Category Archives: Navy Bits

Holiday Mail for Heroes

For the third year, the American Red Cross has joined with Pitney Bowes and thousands of volunteers to deliver holiday mail to active duty service members, veterans and their families.

As a newly christened Navy Mom, this feels very personal to me. My son is not deployed to a war zone but he will be in Japan for at least two more years. It’ll be his first Christmas away ”” very far away ”” from his family. He has a big, loving family, but many do not.

Please consider taking ten minutes to write a card to someone in the military. As I write this, Veterans Day has just passed and many of us expressed the profound wish that our Armed Forces and those families who have sacrificed so much could be honored more often than one day a year. This would be another way for you and your family to express your good wishes and thanks to them.

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READ THIS FIRST because there are specifics you must comply with so your card gets delivered. And HURRY because you must get them your card by December 7th.

At the bottom of the Red Cross page is a “share” button. Please post to your social media sites too. Feel free to forward my blog post to your friends and family if that’s easier. The more the merrier!

The direct link to the Red Cross is … www.RedCross.org/holidaymail

And to this blog post is … https://beckyland.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/holiday-mail-for-heroes

Thank you!

Have any of you been offered something tangible like this or simply a kind word from a stranger that helped ease your burden?

Okinawa Time

For a smart person, I’m kinda dumb about some things.

Like, for instance, the way time changes depending on where you are.

I blame it on my dad.

He lives in Arizona which sometimes uses the same clock I do here in Colorado. But the other half of the year, they follow Star Date Time, or something. When it’s 2 pm on a Saturday at my house, apparently at his it’s 317 years in the future. And Tuesday.

At one point my daughter lived in Oregon and my son in Illinois. Not a day went by when I knew which one was waking up and which one was tying his shoes.

When my son moved from Chicago to Japan, I simply gave up.

Then my husband came to my rescue. He told me if I add three hours to whatever time it is at my house, then flip the a.m. and p.m., that’s Okinawa time.

Even though I don’t hear from my son as much as I’d like, I find it quite comforting to check the time and know it’s 3 a.m. and he’s safely tucked in. (Shut up. I do too know that! Safely. Tucked. In.) Or that it’s 10:30 a.m. and he’s busily working.

But I still haven’t caught up with my dad. I don’t know where he is on Tuesdays in the future.

Okinawa Bound

My son leaves today for Okinawa. Two years he’ll be gone.

He doesn’t know exactly what he’ll be doing but he’ll be working at the Naval Hospital there. He’s heard a rumor that because he has his EMT certificate, he may get to work in the emergency room for his regular job and when he gets assigned duty he might be driving an ambulance. That would ROCK!

Regardless of what he does, though, I know he’ll be an entirely different person when I see him next.

I got all maudlin when he left for boot camp and needed Abba to help me through.

Honestly? It might happen again. But I feel more under control now, stronger, smarter.

Why, you ask?

Boot camp, for one thing. I learned so much about the Navy while he was there. Corps School for another. I learned so much about him during the three months he was learning to be a corpsman. (I suspect he did too.) And as you know, knowledge is power.

There’s also the fact that my youngest has already sworn in on the Delayed Entry Program and will be joining the Navy too just as soon as he graduates from pesky ”˜ol high school.

So I feel very much the Navy Mom these days.

I think, too, that the unknowns are more known now and his real adventure is beginning. He gets to do a job he’s trained for and has been excited about for a long time.

It’s hard to feel sad when the baby bird flies away to do what he wants to do in an exotic, beautiful locale. As long as said baby bird remembers to email and Skype and help his mother plan her trip to Japan, that is.

Bravo Zulu, boy. Your life is really beginning. Be smart, be safe, bedazzle.

Okinawa Bound

I Am The Flag

I am the flag of the United States of America.
My name is Old Glory.
I fly atop the world’s tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America’s halls of justice.
I fly majestically over institutions of learning.
I stand guard with power in the world.
Look up and see me.

