Memories of 3 MEMORIAL DAYS Past – Back in the Day

Memorial Day weekend 1973 and I am just recently out of Boot Camp (San Diego) and two months on my ship – the USS Okinawa – and more immediately had finished with a short visit with my KC Family (as opposed to my Chi Family) – and I’m driving the old man’s car from Kansas City to Indianapolis where I will be doing 6 months at “A School” at Fort Benjamin Harrison (now an industrial park in the NE suburbs of Indy).

Print and Broadcast Journalism. 2 Schools.

Guy’s Boot Camp Picture – Something to show the folks back home that you survived the learning experience.

School at DINFOS – the Department of Defense Information School. This is where my love of acronyms began – in the USN.

The old man loaned me his car because he was so happy/so proud.

When I got my draft notice at my apartment back in October of 1972 and called home with “the news” – he was at my door with a Navy recruiter within 60 minutes. That recruiter told me the sufficient amount of lies – “you’ll get any A School you want with your test scores when you are in Boot Camp” – as I had seen this coming with the testing and physical I had to go through in the summer of 72 – and my chosen Schools were now full as the recruiter checked at his office the next day. Don’t worry!

And then there was that 2 years in the Army versus 3 years in the Navy versus 4 years in the Air Force. And the Viet Nam war was not over – yet. THAT happened while I was in Boot Camp in January – and then the war and the draft ended simultaneously. Timing IS everything.

Just like for my dad. He had joined the Navy as soon as he could – and WWII ended for him while he was in Boot Camp. Like father – like son. Navy men.

It had been raining most of my drive that Memorial Day weekend in 1973 and I had tuned in the Indianapolis 500 race on the radio. It was raining there too. I was headed to my A School after spending a short time on my ship on the Deck Force in Long Beach CA where my ship was home ported and in dry-dock. You see all of the schools that I wanted when in Boot camp were still full – and so I did not get any of the “A” Schools that I wanted – and I spent two extra weeks after normal Boot Camp (if Boot Camp could ever be referred to as Normal) learning how to scrape paint and paint ships.

There is a wrong way and a right way and a Navy way. You learn that quickly in Boot Camp. Or they punish you and 74 of your closest colleagues. They call that team building in the civilian world – where lack of team cohesion doesn’t often lead to death versus continued life. Different context – don’t you know.

It never rains in Southern California – and so I had not experienced rain for months. And I’d never been to Indy – although I had previously been a Hoosier (La Porte, 5th – 7th grades). So I was entering new territory. New Learning experiences. I was 20 going on 21. And the command of my ship had decided to send one of their own to this A School rather than take whomever the School sent them. They were about to install a 75 TV Closed Circuit -TV systems on board – and that was being done while I was away at school.

I arrived at the Army Base with my paperwork in a jacket (never ever lose that jacket son! I was “counseled” at full volume along with my peers).

I was checked in and escorted to my dorm room where I met my new roomie – Pat – who was in the Army. I had a car – so we decided to “blow this pop stand” as the phrase in Chicago went in the 1960s (WLS) – and head out to a local bar – and not the bar at the Enlisted man’s Club – but off base – to explore our new surroundings.

Me at DINFOS – in our barracks/dorm room. A Photo of Guy The Navy Sailor – by Pat of the US Army- for our Print Journalism class.

The bar we stopped at turned out to be a gay bar – and the bartender told us after we ordered and he served us. We finished our drinks while trying not to look around at everyone else who was staring intently at us – with our very short haircuts. We weren’t welcomed – not that it would have bothered me a whole lot – but we both got out of there after that first drink and drove downtown Indy – around the fountain downtown – and then headed back to our NE corner of Indy and The Fort. And the bar at the EMC.

After the holiday – we started school with Army and Air Force and Navy and Marine and Coast Guard members – an all branches school – which was cool. Lesson learned: the AF officers didn’t feel a need to denigrate their people to get the job done. Not so for the other branches – at the time – back in the day.

