James Crouse, who graduated from Gloversville High School on Saturday, will be getting a haircut sooner or later. Whether he does it on his own or waits until the Navy gets hold of him, he hasn’t decided.
“It will hurt to get it shaved,” he said of his hair, which now hangs below his shoulders.
But it’s a small price to pay for what Crouse is about to embark on: leaving Gloversville and seeing the world.
It wasn’t until deciding to enlist, however, that Crouse received the push he needed to buckle down and finish all that he needed to graduate Saturday.
“It was wanting to join the military and realizing you can’t do anything without that diploma,” he said. “I need to graduate. I can’t jeopardize my contract, I just need to get out of here.”
Crouse officially enlisted on March 8 and leaves for his basic training — “boot camp” — on Aug. 29 at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago. After the 8-week-long training, he will head to Houston to learn to be a corpsman, the Navy’s medical specialists. That training will take nearly five months, Crouse said.
His route to the Navy hasn’t been a straight and clear one, as Crouse has struggled with family disagreements and fleeting attention to schoolwork. After a serious falling out, Crouse went years without speaking to his father and shuffled between a sister’s place and a friend’s home. He has remained close to his mom, and he and his dad started talking again in the past few weeks, Crouse said. His dad reached out to hom on his 18th birthday to congratulate him on graduation and the enlistment.
He tore his ACL during a football game his junior year, setting back both his athletic and academic life. Returning to school after the injury was a challenge, Crouse said. Throughout his junior year and into the start of his senior year, Crouse said he struggled to see the connection between what he wanted to do with his life and what he needed to do in school. He knew he wanted to leave Gloversville, but it hadn’t occurred to him – at least in any explicit way – that graduating high school would be the clearest path to do so.
“I didn’t mind most days going to class, I just didn’t want to be bothered with doing the work,” he said.
James Crouse. (Provided)
That all changed in late fall as Crouse grew more and more serious about enlisting in the military. He started talking with recruiters in November and December before he started gathering medical records and other paperwork for his enlistment. He saw a way out of Gloversville, where he spent most of his life, in the Navy. In March, he signed a five-year commitment to the United State military.
“I thought I might as well try to make something for myself and get out of this area,” he said. “I might as well enlist.”
He said he knows life in the Navy won’t be simple and that he won’t be able to get away with a disinterest in working – let alone keeping his long hair.
“You’ll get your head ripped off,” he said of not doing what he is told once in the Navy.
While the seriousness of the commitment was never lost on Crouse, when it came time to sign on the dotted line he was ready.
“That was intimidating just because of everything that could go wrong as unlikely as it is,” he said. “Yes, this is scary but this is something I have to do to get ahead in life … That was my college acceptance letter if you want to call it that.”
Until he ships off for basic training, Crouse speaks with his recruiter every week and meets once a month in Schenectady with other new enlistees in the region. He plans to spend the summer making some extra money and racking up time with friends.
“I want to make some good memories before I leave to take them with me and help me get through it all,” he said
On Aug. 28, Crouse will return to the Albany office where he enlisted, run through a battery of physical tests before getting a ride to the airport and the next phase in his life.