I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice.
I stand for freedom.
I am confident.
I am arrogant.
I am proud.
When I am flown with my fellow banners,
My head is a little higher,
My colors a little truer.
I bow to no one!
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshiped – I am saluted.
I am loved – I am revered.
I am respected – and I am feared.

I have fought in every battle of every war for more then 200 years.
I was flown at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Shiloh and Appomattox.
I was there at San Juan Hill, the trenches of France,
in the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome and the beaches of Normandy.
Guam, Okinawa, Korea and KheSan, Saigon, Vietnam know me.
I’m presently in the mountains of Afghanistan and the hot and dusty deserts of Iraq and wherever freedom is needed.
I led my troops.
I was dirty, battle worn and tired,
But my soldiers cheered me and I was proud.
I have been burned, torn and trampled on the streets of countries I have helped set free.
It does not hurt for I am invincible.
I have been soiled upon, burned, torn and trampled in the streets of my country.
And when it’s done by those whom I’ve served in battle – it hurts.
But I shall overcome – for I am strong.
I have slipped the bonds of Earth and stood watch over the uncharted frontiers of space from my vantage point on the moon.
I have borne silent witness to all of America’s finest hours.
But my finest hours are yet to come.
When I am torn into strips and used as bandages for my wounded comrades on the battlefield,
When I am flown at half-mast to honor my soldier,
Or when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving parent
at the grave of their fallen son or daughter,

I am proud.

by Bob Thompson, Retired Military Veteran, Panama City, Florida

Happy Independence Day!


111th Birthday

My son is almost a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy. He’ll graduate from corps school soon and almost shares a birthday with the Hospital Corp so I thought it was fitting to celebrate both birthdays here in BeckyLand.

Especially when I got this press release and knew I didn’t have to write anything today. (So sue me. I have a lazy streak.) The history of the Hospital Corps is interesting. Do you know what a Loblolly Boy is?

Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) staff and guests gathered at SURFOR headquarters June 12, 2009 to celebrate the Navy Hospital Corps’ birthday. The event commemorated 111 years of service since the corps establishment in 1898.

Command Master Chief, 1st Medical Battalion, Master Chief Hospital Corpsman E. D. Faulkner, guest of honor and speaker, commented on the bravery and sacrifice made by hospital corpsmen over the years and today.

“When we talk about honor, honesty, integrity and truthfulness, we are talking about the pledge of the hospital corpsmen that they will allow no harm to come to any Sailor, Airman or Marine trusted to their care. And if that means sacrificing and putting their lives on the line to do that, they are willing to do it,” he said. “There’s nothing more brave or valorous than a corpsman on the battlefield, in the surface fleet, with subs or with the Marines””we’re everywhere,” added Faulkner.

The event, which was coordinated by SURFOR’s Force Medical Team, also featured a display that included photos of 10 of the 20 ships named after heroic corpsmen, the names of 1,999 corpsmen killed in action and a letter dated 1868, written by a Sailor requesting acceptance into the hospital corps. The display was provided by Cmdr. Steven McGivern of the Force Medical Team.

“It was an honor to be part of a ceremony where the achievements and commitment of our hospital corps was the focal point,” said Hospital Corpsman 1st class Austin Ivy, event head coordinator and master of ceremony. “Today is a very special day, not just for hospital corpsmen, but for every Sailor to pause for a moment and commemorate those great Sailors who have gone before us and given the ultimate measure of sacrifice for their country,” he added.

The celebration concluded with the time-honored naval custom of presenting pieces of birthday cake to the guest of honor and to the oldest and the youngest corpsman present, symbolizing the celebration of experience and youth. Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (SW/AW) Stephen Richardson, Force Medical Team represented the oldest corpsman and Hospital Corpsman 3rd class Amanda Vasquez, USS Higgins DDG 76, the youngest.

In his closing remarks, Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, Commander, Naval Surface Forces/Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet said, “All of us can look back on our pasts, and think about being out on that ship, and the injuries we’ve had or the medical issues we had and have confidence in knowing that a corpsman, who might have been a third class or a chief, was there to help us out, along the way.”

