I liked Navy vessels -- nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet
auxiliaries and amphibs,
sleek submarines and steady solid aircraft carriers.
I liked the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga,
Coral Sea, Antietam, Valley Forge - memorials of great battles won
and tribulations overcome.
I liked the lean angular names of Navy "tin-cans"--Barney, Dahlgren,
Mullinix, McCloy, Damato, Leftwich - mementos of heroes who went
I liked the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers
as we pulled away from the oiler after refueling at sea.
I liked liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port.
I even liked the never ending paperwork and all hands working
parties as my ship filled herself with the multitude of supplies,
both mundane and exotic, which she needed to cut ties to the land and
carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there was water to float
I liked sailors, officers and enlisted men from all parts of the
land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the
cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trusted
and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me - for
professional competence, for comradeship, for strength and courage.
In a word, they were "shipmates" --then and forever.
I liked the surge of adventure in my heart, when the word was passed:
"Now set the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters for
leaving port", and I liked the infectious thrill of sighting home again,
with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pier
The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; the
parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy
laughter, the 'all for one and one for all' philosophy of the sea was ever
I liked the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as
flying fish flitted across the wave tops and sunset gave way to
I liked the feel of the Navy in darkness - the masthead and range
lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the
pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters - they cut through the
dusk and joined with the mirror of stars overhead. And I liked drifting
off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that told me
that my ship was alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch would keep me safe.
I liked quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee -- the
lifeblood of the Navy - permeating everywhere.
And I liked hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray
shapes racing at flank speed kept all hands on a razor edge of
I liked the sudden electricity of "General quarters, general
quarters, all hands man your battle stations," followed by the
hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of
watertight doors as the ship transformed herself in a few brief seconds from a
peaceful workplace to a weapon of war -- ready for anything.
And I liked the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters
clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers
would still recognize.
I liked the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made
I liked the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry,
Farragut, John Paul Jones and Burke. A sailor could find much in
the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the
An adolescent could find adulthood.
In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still
remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods - the
impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water
surging over the bow.
And then there will come again a faint whiff
of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the
bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of
hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and mess decks.
Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days,
when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over
Remembering this, they will stand taller and say, "I WAS A SAILOR
ONCE. I WAS PART OF THE NAVY, AND THE NAVY WILL ALWAYS
BE PART OF ME."
January 23, 2006
Pride & Tradition