Rights come with Responsibilities – Or Do They?

From a shipmate’s blog.

theleansubmariner

Memorial Day has been a special event in my family’s life ever since Great Grandfather Mac donned his Grand Army of the Republic Uniform and marched in his first parade.

The men who returned from the War Between the States felt it was their duty and honor to remember the sacrifices of so many men who had died in that horrific war. For those who were fortunate, death came swiftly. For those less fortunate, long suffering in primitive medical conditions, agony lasted months and even years. The men who escaped injury felt that honoring the sacrifice was a continuation of their duty.

Their sons were later called to action for a larger war overseas and within another generation yet another World War. Rach of those wars and the many conflicts since have one thing in common. All of them have helped to preserve an idea called America and the freedom…

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The 2017 Asia Sailor’s Westpac’rs Reunion

The 2017 Asia Sailor’s Westpac’rs Reunion

By Garland Davis

When I returned to Honolulu in May of 2016, I didn’t think the reunion could get any better. That goes to show that my thinking was fucked up.

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From looking at these images one would think that all we did was sit around and drink. (We did some of that.) There were many functions available from Shooting with Ski, singing karaoke, attending a stage show, drunk ladies painting, an extemporaneous performance of the Ballad of Subic Bay by the Not Quite Right Quartet, and wheelchair limo rides for people too sleepy to make it to their quarters. A special feature was a dance this author did with a pair of chairs.

Bravo Zulu to all attendees for making the 2017 Asia Sailor Westpac’rs an event to remember.

Make your plans for next year. If experience holds true, 2018 will be even better.

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Reunion

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Reunion

By: Garland Davis

They say the best ships a sailor serves in are his last one and his next one. How many times have you departed a ship feeling the anticipation of something new? A new challenge awaits. Your old ship has become monotonous and a grind and you find yourself glad to put it behind you. Even as your stride lengthens when you walk away, you feel an underlying regret to be leaving. There are men, and, I suppose in our new, ever changing Navy, women with whom you have shared some rough seas and hard times and some of the best of times. You are going to miss them. But this time, you will keep in touch.

But you eventually lose track. As the years and water pass under the keel, you forget names and which ship. You remember the good times. You’ll start a sea story with, “Me and this fucking Radioman, damned if I can remember his name…” all too often. You’ll tell stories about sailors from other ships that you met in the bars and clubs. Guys who know some of the same people you know. You never served together but now you are shipmates.

Finally, you reach the end of your run and retire to a civilian life that you have no fucking conception of. It is more strange to you than boot camp was when you first enlisted. You had seen the movies and TV shows and had some idea of what to expect. Coming into civilian life as an adult, a civilian life that you had only lived in as a kid is a fucking traumatic experience.

It brings to mind to an old joke. A Marine Sergeant Major, the epitome and recruiting poster picture of the perfect Marine reaches retirement. After the retirement ceremony, he dresses in a three-piece suit as a successful civilian does and departs the base. A few months later one of his subordinate Sergeants meets him on the street. He is appalled at the Sergeant Major’s appearance. The once perfect Marine is unshaven, ungroomed, dressed in wrinkled clothing, has shaky hands, and is scurrying along the street looking around as if he had seen a ghost or something was chasing him.

The Sergeant asked, “Sergeant Major, what in the world has happened to you? You were the perfect Marine. What happened to change you?”

The Sergeant Major replies, “You know, there ain’t nobody in fucking charge out here!”

Then there is the story of a thirty-year sailor who retired to a job in manufacturing. The fourth day he reported to work, his boss intercepted him and asked, “Hartman, this is the fourth day you have been late for work. What did they say to you in the Navy when you came into the office ten minutes late every day?”

Hartman said, “They always said, ‘Good morning, Master Chief.’”

But we move on and adapt to civilian life. Those of us lucky enough to live near an old shipmate or another serviceman, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, it really doesn’t matter have a tenuous connection to the past. A spark of the old life is there. Of course, we make civilian friends, but they are not friends on the level that our shipmates and those we called shipmate were.

We often sat around and wondered, “What happened to Old So and So?” But we really had no way of tracking them down. All one could do was reminisce and wonder.

And then came the Information Revolution and the information Superhighway. Some of us embraced it and others had to be dragged kicking and screaming, yelling, “fucking computers.” There was a miraculous web of electrons where we could communicate via e-mail. Later came the social sites. Bulletin boards where those with similar beliefs and experiences could connect. There were search sites where you could search for individuals. Slowly we reconnected with a few people. Then FaceBook exploded on the scene. You could join a group called Tin Can Sailors, or The Majestic and Ancient Order of Shit River and there he was, “Old Shit for Brains”, whom you had spent many hours thinking about, laughing about, and missing. And he knew where one or two other old shipmates were. You slowly reconnected with old shipmates and made friends with others who had been there and did the things you did albeit in different ships or at a slightly different time. It was as if the twenty or thirty years hadn’t passed. You built a group from the old life. You even discovered that one of your old shipmates retired in the next town over, an hour’s drive away.

