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 Super Highway. 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 call 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.

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 was 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 four 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 reunion, everyone agreed that it was an unqualified success. In May of both 2014 and 2015, 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.

This will be the last post in my Blog until May 24th.  I leave Honolulu this afternoon for Chicago and on to Branson.  I will return from Branson with new stories about the reunion, the events and the antics of my shipmates and myself when I resume posting.

While I am away I invite you to go through the menus and read earlier posts.

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


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.



To follow Tales of an Asia Sailor and get e-mail notifications of new posts, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above, then click on the follow button.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.




Higher Education

Higher Education

By: Garland Davis


I completed High School before enlisting in the Navy.  I always felt that the greatest benefit I gained from school was a love of books. My grandmother taught me to read and write before I started elementary school.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of books I have read since 1951 when I discovered them. I wasn’t really interested in education in my youth.  Fortunately for me, I never had difficulty remembering information that I read or heard from the teacher in the classroom.  From a very early age, I wanted the Navy.  That was my childhood goal which I attained at the age of seventeen.

At the time I enlisted, the Navy had a program for high school graduates. They were enlisted at paygrade High School Seaman (HSSN).  Which basically meant that I would leave boot camp as an SN instead of SA.  I went into the Navy as an SN (E-3) instead of Seaman Recruit. After fifteen years in the Navy, I decided to take advantage of the on-base programs to go to college.  Within three years I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management with credits earned through classroom work and the CLEP Program.  After spending eight years afloat on forward deployed ships in Japan I returned to Pearl harbor for a twilight tour, I decided to study for a Master Degree.  I earned an MBA before I retired from the Navy.

After retiring, I took a position as a middle manager for a fast food company.  The company had a program that would pay fifty percent of the tuition for managers who were pursuing a Master’s Degree and would repay the manager for his portion of the tuition upon receiving the degree.  The PR Department approved my request to study for a second Master’s Degree.  I took that degree in History.

At the time I took the last Master’s I thought my educational endeavors were finished. But, about three years ago, I decided to take some courses in English and Writing in an effort improve my writing abilities.  I signed up with a New England University that has an excellent online program.  The counselor who interviewed me by phone encouraged me to provide transcripts and select a degree program.  I explained that I was sixty-nine years old and just wanted to take a few courses and wasn’t interested in another degree.  She then started telling me about all the financial assistance available.  I assured her that I would pay for my courses.  She rather reluctantly enrolled me in an undergrad course in creative writing and poetry.

I did well in the course and enrolled in a graduate level course in literature and after that a grad course in creative writing.  When I attempted to enroll in another course, I was informed that before I could take more courses, I would have to provide transcripts and enroll in a degree program.  That, I guess, is the end of further education. I want to take the courses that appeal to me, not to fill some niche toward another useless degree.

I have heard it said that attaining college degrees demonstrates one’s perseverance and devotion to the goal of gaining the degree.  I was thinking that since I am eaten up with ADHD, obtaining the levels of education that I have must really show that perseverance.

Here I sit with almost as many degrees as a thermometer.  Looking back on attaining these educational milestones, I realized that I got much more satisfaction each time I completed a course for advancement, was actually advanced, and graduating as the honor man in the “CS B” school and in the BEQ Managers course. Each of these courses and schools helped me in the Navy.  I cannot say that anything I learned in business school benefited my Navy career at all.

I knew a Third Class Musician with a PHD in Music.  That level of education didn’t improve his ability to play the trumpet and clarinet.  He left the Navy after one tour and ended up driving a long haul truck.  I knew a Captain who went on to Rear Admiral with a degree in Preservation and Forestry.  I doubt that it helped him fly fighters during WWII and jet aircraft during the Korean War.

A number of years ago a Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy proposed that educational achievements become a requirement for advancement to the upper enlisted grades.  The proposal suggested that to be advanced to E-6 an Associate’s Degree would be required; for E-7 a Bachelor’s Degree would be required; for E-8 a Master’s Degree would be required; for E-9 progress toward a Doctorate would be necessary.  Here, I deliberately neglected to use the terms Chief, Senior Chief, and Master Chief.

A group of us, all retired Chiefs, Senior Chief, and Master Chiefs, were having a couple of cool ones in my neighbor’s garage and discussing this.  The consensus of the group was that none of us would have made the Navy a career.  A retired Master Chief who had served thirty years in the submarine force and had been the Chief of the Boat (COB) on two separate submarines, as well as Command Master Chief in a Submarine Squadron remarked, “What the hell will a PHD do for me in a submarine. I already have a PHD.  I spent thirty years in submarines. I already have a PHD. A PHD in submarines.”

I believe the sailor and the Navy probably benefits more from deckplate training of Officers and Enlisted persons in their professional and military duties instead of demanding higher degrees of educational achievement in disciplines that, more often than not, have no relevance to his Navy duty requirements.



To follow Tales of an Asia Sailor and get e-mail notifications of new posts, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above, then click on the follow button.  To see a menu of previously published articles, click on the three white lines in the red rectangle above.

A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.