred to a small building on base that housed the Discipline Office. Have you heard the song and sayings about drunken sailors? She saw plenty who had been arrested by the MPs, and they were off to the brig. And a few were there because of drug use. Remember, California got a head start in experimenting with illegal drugs. And some engaged in fistfights in bars and other places, including the barracks. And there was, of course, some fighting between navy men and women when tempers flared.
And this was when and where Sheryl began to smoke as Tareyton cigarettes (with a slogan “There’s something about them you’ll like”) were offered freely and frequently in that environment. It all started, she says, with her saying, “I’ll just try one.” Sheryl finally quit smoking 15 years ago when she had a cold and smoking caused her throat to hurt. She reports, “I still crave cigarettes after I eat.”
Romance came roaring into Sheryl’s life with a first engagement to be married. That didn’t last.: “We had a spat. He wanted to open a bar after discharge from the service, and there were other things, so I threw my engagement ring into the Pacific Ocean.”
The second engagement was to another navy man, Dennis Glover, whom she married (Dennis passed three years ago). She and her friends were at LAX to pick up a friend when Dennis first saw her (She says she was wearing no makeup, had big pink curlers in her hair, and was wearing a large army jacket with patches) and said to his friend, Boz, “That’s the woman I’m gonna marry.”
And there is an incident that occurred in California that Sheryl says, “I felt it was my fault. I was young and failed to act on signals that were there.”
Her commanding officer, 10 plus years her senior, divorced, the father of a seven-year-old daughter asked her if she would like to go to Big Bear Lake with him. She agreed, and when they arrived at the resort, she noticed that not many guests were around. When he said that they only had one room and they would need to share it, she ignored the warning signs. After dinner, they returned to the room, and the sexual advances began with her shouting, “No.” And then she began to say to him, “How would you feel if someone tried to do this to your daughter?” That stopped him.
When they returned to work, Sheryl says, “I ignored him, never looked at him. I felt used, guilty for putting myself in that situation. I think he thought that I was going to report him. I told no one. Within a week, he transferred to a different location, and I never saw him again.”
It is November 2023, and until Sheryl told me this past week, she had told no one- not even her daughter. She indicates that there are many considerations in a decision to report actions such as this, but the mental health of the person being attacked is a key consideration in a decision to report.
PS: Per advice from the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military, President Biden has signed an executive order on changes in handling sexual assault in the military, and it will go into effect on Dec. 27, 2023.