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The military sites and Facebook groups are rife with reunion announcements, places, dates and etc. More and more, old shipmates are driving halfway across the country to spend time with an old shipmate and going to the ships and unit reunions. Telephone plans are such that you can call anywhere in the country at no extra cost. Old sailors call other old sailors across the country and talk as if they lived within blocks of each other.

In 2012/2013, five of us started the Asia Sailor website and Facebook group. I don’t believe any of us served in the same command, but we had served together in Asia at relatively the same time period. I am in Hawaii, one is in the Ozarks, one in Florida, one in California, and our webmaster is in Thailand. Using e-mails and the messaging capability of Facebook, we conceptualized and launched the Asia Sailor Westpac’ers Association website and Facebook group. Each entity has in excess of five hundred members.

Barely four months after launching the website, we held our first annual Westpac’rs reunion in April 2013 at the Clarion Hotel in Branson, MO. For such a quickly planned and put together event, everyone agreed that it was an unqualified success. In May of 2014, 2015, and 2016 the reunions were repeated with an overwhelming response. Shipmates from as far as Japan have attended the past two years and are expected again this year. We have a shipmate traveling from the West Coast of Africa to be with us this year.

This will be the last regular post in my Blog until May 30th. I leave Honolulu this evening for Denver and on to Branson. After the reunion, I will travel on to North Carolina to visit my sisters. I am carrying the laptop with me and may occasionally post from the reunion. I will return from my trip with new stories about the reunion, the events and the antics of my shipmates and myself when I resume routine posting.

While I am away I invite you to go through the menus and read earlier posts.  Just click on the red rectangle at the top of the page to find a chronological list of months.  Click on the month to read all postings in that time period.

 

This was posted earlier in the Blog. It is a poem I wrote after the 2013 reunion:

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The Weight of Our Years

By: Garland Davis

For a time, the old men would tell of years and wars past…

Stories and laughter among a forest of empty bottles

scattered in a graceless pack across the table.

 

Rain filled the darkness outside the window,

and the tables filled with memorabilia abetted the

desperation with which they yearned for those long gone days.

 

Reluctant to leave the companionship, once again

found for a few days at the spring reunion

and held close in that bitter pall of tomorrow’s leaving.

 

But, the thrill of our shared derangement, and stories

true and not that evoked both joy at remembering

and sadness, knowing that one cannot go back.

 

The old men remain, with their lives caving in around them,

crushed by the weight of years and lost among memories and bottles.

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Military Spouse Appreciation Day

Military Spouse Appreciation Day

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Good Hearted Woman

♫” She’s a good-hearted woman in love with a sea-going man.”♫

by: Garland Davis

There has been much written about the Navy. About the men, the ships, battles, piers, WestPac, bars, hookers and heaven knows what else. Asiatic sailors spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on and telling tales about all these things. But, we don’t talk a helluva a lot about those who really loved us. Loving a crazy-assed WestPac sailor took a Good Hearted woman. They are and will always remain among the greatest of God’s creations.

I know you have all seen them waiting on the pier whenever the ship returned to homeport, be it 0200, cold or wet, they would be waiting. Rain…Snow… Hell, alligators could have been falling from the sky and they would have been there. Waiting for what? Waiting for an unshaven, smelly, raggedy-assed idiot who hadn’t showered for three days because of busted evaporators and limited fresh water, hauling a sack of dirty laundry and reeking of sweat and fuel oil.

They couldn’t wait to embrace the smelly guys who poured off the gray behemoth that had just tethered to the pier or out outboard in the nest. Holding a baby their sailor had never seen in one arm and trying to keep track of a three-year-old waving a sign that says “Welcome Home Daddy.” She was an angel in a sundress from the mark-down rack at the Navy Exchange with a smile that dimmed the sun. These girls welcomed you when you came home and stood on that same pier with tears streaming down their face when you left.

Sit back and think about it. That lady in the kitchen doing the dishes was once, the barely out of her teens, girl who married a crazy assed Third Class North American Bluejacket. All he had to offer was E-4 pay and a few bucks sea pay, poor housing in even poorer neighborhoods, long separations and duty every third or fourth day. She put up with him when he showed up late with a couple of shipmates and two cases of beer. She made them sandwiches and made sure they were up and on their way the next morning.

Later when you were at sea, trying to keep up with the carrier in heavy seas, she was at parent-teacher meetings school plays, science fairs, little league games, and dental appointments; without you. She carried them to the emergency room and met with the principle when they got in trouble. She did it all without you when it would have been really great to have you there. When you got orders to Hawaii, she arranged for packing household goods and transporting the dogs all while you were at sea.