The Hospital Corps celebrates a long, rich history, which can be traced back to the Continental Navy and early U.S. Navy. The first medical assistants assigned to Navy ships were referred to as “Loblolly Boys,” a term borrowed from the British Royal Navy and a reference to the daily ration of porridge fed to the sick. Later, the title of the enlisted medical assistant changed from “Loblolly Boy,” to “Nurse” and finally to “Bayman.” In 1841 a senior enlisted medical rate called “Surgeon’s Steward” was introduced and remained through the Civil War. Following the war, “Surgeon’s Steward” became “Apothecary,” a position requiring completion of a course in pharmacology.

Just prior to the Spanish-American War, Congress passed a bill that authorized establishment of the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps. The bill was signed into law by President William McKinley on June 17, 1898.

During World War I, corpsmen earned 684 personal awards, including 22 Medals of Honor, 55 Navy Crosses and 237 Silver Stars.

In World War II, hospital corpsmen worked side-by-side with their Marine brothers, hitting the beach with them in every battle in the Pacific. They also served on thousands of ships and submarines.

Hospital corpsmen continued to serve at sea and ashore during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, corpsmen have been on the front lines in the Global War on Terrorism. Today, they make up the largest rating in the Navy, with approximately 24,000 corpsmen serving around the globe, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition, they have responded to natural disasters and other emergencies during peacetime.

So, to all the Navy corpsmen, on land, on sea, today and yesterday ”” and especially mine ”” let’s lift a forkful of cake to celebrate them and their achievements.

I wonder what the standard Navy cake flavor might be? Any ideas? I hope it’s not made with saltwater and kelp.

Sweet Navy Moves

Sailors have all the fun!

Navy Numa Numa …

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Love these funny military photos …

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Hey Ya …
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Brings new meaning to “computer keyboard.” And why do they have a lifesize Elvis and a pink floppy hat on a carrier?

Pump It …
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Move Along …
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Not Navy, but this is why they’re hot …
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Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day.

To tell you the truth, I never thought much about the meaning behind it. I don’t have any war heroes in my family to honor. To me, it was always a day off school or work to be filled with swimming pool openings, barbeques and other related activity kicking off the beginning of summer.

But now that I’m an Official Navy Mom, this year I’m thinking about it. And I realized I didn’t know much. So I found this history of Memorial Day,  which I’m posting here because maybe some of you find yourself with the same lack of information. And I’m wondering what I think about the question posed at the end, which is why I want to know what you think. Mulling ….

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.”

While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”

The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: “Changing the date merely to create a three-day weekend has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced a bill to the Senate which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of “the last Monday in May.” On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House. The bills were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform.

To date, there have been no further developments on the bill.

So what do you think? Does taking a three-day weekend detract from the true meaning and spirit of Memorial Day? Should we observe Memorial Day on the original date of May 30th instead of the last Monday in May?

If you want to urge your Representatives or Senators to support these bills, there are links at Memorial Day History as well as a petition you can sign.

 

If Navy Graduation Is Measured in Tears, Then This One Was AWESOME!

I know this is a bit long, and normally I’d break it into two or three posts, but people are bugging me to tell them all about it. So I’ll let you choose to read it all at once, or in three chunks, or not at all. All are acceptable, none is wrong. In case you weren’t bugging me, it might be fun to read every fourth word, but I make no guarantees. I’m just sayin.

First, two random impressions of my five days in Chicagoland … One, sailors are unfailingly polite, despite having been yelled at and called names for the past two months. And two, Chicago should be called the Most Ironic City because it’s full of potholes AND road work.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

We landed at Midway around 12:15, picked up our luggage and scooted over to the car rental where we got our car before we even had a chance to complain about anything. Which is funny ”” well, to me, because I’m kinda mean ”” because at the graduation, I was chatting with someone who said when they landed at 1:00, all the rental cars at Midway airport were gone!

