“You just go to get drunk…”

“You just go to get drunk…”

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By Garland Davis

The words in the title were said to me by a neighbor in 2016 before I left Honolulu for the Westpac’rs reunion in Branson. And yes, we did have a “few” drinks. But it wasn’t all about drinking beer (there were moonshine and other potables.) There was also reconnecting with our shipmates and myriad sea stories all “no shitters” told and laughed about, often into the wee hours of the night.

There were fundraising activities that raised money to support the Fisher house foundation which provides housing for families of wounded service men and women. We collected and donated $4,500 to that fine organization. The following letter was received from Fisher House in acknowledgment of our contribution:

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7/12/2017 1:00:40 PM

Kathryn McAllister

Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association

Dear Friends:

You are an essential part of making it possible for us to honor and serve our nation’s heroes—and we simply could not fulfill our mission without your support. Thank you for your organization’s gift of $4,500.00.

For more than 25 years, the Fisher House program has been committed to providing “a home away from home” for military and veterans’ families while their loved ones receive vital medical care far from where they live. Because of your support, up to 970 families can call Fisher House home on any given night.

Thanks to your generosity, we continue to expand the network of Fisher Houses. As of spring 2017, there are 72 Fisher Houses in operation and several more under construction. Looking to the future, we are committed to constructing Fisher Houses in communities where they are needed most. Our current priority is to build at VA hospitals around the country, ensuring care for our veterans now, and for decades to come.

We know that there are many organizations deserving of your support, and feel an immense responsibility to be good stewards of the gift you have entrusted to us. In 2016, the Foundation received its 13th consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator, as well as an A+ rating from CharityWatch.

Your support has touched the lives of so many brave men, women, and children facing a medical crisis. To hear more stories about Fisher House families, please visit www.fisherhouse.org.

Thank you for joining us in our mission.

Sincerely,

David A. Coker

President

Fisher House Foundation

111 Rockville Pike, Suite 420

Rockville, MD 20850-5168

Tel: 301-294-8560

Fax: 301-294-8562

info@fisherhouse.org

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The Asia Sailor Westpac’rs also lends support to the poorest students of the Wat Sa School – Pak Ohanan, Nakhon Si Thamarat, Thailand. Our shipmate and fellow Asia Sailor, Lee Thayer, a retired STGC, and his wife Rrayada, live near the Wat Sa school and yearly dispense collected funds to the poorest among the students and buy needed items to support the teachers of the school. These funds allow the students to purchase and maintain the required school uniforms and to buy needed school supplies.

At the 2017 reunion, we raised $1,650, $350 of which was raised by our resident Airdale, Warren Barker with his Brown Shoe Bloody Mary Bar, another $1,100 was received from members who prefer to remain anonymous and Lee added $250 to bring the total to $3000 for the year.

The following are photos of Lee, Rrayada and some of the students and parents at the 2017 hand over of funds.

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I would like to thank my shipmates for their generosity and express my pride in the Asia Sailor Westpac’rs Association. And a heartfelt Bravo Zulu to Lee Thayer who even wears long pants once a year for the “Handover Ceremony.” It is an honor to call him Shipmate!

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The key players in the Westpac’rs Association’s success are Dave and Kathy McAllister. They live in Branson and have taken on the task of making arrangements and coordinating the annual reunions. They deserve a hearty Bravo Zulu for all they do. A pair of great shipmates.

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But the majority of the credit goes to the one hundred plus attendees of the reunion and their participation in the events that made it possible for the Association to contribute to Fisher House and the Wat Sa School.

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Shipmates

Shipmates

By Garland Davis

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A sailor leaves the Navy and retires to the promised “better life. No longer arbitrary bedtimes and waking times, no more sweepers, eight o’clock reports and no more fucking midwatches. Some who know him are jealous and others are pleased, but those of us who preceded him wonder if he knows what he is leaving behind. We already have learned that there is a different world and there is no other world that can compare with the Navy.

I’m sure we have all heard the old joke that says a good shipmate is one who will go ashore when his buddy has the duty, get a blowjob, come back and give it to him. That’s carrying camaraderie a bit far, but there may be some truth there in this new more diverse Navy of the twenty first century.

But all joking aside after the lifetime of special friendships and the camaraderie one experiences as the member of a ship’s crew one will find himself longing for those ships, those experiences, and above-all, those shipmates. There is a special fellowship among sailors that doesn’t exist among our sister services.

After we shuck the uniform for the last time and store it in a foot locker or a seabag in the far reaches of the attic, even if we throw them away, we wear them in our imagination every minute and every breath of our remaining life.

Even if we rise to a prominent position in this new life, in the background there is still pride in knowing that in our hearts, we are a Seaman, a Petty Officer, a Chief Petty Officer, or a Captain. That is the identity that lives within us.

When we “retire”, we are not just leaving a job behind, we are leaving an entire way of life behind and we strive to rekindle the friendships and the camaraderie we once knew. A cursory check of Facebook groups and Navy websites finds numerous ship and Navy reunions around the country. Sailors searching for that which was once the core of their lives.

Sure, we have countless civilian acquaintances (friends), but we haven’t shared the same experiences with them that formed our relationships with our shipmates.

A civilian friend will take offense if you don’t contact them for a long period while a shipmate will greet you as if the years haven’t passed and will pick up the conversation you were last having just where you left off.

A civilian friend will become uncomfortable if you cry. A shipmate will understand and cry with you.

A civilian friend will borrow from you and conveniently forget the debt. A shipmate will return whatever is borrowed as quickly as possible.

A civilian friend knows little about you and isn’t interested unless you can benefit him. A shipmate knows your dog’s name, your kids, and could write a book with direct quotes from you.

A civilian friend will leave you behind if that is what the crowd is doing. A shipmate will stand with you regardless of what the crowd does.

A civilian friend will reluctantly bail you out of jail. A shipmate will be sitting right there beside you, exclaiming, “That was fucking awesome Dude!”

A civilian friend has shared a few experiences with you. A shipmate has shared a lifetime of experiences that no civilian could ever dream of…

A civilian friend will take your drink away when he believes you have had too much to drink. A shipmate will look as you stumble around and say, “Sit down and drink the rest of that before you spill it.” Then he’ll carry you back and put you safely to bed.

Those of you who served at sea and at war in the Navy, I consider shipmates. It is an honor to be one of you and I am humbled to be in your company.

If you have a chance, go to a ship’s or unit reunion and relive the camaraderie of your time at sea.

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