There is so much of my family history that is tied to military service. My grandfather was a Navy Sr. Chief and participated in some of the big WW II battles in the South Pacific. My dad, Wallace Clow, was a Navy Commander serving at sea and in ports-of-call all over the world. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was visit my dad’s ship on Sunday and have breakfast in the Ward Room. All of the sailors were nice to me, and I basically had the run of the place.
I was always proud of my dad. During his service in Vietnam, his ship came under heavy fire from shore. He took over and risked getting hit to direct return fire taking out the threat. He got a medal for that one.
The Navy had a four-year enlistment term which sounded like a very long time to a 20-year old recruit, so I joined the Army for a three-year hitch. My aptitude test pointed to an interest in law enforcement so I was assigned to Military Police training. I did base security as an MP and then moved up to patrol. I served stateside and overseas including Germany.
This was the post-Vietnam era, and the Cold War was still on even though tensions had eased quite a bit. The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charley were still there, and I remember looking across that famous location where communism and the free world stood toe-to-toe.
Things definitely got interesting when I became a Military Police investigator (MPI). That meant more training in criminology, evidence processing and things like that. My job was to solve crimes and I got a lot of experience doing that when I was stationed in Germany. Drug use, mainly heroin, was a big problem for our soldiers. We had a lot of them OD because the purity of the drug in Europe made it much more potent than heroin available in the United States.
It was my job to find out who was supplying the drugs and work with the German cops to make arrests.
Sometimes the duty was tough and I am proud of my military service but I think of myself as a certain kind of veteran. I can’t put myself in the same category as someone like Nick Berardino (Marine Corp veteran and former OCEA general manager). Nick was a machine gunner in Vietnam and saw a lot of combat. I am very proud of veterans like Nick and not just because of what they did for our country, but for what they did after their military service. Nick really put OCEA on the map and made it what it is today.
When my enlistment came up, I knew I was going to leave the Army. Growing up in a military family is great but it also means that every two years, you will be the new kid on the block, the new kid in school and that was pretty hard sometimes. I have two sons that are all grown up now but when they were little, I wanted them to have a sense of home.
The military gave me so much. I went to college on the GI bill and bought my first house with a veterans loan. It also gave me a career path. I joined the Coronado PD in San Diego County and began my civilian law enforcement career. I loved being a cop. I did it for six years before opening my own private investigations office. I still have my license. I joined the Public Defender’s Office as an investigator in 1996 and I have been there ever since. One way or another, I have been in law enforcement my entire career.
When I was going through the police academy, my dad took a real interest in my training and what I was learning. I was really happy about that but I didn’t know he would take it to the point where he became a reserve police officer himself with the San Diego PD.
One of the proudest moments of my life was swearing him in and pinning the badge on his chest.
Alan Dean Clow served in the United States Army from 1975 to 1978. He is a Senior Investigator in the Public Defenders Office and is OCEA’s 1st Vice President joining the union in 1996. He resides in Lake Forrest with his wife.
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