A friend of ours (thanks, Lisa!) suggested if we wanted real Chicago food, we should go to Superdawg which was established in 1948 by a GI recently returned from WWII.

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He and his wife built it and created the recipes, but they only meant to be in business for two years. It became so successful, it’s now run by one of their sons who helped direct me to the correct door. I explained we were tourists and were told to visit Superdawg and he took us under his wing. He told us how to order, what to order, and all kinds of fascinating tidbits about the place. They still have carhops who brave all kinds of weather and he told funny stories about all the movies they were almost featured in. They hand-cut all their fries ”” and we’re talking crinkle cuts! His dad invented a special tool the three full-time French fry makers use. (Three. Full-time. Crinkle cutters. Your job looks pretty good now, eh?)  He even bought us milkshakes! We had lots of fun and quite possibly the best darn dawg I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet, once I found it under the ginormous pickle. Still not sure what the neon green relish was, though.

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Because I wasn’t sure how much time we’d have with our new sailor, or if we’d get back to Chicago over the weekend, I planned a route up Lake Shore Drive. It’s a beautiful drive through a gorgeous part of Chicago. And it was an inspired decision, because we didn’t get back to town except to catch our flight home.

The Great Lakes Naval Station is in North Chicago, about halfway between Chicago and Milwaukee, right on Lake Michigan. We dodged potholes and orange cones and finally made it to our hotel, which was perfect. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen and living room.

On our way out to dinner, we stopped in the lobby to ask a question, and found out the hotel hosted evening socials during the week. So we grabbed a table in the corner and ate meatball sandwiches and salad and drank beer for awhile. Free beer is so delicious. Our table was next to a group of about ten people. I suspected they were some of my Navy4Moms (N4M) peeps but waited till I was done eating before saying hello. We had a fun meet-and-greet with three other Navy families.

It was really hard to sleep that night. I woke every couple of hours, trying to use the awesome power of my mind to make time move faster. Unfortunately, I must have forgotten to pack the awesome power of my mind because minutes …… went …… so …… slowly! But finally, the time came when we could leave for graduation and not be ridiculed. I had read a story on N4M about a mom who was so antsy and worried about getting to graduation that she showed up at the gate at 4:30am. The MPs told her to come back in two hours. So she went back to her hotel and sat in the lobby trying to harness the awesome power of her mind to make time move faster.

Friday, April 24, 2009

I will only admit to being ready a half hour before we needed to leave, so we went to the lobby in search of coffee. Even though they said breakfast wouldn’t be set up that early, it was and we took full advantage. Because we searched out the correct gate the day before, we drove right in and were directed to our first security stop. There was a portable dark-windowed security tower watching us from above, K9 patrols inspecting us from below, and lots of very polite, slightly scary MPs directing things. They scrutinized our IDs, then sent us on our way to another parking lot. We passed several MPs who aimed their M-16s at us. Intimidating! We parked where they pointed then gathered our cameras and binoculars to walk to a building across the parking lot. We left our jackets in the car because even though it was only 6:30am, it was already warm. (Remember this info because I will re-visit it later in the narrative. Blog foreshadowing is not nuanced.)

As we entered the building there was a huge sign that said “Welcome Aboard.” For those of you keeping score, this was the first episode of crying for me. (I almost cried when I saw the coffee in the hotel lobby, but I managed to hold it together.) We snaked our way through the roped Disney-esque lines to another security checkpoint. After checking our names against his guest list, he waved us through. (This marks the second episode, but I had to hide this one as my family was already making fun of me.)

