Sail On Sailor
Play this Beach Boys’ classic from 1973 – while you read the post and/or the graphic.
Sail On Dennis McCain
Dennis and I served together on the USS Okinawa 1973-1974. On my first Westpac.
We worked together, serving a ship of 600 Sailors and 2400 Marines with an after dinner diet of mindless TV from 1800 t0 0200.
He worked tirelessly to insure that all 75 TVs in our CCTV System got great reception each night we were at sea. And we entertained the compartment cleaning crews with popular music – across a few genres – all day long as we “tested” each of the 75 TVs in our daily grind. That was Dennis’ job. He was the techie. I was the Journalist. It was a great collaboration.
He taught me a bunch of songs on the guitar. Convinced me to buy a motorcycle. Rode the hills west of Long Beach and later San Diego on the weekends with me. Spent many a weekend together – and almost every day for 18 months.
He got out almost a year before I did, early in fact, just as we were about to redeploy back to my second Westpac. The one involving the evacuations of Phnom Penh and Saigon, in April 1975. The 1st Westpac we steamed off the coast of Cambodia for months with any action. We went back to the states and recharged – and then returned to Subic Bay, our home port away from home port.
I missed Dennis on that 2nd cruise. He kept our CCTV System working 100% all of the time. The other techs before him and after him did not score as high with me.
They weren’t driven, like Dennis, like I was.
To do our jobs and keep everyone otherwise occupied with TV programming after work hours. Providing some relief to the Marines and Sailors from the boredom of a cruise, and after training for war every day, knocking off to go eat with the other branch of the service – often led to “rumbles” – and issues for the ship’s Morale Officer – the XO – who owned my and Dennis’ CCTV.
That story is here.
After the Navy
We saw a lot of each other afterwards, after our time in the Navy, considering he lived in various places across Texas and I in various places in the Chicagoland area. He and I both worked for Motorola – overlapping our time there just a bit. We were often in each other’s hometowns on business, even after that. And so we had a lot of dinners together. We kept up. In Houston he took me to some “real” blues clubs.
We lost touch about 10 years ago, and then reconnected, in person, in a hospital, where he was being taken just as I pull up to his house, after a long drive from Charlotte NC to the suburbs of Dallas, back in September 2011.
He wasn’t being given long to live then. But he was a fighter. We talked on the phone about once a month since reconnecting.
Monday I got the news.
Here we are below – Mike Corman, Dennis McCain and Guy Wallace – in Hong Kong 1974.
I believe we were walking the streets of Kowloon while visiting Hong Kong in the early spring of 1974.
I am sure that next we were off to Ned Kelly’s Last Stand, where the British businessmen would send several pitchers of beer over to our table every time we walked in the door.
My shipmate and friend, Dennis McCain, 60, passed away this past Monday, October 15.
Dennis was born January 25, 1952.
Dennis loved playing his guitar, riding his motorcycle, his son, and life in general.
He was a Texan.
Lung cancer got him. From a life of smoking cigarettes. He was at peace with himself the last few years, when he knew his time was limited.
I will miss our banter about everything, which we took up after our absence as if it had been 10 weeks instead of 10 years. Shipmates swore we hated each other – as we were in constant dialogue, arguing all sides of the issues of the day. We were at sea on a Naval War Ship and the war continued despite war ending in the press and with the politicians. We debated each other. Only close friends saw/heard us switch back and forth on the sides of various issues. Then they saw it as a game. To keep us sharp I guess. Life at sea can be DULL.
Today, Friday, I attend his funeral as a pall bearer.
And I will reflect on our time together in the Navy and afterwards.
Rest In Peace Dennis.
Sail on shipmate.
Sail on. Sail on sailor.
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