The next Memorial Day – 1974 – I am on a WESTPACT Cruise. Western Pacific Cruise – in the South China Seas – not as you’d think of a civilian cruise. Days and weeks at sea – patrolling the coast of Cambodia mostly. Waiting to evacuate the capital and our embassy there. Didn’t happen – that cruise – and after an 11 month cruise we went back to Long Beach and soon moved our home port to San Diego. A great place to be – unless you are a poor sailor.

But on that first cruise – in between numerous times at sea – it was interspersed with time in ports such as Hong Kong and Singapore – where I had my first Singapore Sling at the bar at the very British/very famous Hotel Raffles. Just watch the very old Charlie Chan movies to see what that hotel and bar looked like “back in my day.”

Mike, Dennis and Guy in Hong Kong – walking above the city where all the artists sold their wares.

When we weren’t patrolling the South China Seas we spent most of our time in Subic Bay. I had White friends and Black friends and Hispanic friends and Filipino friends, and as it turned out – just as I was getting out of the Navy I discovered that several of my friends where gay friends. In fact, I am the god father of one of those gay men’s sons – and that came about a few years after the Navy – and a year before he came out. You learn a lot, informally, every where you go.

You meet all kinds of people, every where you go.

The film chain where a 16mm film projector “fed” a TV Camera – I had two for continuous programming – no need to stop for reel changes.

Rewinding each film reel before sending it on to the next ship was a routine job task.

A pile of Programming from AFRTS – the Armed Forces Radio and TV Service – my source of Programming in 16mm film and 2 inch video media.

Wallace hanging out with friends Brousard and Jackson – Bill took the picture. All “last names” because that’s how it was.

In my Dress Blues before a day or two in Hong Kong – probably late ’73/early ’74 – the 2 stripes give that time frame away.

The old and the new in Hong Kong. That’s a Mercedes Benz – which is what most Taxis in Hong Kong were back then. The Rickshaws were the old style Taxis in Hong Kong – and I rode them both.

The Memorial Day after that – 1975 – I am on my 2nd WESTPAC – – which ended up a 13-month cruise – and we have already completed the evacuations of both Phnom Penh, Cambodia AND then Saigon South Viet Nam – earlier in April 1975. That helicopter in Miss Saigon – was from the USS Okinawa. LPH-3.

600 Sailors taking care of 2400 Marines. And my job was to keep all 3000 of them “occupied” after work hours with TV entertainment – and my 5 minute nightly newscast. To keep the fighting down. So I never ran the commercials. To keep the fighting down. After all – you don’t “train” Marines to kill all day long – and then send them down to the mess decks to eat with he sailors – without something happening. Get real.

We were in Subic Bay – our home port away from home port. A bunch of us had bought 10-Speed bicycles and had gone out for a ride in the mountains surrounding the base.

I still have a “ticket” issued by the Shore Patrol for running a stop sign on base a couple of months later – when we returned from another ride in the mountains.

I had seen their jeep and had fully stopped at the sign before proceeding – but everybody I was with just rode through the stop sign – but you know how that goes – the SPs gave each and every one of us a ticket – our ration of **** – as it was referred to in the military back in those days.

But our ship was leaving the very next day – so we just all laughed about it. Sail on brother.

Memorial Day 2009.
Our troops serve us admirably in two concurrent war efforts. Plus elsewhere across the planet.

It is tough duty and the pay stinks. And the living conditions? Typically worse.

May I suggest you consider giving up your first class seat to anyone on board your flight sitting in coach in uniform? And call to their wait staff at the airport bar to have them bring you THAT bill – if they are in uniform? I don’t travel much at all anymore – so I cannot continue my practice of that.

Which is something I learned I learned from some British and Australian business men in Hong Kong (Kowloon actually) at Ned Kelly’s Last Stand – a favorite bar for us poor sailors on leave for a day or two – as they bought us pitcher after pitcher of beer – and said their thanks to us – EVERY time we went there. That bar is still there today. Click here.

Thanks to them. Thanks to those who serve us today. Thanks to those who have also served. Pay it Forward. Pay it Back.

To those who ask: Where is MY bailout?
They are in uniform – buster.

Next question? Something not so self-centered, not so self-absorbed.

Bless the troops – and let’s really take care of them upon their return. And take better care of their families while they serve. Pay for Performance. What price freedom?

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