I thought this was where the graduation would be held, but I was wrong. We went out the building, and across muddy construction zones of torn-up sidewalks to another huge building where we stood in yet another line to enter a side door. When we finally got into this building, I saw a rectangular interior that was a cross between a gymnasium and an airplane hangar. Bleachers hugged one long side at both floor and balcony level, and the short ends had balcony seats. Colorful semaphore flags ringed all three sides. The other long side had several small doors, three large projector screens and an enormous garage door which I knew was where the graduates entered. (Third crying episode.) The room was labeled with the numbers of the graduating divisions. 167 was at the far end. We chose seats in the last row of the floor level bleachers so we could lean against the brick wall behind us. We were in our seats by 7am but we were certainly not the first people in the hall. The graduation was to begin at 9:00. Seems early, but there’s an exponential delay getting through the parking and security lines and I knew that 750 graduates meant about that many cars and 2,000+ people. Plus, I was antsy.

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As we walked the length of the hall, there were sailors standing in their dress blues at each of the Division signs. I noticed two at our Division wearing nametags with names I recognized from Adam’s letters, so I stopped and introduced myself. They both smiled like we were old friends and said nice things about my son. I asked why they were there. Turns out they were award winners. The short one was an Honor Graduate and the tall one won the Academic Excellence Award over all the recruits.

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As their reward, I guess they got to stand there for two hours before the ceremony. (This might have made them cry, but they’re sailors and don’t go in for maudlin displays.)

Before the ceremony, the Navy band played lots of Sousa because Lt. John Philip Sousa left his civilian band to train musicians at Great Lakes. He created 14 regimental bands totalling about 1,500 members. Sometimes all of them would play in concert, drawing huge crowds of civilians to the base. They also entertained us with videos about Great Lakes, the Navy, boot camp life, Battle Stations, and other aspects of Navy life. I re-read my program for the umpteenth time, getting choked up each time I read they’d be singing the Navy Hymn. (Crying episodes four through eighteen.)

Finally, the ceremony started. They rolled open those garage doors and you saw the feet and blue clad legs of Division 166. My eyes swam again ”” as they are while I type this ”” and 166 marched in to the roar of the crowd. Adam’s Division 167 marched in right behind them and I tried to find my sailor but couldn’t. I didn’t mind, I knew he was there. They were in perfect precision, which might be redundant, but if you’ve never seen military men march in precision, there is perfect and there is not. This was perfect.

I watched as they marched the length of the viewing stands. I knew without turning my head whenever another division passed through the garage doors from the huge cheer that erupted above and beyond the sustained cheering of 2,000+ proud friends and family. Even the most cynical and stoic couldn’t keep their emotions checked. I’m fairly certain I wasn’t the only one having an episode. They marched in front of the stands then turned the short corner and traveled across the back of the long side, ending up as Division blocks, near where the signs had been placed on the floor before the ceremony. This is about half the graduating divisions.

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I gave my younger son the binoculars with the plea, “Find him!” He did, pointing toward the front when I had been looking in back. In the picture below, he’s smack dab between the yellow flag and the red, white and blue flag.

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All the years when he played tuba had conditioned me to never expect to see him at any public performance. I trained the binoculars on him. He resembled the kid I sent to boot camp in February, but THIS kid wearing a perfectly fitting uniform and traditional sailor cover on his head looked amazing ”” right down to the “attention face” he wore. (They call their cover a “Dixie Cup” but I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t.) After all the Divisions were in place, they got a snappy command and were on the move again, this time turning

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and flipping the entire division so he was in the back. Very cool, and thank goodness he bought me a video of the ceremony so I can see it again in two months to figure out how they did it. In the photo above, he’s toward the center, but it’s like he’s the extra person in his row so he’s one person closer to the audience. (What do you mean, they all look the same?!)

The rest of the ceremony was ceremonial ”” flags raised, lowered, and dipped …

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sabres pulled theatrically, catching the light … rifles tossed …

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drummers drummed … and, of course, the Navy Hymn. (Crying episode nineteen.)

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There was a short speech by the Reviewing Officer where he welcomed the new sailors to the “greatest Navy in the history of the world.”  (I found out later that comment choked up my new sailor which also produced episode twenty for me.)

Then they called “Liberty!” and chaos ensued. If it was a baseball game instead of a dignified, formal ceremony, you’d call it a bench-clearing brawl. Aw, who am I kidding? It WAS a bench-clearing brawl! As God is my witness, I saw at least a dozen middle-aged women knock over men twice their size to reach their sailors.

