He is me, and I am him. We are one. If he’s lucky, he is the Asia Sailor.
Purloined from the US Navy Vets page.
1/2 boy 1/2 man… the Sailors Edition
The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father’s, but he has never collected unemployment either.
He’s a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy, and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left, or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away. He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and waves break over the bow.
He is 10 or 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling, thus letter writing is a pain for him, but he can tie a double bowline on a bight or can start a P250 pump with a Peri Jet Eductor in 30 seconds… and can plug and patch a ruptured salt water feed in half that time in the dark. He can describe the fire fighting techniques for every class of fire in effective detail, and can don a Scott Air Pack and operate a firehose effectively when he must.
He can answer a bearing order either at the helm or from aft steering and can apply first aid like a professional. He can secure any aircraft or equipment or cargo to the deck while the ship lurches and rolls with the fury of the sea crashing all around him.
He can keep the slack out of a phone and distance line until he is told to stop, or stand vigilant and firm against waves and wind until he is relieved of his watch.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient.
He has two sets of uniforms underway: one for watch and the other for work. He keeps one eye on the horizon for contacts and the other on his shipmates to ensure they remain on the right side of the life rails.
He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth, but never to square away his rack or polish his boots. He cleans his spaces for daily inspections, mend his own clothes, and fix his own hurts.
If you’re thirsty, he’ll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He’ll even share his back and lean into you while you’re on the nozzle in the midst of battling a raging fire.
He has learned to use his hands to tame the sea and the sea has become his home. When injured, he bleeds one part blood and one part sea water.
He will save his ship and crew before his own life, because that is his job.
He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay, and still find ironic humor in it all.
He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.
He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.
He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to’ square-away’ those around him who haven’t bothered to stand, remove their hat, or even stop talking. In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.
Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Sailor, and his brethren have sailed the globe to keep this country free since 1775.
He has asked nothing in return, except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him, always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.
Today’s Navy offers the same opportunities to women to carry forward the same honored tradition of sailing and flying into harm’s way, doing their part in this tradition of going to War when our nation calls us to do so.
As you go to bed tonight, picture this shot.
A short lull on the fantail, the green flash, and a picture of loved ones pulled from their pocket.