Willie Braudaway

Willie Braudaway

I tell this story whenever the conversation comes around to what got you where you are today. I also tell this story to someone trying out a new skill. You never know how far that skill might take you – if you just let it.

When I was 10 years old I knew that I would not be going to college – no one in the family ever had. I also knew that I did not want to end up like a lot of my cousins – pregnant before marriage and living on welfare. So, at the age of 10, I made a decision to join the Air Force as soon as I turned 18 after high school graduation.

Whew! That was a load off my mind through my turbulent adolescent years which happened to coincide with the late 1960s. No matter how crazy things got, I knew I was going to be safe in the Air Force – meaningful work, food, shelter, and a decent paycheck.

Because of family situations, I had to reluctantly give up the violin and singing when I went to high school because of the afterschool rehearsals and evening performances. So, I decided to concentrate on Office Education instead. I learned to touch type at 70 words per minute, take shorthand at 100 words per minute, keep accounting ledgers and reconcile checkbooks, and answer the phone professionally. As a senior I worked half of the school day in the medical records department of the local hospital, and I got paid! But I did not want to be a secretary.

When I joined the Air Force in 1972 they asked what work I wanted to do. I wanted to be a medical specialist. Then they gave me a battery of tests and put me where they wanted me – as a computer operator. What?! Turns out my brain thinks logically like a computer and I already had the keypunch skill – because of my typing.

Well, as sometimes happened, a tech school marriage and pregnancy got in the way of my Air Force career. It ended after only 15 ½ months of service. Fast forward four daughters, one son, and one divorce later to 1987. I needed money to keep going to college because my GI Bill had run out. So, I walked into the History Department chair’s office to ask about scholarships. The dean of social sciences happened to be there and asked me one question, “Can you type?”

My answer and the rest of the story next week….

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