Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

I called my dad on Sunday to see how he's doing (not well) and to thank him for his national service during World War II. He was grateful on both counts.

My dad never talks about it, but he was a tail gunner aboard an aviation fuel refueling ship in the South Pacific during the war. It was the kind of ship that Kamikaze's loved to dive-bomb. Dad got a lot of practice shooting Kamikaze's out of the sky.

His dad, my grandfather, was in the Navy in the 1920's. Pop-pop was stationed aboard a battlewagon, the USS Delaware. He was a Boilerman. But his real job was to be the coxswain for the Navy's championship rowing team. He led the Navy team to something like 4 victories. The Navy was heartbroken when Pop-pop bailed out at the end of his second enlistment in 1927.

I was born under a water sign, Cancer. I came from generations of Navy men. It was inevitable, I guess, that I would go to sea.

I never stroked a championship team, nor did I blast Jap Zeros out of the puffy-clouded South Pacific sky. But I did serve my country, honorably, from 1968 to 1972. I was an aviation electronics technician. I spent most of my enlistment ashore, in boot camp, electronics schools and, for a two year stretch, attached to the Flight Test Division of the Naval Air Test Center located in Lexington Park, Maryland.

I love working there. The best and the brightest of both officers and enlisted members of the services were sent to the NATC. Our test pilots all had "the right stuff." Our enlisted personnel were either on their way to becoming officers or else they had turned down commissions due to their feelings about the Viet Nam war.

Eventually, though, the time came for sea duty, and I was sent to Lakehurst, New Jersey, were I was assigned to HC-2, The Fleet Angels, a Sea-Air Rescue Helicopter Squadron. After six months of non-descript duty aboard the base I was re-assigned to a detachment leaving for six months of sea duty aboard the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, CVA-42.

Rosie was a WWII relic. Rather like dad. She wasn't as fast as the newer nukes. She was smaller than most of the newer carriers. But she was feisty. And she was comfy. She had a "lived-in" look and feel that you couldn't find aboard newer ships. If you look real close at the arresting gear, my bunk was under the the #3 arresting wire. You have no idea how loud a 40,000 pound jet aircraft slamming into the deck at 150 miles per hour is, when it's just six inches above your face.

Rosie had character. I like ships with character.

I don't expect anyone to ever thank me for my duty. It was a great time in my life. I met some great guys, got drunk a lot, and learned how to play well with others.

And do you know that, to this day, I still fold my socks and underwear exactly the way I was taught to do it in bootcamp?

Catholic school was good training for the Navy. But the Navy had much cuter guys.

UPDATE: California Supreme Court Upholds Proposition 8. Existing same-sex marriages to stand.

Tell me again why I should be grateful to this country for all it does for me?

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