And I’m sorry if I hurt anyone.

My daughter got to him first and I had to whack at her to get at him. I’m rarely speechless, but there were simply no words at that moment.

Soon enough, we were swept out the garage doors with the rest of humanity across the base to where we began the morning. Adam had to run to his compartment to get some things so he pointed to a tree and said, “Wait there for me.” So we did, watching the happy reunions all around us. As we waited under our tree on a bit of a hill I had a clear view of the long sidewalk running across the base toward their barracks. They all looked the same so I wondered if I could pick out my sailor by his walk. I studied the sailors returning to their waiting families. That one? No … maybe him? No. Then, as if he had a neon sign pointing at his head, I saw him. He had a new swaggery bounce to his walk and I wondered when that happened.

When he joined us, he said he had to be back at his compartment by 12:30 to catch the bus to the other side of the base where he had to check in for A-School with his new orders. That gave us about ninety minutes to buy me a Navy Mom t-shirt and for him to show us Recruit Heaven where he made phone calls and got to eat at Taco Bell after Battle Stations. We ran into lots of his buddies, most of whom were scattering across the U. S. I felt so lucky that he was staying at Great Lakes so we’d have more than just an hour or two with him. Those other moms get a higher place in heaven.

As we were walking around, I was behind him at one point and, in a motherly attempt at embarrassing him, I said, “Your butt looks GREAT in that uniform.” He flashed me a grin and said, “I KNOW! Right?” He told us later that as part of his check-in he got weighed and measured again and he gained 20 pounds at boot camp. I think it ended up all across his shoulders. Not an ounce of fat on him.

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We went back to the hotel to wait for his call to come pick him up … which took for-freaking-ever. Too bad when he called he had no idea where he was! Luckily, one of his roommates gave us directions to the correct gate so we hot-footed it over there. But he was not to be found and even with our parking pass, we couldn’t come on base without him so the guard made us turn around. Before we got back out the gate, though, there he was on the sidewalk. Just past the gate, he hopped in the car.

He said, “Guess when I have to be back?”

I expected 9pm, which is when liberty normally ends.

“Nope! Sunday at 2145!”

We had him all weekend! (Crying episode twenty-one and hysterical giggling episode one.)

We were all starving so we went to dinner, then back to the hotel where I wanted pictures of the uniform he had changed into. He made sure to tell me he’s not supposed to salute me, nor is he supposed to wear his cover indoors. But today, Mom rules trump Navy rules. At least for photographic purposes.

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He was thrilled to reunite and commune with his computer, his iTunes and his phone. I think I heard him whisper loving and soothing words to them.

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We ended Friday night with a rousing game of Uno and the knowledge breakfast was served until 10am.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remember when I mentioned the weather earlier? We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day for the graduation, but all Friday night and all day Saturday it rained, alternating driving downpours with steady drizzle. Did we care? Absolutely not. We played Life and Uno. We watched tv. We listened to Adam’s iTunes. We watched in awe as he ironed his uniform and his t-shirt. In boot camp they had to iron on the floor because of problems with ironing boards breaking so it was a real treat for him to stand and iron. Hearing him talk about his uniform was interesting. He showed exactly how all the buttons and seams had to line up and the special way it gets tucked in. Definitely not the same kid I sent off in February.

As a surprise, I brought some pajama pants, his favorite Flogging Molly t-shirt and his slippers for him to wear in the hotel room. I knew he couldn’t go out without his uniform, but I thought he’d appreciate having some comfy clothes. Imagine my surprise when I found out he loved wearing his uniform!

He played on Facebook, texted and chatted with friends, and checked his email. The only thing on the agenda was a bit of shopping for some things he’d need for A-School. When there was a break in the weather, we went back to base to look for the Navy Exchange (NEX). He bought a pair of jeans, more white t-shirts, shampoo and other necessaries. Then we quenched his Chipotle craving. Then back to the hotel for more hanging out.

