Friday, February 10, 2017

WOW - 45 Years !

45 years ago today; a young, full of himself 18 years old boy strode into the downtown Philadelphia induction center with his mother and girlfriend to be processed into the U. S. Navy. The mother was proud but a little concerned; Vietnam was waning but still a threat. His girlfriend, now wife, had a hodgepodge of feelings; apprehensive, fearful, tearful, and just a little angry that he chose this path.

His recruiter was probably relieved that this quota number finally made it into the books after broken bones caused his induction to be delayed twice. The Navy needed Snipes and this dumb kid actually volunteered to become a Machinist Mate. I’m sure the recruiter thought, as Bugs Bunny so famously stated in one of his productions – “What a Maroon”.

That boy was me.

After the inevitable SNAFU; Great Lakes for Boot Camp instead of Orlando, I took the oath that means so much now but were just words to repeat at that time. A short trip up to the North Philly train station and I was on my way not thinking how cold it was going to be in Illinois that time of the year. I was dressed for Orlando. Hell, I didn’t even have socks on. The Recruiter said to wear stuff that you could throw away vs. shipping home. Oh well, I made it through Boot, home on leave, back to GLAKES for MM “A” School and then off to the fleet. Three ships, 6 months with Shore Patrol in Philly, temporary duty with the SeaBees, and a Recruiting tour later I was a civilian again.

I didn’t even know what the Cold War was in 1972 but I sure learned as the years went on; now I blog about it.

My service wasn't a John Wayne movie type enlistment. Nothing extremely exciting happened. No visible confrontations with the Soviets. I'm sure there was the occasional Soviet sub chased away from the Carrier group. My ships had an occasional trawler get too close to the Carrier now and then that we would shoo away by getting too close to them. Now and then Soviet Bear patrol plane would fly over at what seemed like mast top level to harass us, as we had harassed their Comrades. The closest I personally got to the Soviets was in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, of all places. Soviet grain freighters passed by the end dry dock on their way to receive grain the United States sold them during one of their poor harvest seasons. We would hold up Playboy and Hustler magazines and their crewmen would go crazy at the site of naked American women in their binoculars. Fun times.

I enjoyed parts of it, hated parts of it, liked commands, disliked commands. It was a typical enlistment based on other post from Veterans that I have read over the years. A popular Navy advertising slogan at that time was “It’s not just a job, It’s an Adventure!” Actually, for me, and for most of those 10 years, it was my job. A very unique and varied job to say the least but I treated it like my everyday job mentally. We knew the importance of keeping the Soviets away, presenting strength, showing the American flag in foreign lands, but we were mechanics making the ship go. That Soviet stuff was for the Captain to worry about. The constant reminder for us was drills, drills, drills.

One thing I think of often now is how I went from being a lost, no direction, fatherless teen to a man with a wife, two children, and responsibilities; both shipboard and home. Responsibilities I took earnestly and performed to the best of my abilities. One Easter liberty changed it all for me. I caught a hop on a P3 Orion back home after a GITMO exercise. When I got there my youngest, Jennifer, did not know who I was. I decided that weekend, I was done. I still had time to go on that hitch but I was done making a 37 year old destroyer haul reserves around the Caribbean Sea while my children were growing up not knowing who their father was.  I got out and went home to a new career where I saw my family almost every day. It was the right decision back then because in 1998, Jennifer died. If I had stayed in, I would not have had those years with her. I miss her dearly since she died but I do have pleasant memories of her and her older sister, Christina; growing up, attending high school, first dates, sweet sixteen parties, college, etc. I would not have those memories if I had stayed in the Navy.

Yes, I am like most Vets now. Remembering the good times and not the tough ones is part of getting older. Now that I am 63 and need a pension and healthcare I sometimes think getting out was a mistake. “Should have stayed for 20 and retired” pops into my head now and then (usually at bill paying time) but I didn’t stay in so there is no use crying in my beer about it. What is done is done!

Back in 2010 when reading an article around Veterans Day about how Cold War Veterans get no recognition, I started blogging on the Cold War. I’ve written my own thoughts, reposted other articles, and posted Cold War Veterans stories on and off since then. I started an association for Cold War Veterans - The Proud Cold Warrior Society (you can still join if you wish). Email me and I'll send you the link to sign up. Life got in the way this past year or so and I’ve let the blog go dormant. I’m restarting it today.

Thanks for visiting this blog. And, special thanks to the followers and those who participated by sharing their Cold War stories over the past few years. In that thought, if you want to share what you did during your Cold War service, please contact me at theproudcoldwarrior@gmail.com. I’ll be glad to record your story here.

God Bless and Bravo Zulu to all of you who were like me and went from a kid to a Cold Warrior by serving during a conflict that still does not get the recognition it deserves. 

Hey, we were Superheroes; we Saved The World from Nuclear Annihilation!

We all have a story of those times. Share yours here.

My Cold War service: MMFA to MM1 (E-2 to E-6), 1972-1982, U.S.S. Farragut DLG-6, U.S.S. Guam LPH-9, Shore Patrol PNSY (TDY 1976), Navy Recruiting Command,  NTC Port Hueneme (TDY 1979), U.S.S. Harold J. Ellison DD-864, NTC Port Hueneme (TDY 1982).

The Farragut was my favorite assignment - I became a man there and I had a great mentor in Senior Chief Smeltzer, I didn’t spend much time on the Guam to have an opinion - the Chief sent me off to Shore Patrol - good move because I liked it, Recruiting was both challenging and interesting - I gained new skills and learned I could do more than fix machines - both my girls were born then also, Port Hueneme was fun being with the SeaBees because it was different and I was teaching - I taught pipe fitting during both TDY assignments, the Ellison challenged my skills both mechanical and leadership.

Overall there was nothing earth shattering. I just did my job.

Thank you,
John Kairis



SHARE YOUR COLD WAR STORY !

Where did you serve? Military or Civilian? Stateside or Overseas. Fulda Gap? Berlin? NATO? CIA? State Department? The Dew Line? On a Missile Battery? Down in a Silo? At Sea? Under the Sea? In the Air? According to the VA over 26 million Vets are still alive. I'd bet that most served in the 1945-1991 time frame and I'd like to share your story on this blog. As long as it isn't still classified, email me with your story and I will post it here. proudcoldwarrior@gmail.com