"At that time, you have to be up, you have to be awake with this call, and that's the beginning of the obedience, and I think that's the thing that also pushed me to realize the mistakes I had made guiding my life and what I could do with myself," said Cosby.
It has been more than 50 years since Cosby left the Navy and went on to a distinguished career. He has won a litany of accolades, the latest of which came Thursday when the Navy made Cosby an honorary chief petty officer at age 73.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West pinned on Cosby's golden anchors at a ceremony in the Naval Heritage Center before a room packed full of chief petty officers.
Mabus joked that he knows it's getting harder for Sailors to make chief because retention rates are so high.
"Fifty-five years it took this guy," he said, getting laughs from the chiefs.
Cosby recalled that one of the proudest moments of his mother's life was seeing him graduate from boot camp. Several weeks earlier, he had written her that he didn't like the yelling and threats of boot camp and asked what she could do about it.
In short order, Cosby was called before his company commander, who had received a letter from Cosby's mother.
"My mother had written and told him what I said and my mother asked the company commander to continue to do these things," he said.