Never has a day of doing nothing been spent so well.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rainy again today, but who cares? We ate a leisurely breakfast after Adam ironed his t-shirt ”” again ”” then played a rollicking game of Scrabble. We used two bags of tiles so we had quite an impressive board by the time we finished.

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The maid conveniently came to clean our room just as the game was winding down and the rain had conveniently stopped, so we took the opportunity to conveniently leave the hotel. I had seen a brochure about a heron rookery, so that’s where we headed. We found it, saw a lot of giant nests in the top of trees, but couldn’t quite find the parking lot. Or the entrance. Or any of the herons. But that’s okay, because our next stop was for authentic Chicago-style pizza from Lou Malnati’s. (Again, thanks Lisa!)

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We couldn’t quite find it either for awhile, but we kept trying as we were more interested in it than in herons. Eventually we found it, and since it was only a carry-out location, we took dinner back to the hotel. Delish. Now we’ve had Famous Ray’s pizza in Manhattan, and Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, so we can cross “pizza” off our life lists.

After dinner, we played another few rounds of Uno, which, with us, can be variously described as Retribution Uno, Full-Contact Uno, and/or Xtreme Uno. After our wounds were dressed, we watched some tv, but all-too-soon it was time to get Adam back to base. He’s in a more dorm-like setting now. There are three corpsmen in his room, two in another and all five of them share a bathroom. They have a kitchen and living area with a three-quarter size refrigerator, sink and microwave. Elsewhere in the building is a tv room and a large workout room with weight equipment and cardio machines. And hopefully a chow hall.

His roommates are all in different stages of their Corpsman A-School ”” two will be leaving in a few weeks, two will be there for a couple more months, and Adam will be there at least until August. New sailors go from boot camp graduation to their A-School, which is where they learn the basics of their new job. As a new corpsman, Adam will have the option of going to C-School for further, more specific training, or to the fleet where he will provide medical services to other sailors on his ship ”” shots, dispensing cold and flu care, attending to injuries, and, you know, checking guys coming back from shore leave.

Okay, yes, I cried when we dropped him off too. Big surprise. But not until he walked away, ramrod straight in his new sailor posture, stepping bravely into his new life, nervous but enthusiastic about his next challenge.

Since watching him walk away, I’ve had the Navy Hymn in my head constantly. There have been many new verses written for it throughout the years. This one is from an anonymous author in 1955, and I’m dedicating it to my new sailor and all those who created the wake he’s swimming in now, and for all those swimming behind him.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
And those who on the ocean ply;
Be with our troops upon the land,
And all who for their country stand:
Be with these guardians day and night
And may their trust be in thy might.

Bravo Zulu, Son!

For those of you regular visitors to BeckyLand, you might remember that I sent my son off to join the Navy a few months ago.

I’m pleased to announce that he will be graduating from Navy basic training this week. He passed all his tests, inspections and other assessments on time and with flying colors. Oh, but he did have to repeat his swimming qualification because he got kicked in the head the first time. They pulled him out of the water and made him re-test. He was fine, it wasn’t a big deal, but there are rules to be followed, apparently. In the Navy! Who knew?

As he was waiting for his re-test, he watched the SEAL recruits work out. He said their warm-up was harder than his entire hour-long workout. They didn’t get much news of the real world while in boot camp, but they did hear details about the exploits of the SEALs and the USS Bainbridge involved in the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama. I’m fairly certain those guys are chiseled out of granite with a little melted steel for good measure.

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So in my son’s honor, and to honor the amazing Navy SEALs …  in true BeckyLand fashion … enjoy these short, funny videos.

See you next week sometime!

David Letterman’s Somali Pirates Play Set

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCvgAmQhMDs]

Navy SEAL recruitment ad

They have another similar one that says, “What did YOU do at work today?”

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNk_35oHsl8&feature=related]

Last, but not least, Squirrel SEALs

[youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuUqIc51LXY]