They should be eligible for sainthood. Think about it…they married guys who spent a good part of their time away from them. They had to play second fiddle to another lady that he had a love/hate relationship with. She was hard steel and gray and demanded much of him. She dined on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before the allotment check came in. Homemade Christmas and birthday gifts for the kids. Home permanents because the beauty shop cost too much. Unable to visit her Mom and Dad for years because there wasn’t money for travel.

Dude, do you know what a lucky bastard you are. Do you know what it takes for a woman to put up with the bullshit sandwich that a sailor’s wife is handed? Yet they were strong.

Yes they were special ladies who loved us. Welcome home with her arms around your neck. Hell, with the fuel oil smell and the sack of dirty laundry, you couldn’t have paid someone to hold you like that who didn’t love you. They actually ordered see-through pajamas and nighties that would make a stripper blush. Just to welcome you home.

They were our angels. Always will be. There should be a statue on every Navy Base of a beautiful young girl in a J. C. Penny’s bargain dress, holding a toddler in one arm and the hand of grinning snipe in greasy dungarees and a frayed white hat with the other.

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This is for the ladies. God bless you. You supported us, you loved us, and you put up with us. We were crazy. Had to be to live the life and do the things we did. You were the sanity in our world. You are recognized and honored by all of us who stood topside and watched you as we entered and left port.

Your life was hard; it was a hell of a lot rougher than any starry eyed girl should have to deal with. Your sacrifices and personal hardships will be rewarded in the memories that all faithful and loyal women accumulate and in the deep regard and respect by which you are held by the men who stood on deck and regarded your bargain basement dress as a garment worn by an angel.

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Brutus and George Wallace

Brutus and George Wallace

By Cort Willoughby

Okay, here’s another story from my career as a Law Enforcement Officer after I retired from the Navy.

Dispatch sends me on a call at 0515. Always a pain in the rear since shift ends at 0545. You always have your mind on the clock at that time in the shift. We were pulling twelve-hour shifts, four days on and four days off. I enjoyed the schedule as did most of us who worked the road.

A call comes in for me to go to an address on 166th Avenue. They told me the lady had vague complaints. Which I took to mean that she was Bat-shit Crazy. Probably more fucked up than a port-sided football bat. The crazy calls were becoming a specialty of mine. The dispatchers had great fun at my reporting from the scene.

I ease into the drive and lock my PoPo ride. I knock on the door and a lady in her late middle ages opens the door. The aroma of Thanksgiving dinner emanates from the house on this early June morning.

“You cooking turkey, Ma’am?

“Hell yes, you smell it don’t you?

“Yes Ma’am, and I can also smell that fresh dog turd over there by the kitchen table.”

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“Brutus, you son-of-a-bitch, I told you to stop shitting in the house!”

“Where’s Brutus Ma’am, I don’t see him. Is he a dog or a man?”

“He’s a fucking dog!”

“Sure he is Ma’am.”

“Well, he’s hiding ‘cause he knows I’ll find that pile of shit and whip his ass for shitting in the house.”

Yes Ma’am. Why don’t you take him out a couple of times a day and he won’t have to shit under the table.”

“You here to tell me how to raise a stupid mutt?”

“No Ma’am. You called and dispatch sent me to make sure all is okay. Are you fixing a big dinner for relatives?”

“Do you see any relatives?”

“No Ma’am, only you. I have yet to see Brutus.”

“How that little dog shits a turd like that, I’ll never know.”

“The next time you take him to the Vet, you can ask.”

“Why would I do that for?”

“Well Ma’am, it might answer your questions regarding the size of his turds.”

Hell no! I won’t do it!”

“Yes Ma’am, now what can we do to find out what is wrong and why you called? You have a turkey baking and that’s all. Just curious if it’s related to your calling us!”

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“Well, it’s that damned George Wallace gang!”

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“He’s been dead five years or so Ma’am.”

“HaHaHa, He’s got you sucked in like all the others around here. Turkey is done. I’m gonna take it out of the oven. Want to eat some turkey?”

Uh, no, Ma’am. Looks big enough to feed twenty-five people. Is George Wallace the reason you called?”

Oh hell yes he is. Every time I start cooking a turkey, that Bastard shows up with his crew and does all manner of shit.”

“You mean like the dog shit, Ma’am?”

“I don’t know what the hell he thinks he’s gonna get snooping around here.”

Ma’am, what say I have an extra patrol on your residence and you can fly a flag with a turkey on it and we’ll know when to start looking for George Wallace?”

“Well, I figured you wouldn’t do a damned thing either.”

“Thank you, Ma’am. Enjoy that big turkey, teach Brutus some manners and you will be fine.”

“Dispatch, 10-8. No report.

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