Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A little nostalgia on an anniversary date

44 years ago today, I boarded a train at the North Philadelphia station and changed my life forever. That train was the start of a trip which eventually got me to a place called, RTC Great Lakes. My conversion, from a small town car nut shade tree mechanic into a highly trained Snipe Machinist Mate worthy of his salt, began.

I am a better man for it.

Three sea duty tours, two yard periods, shore duty, recruiting duty, and shipmates of all kinds influenced my experiences. I am grateful to have served with them all. Even the ones that did not like me, or I they. The interaction in the close environment of shipboard duty certainly helped build a better understanding of people of all races, nations, religions, and personalities. These are skills I use to this day in my current career in sales.

Memories are flooding through my brain so fast as I write this and I want to share them all with you but I can't. There are way too many of them.

The memories that stand out in my mind are the sunsets, storms, and the people. A beautiful sunset in the Straights of Magellan just popped into my head when I wrote the word sunsets, a very nasty storm off Cape Hatteras made me write storms, and the vision of a shipmate on the Farragut playing his cello like a jazz base in the rec room is a great people memory I have. There are so, so many more.

I remember flying thousands of miles to meet the ship after "A" school and the first sailor I meet the next morning is MM3 John Thomas, who's home town was minutes from mine back in Pennsylvania. We became good friends. Senior Chief Smeltzer became the best mentor any man could have. He taught me to be humble and to accept the leadership ability I evidently had in me and never saw. Lt. Matheson, "Mr. Matt", showed me that not all officers were a-holes and that my Irish Setter liked bourbon. That party is a story for another post! And, Commander "Crash" Toland proved to me that even the Captain screws up now and then. Much to the chagrin of the "HT's" on the Happy Jack!

I especially cherished the homecomings. Seeing my beautiful wife and children on the pier waiting for me is a vision that I fondly think of now and then. Once, on the Ellison, we were pulling up to the pier in Philly's back basin. I wore a headset during Sea and Anchor Detail, and one of the guys said into the sound powered phones - "Look at the blond in the blue dress! Wow!". She deserved a look because she was a looker in that sky blue dress. Someone else said, "Quiet, that's Kairis' wife". The reply came back "Lucky man". I sure was and still am lucky to have her in my life! She stood by me through all that crap. Recently during a family event, I heard my wife tell my sister - "I always thought I'd never see him again every time he went to sea". She never told me. She kept it to herself all the way up to that BBQ discussion. Going to sea was exciting for me but fearful for her.

Time does have a way of sneaking up on us and causes us to only remember the good things. There were bad days, months, and years also, we all had them during our military service but we tend to push those aside in our old age and remember the good. I guess that is what I am doing today.

Bravo Zulu to all the shipmates I served with, bled with, fought with, drank with, and laughed with over the years.

I love all the memories those times provide.

"It's Not Just a Job, It's an Adventure"!

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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.