So I am watching a lot of movies – in between my Physical Therapy sessions at home and elsewhere. And earlier this week during a commercial break I grabbed my phone and entered in the name of an old shipmate whom I have been searching for for decades.
This time I decided to scroll through Google Images – and wouldn’t you know it – after 10-15 minutes – I found a photo of my old friend. He looked 44 years older than when I last saw him – but I knew it was him. It was a photo from a newspaper article about him and his business. A little more searching and I found an email address. And within an hour of emailing him – he called me.
We met after regular boot camp at the NTC in San Diego in early 1973. We both had selected 3 A-Schools that were “full” – and unavailable – and we were held back for an extra 2.5 weeks for learning how to be a member of a Deck Force. Not a choice job on a ship. But that’s where we met – as officers in that next boot camp company.
Then he and I and about 44 others from my boot camp company of 75 were sent to the USS Okinawa – after a break (leave) – when I went home to recuperate from boot camp. I flew from KC to LA to catch up to my duty station – a ship – in dry dock – in Long Beach CA.
We hated living on a ship – especially one in dry dock having all sorts of repairs being made – everywhere – so he and I and another sailor from our boot camp company – rented a furnished apartment in Long Beach. We were there in a one bedroom rental where one of us slept on the mattress which lay on the floor, someone else on the box springs, and the third person on the sofa.
My buddy was responsible for me being sent to my A-School when he overheard the XO and the Master at Arms talking about the installation of a new CCTV system and their desire to send a man to school and get him back rather than take whoever the school sent them. That’s how I got selected for DINFOS and became a rated Journalist in the US Navy.
My buddy – who had wrangled a job as a Yeoman and off the Deck Force in his first few days on the ship – interrupted the discussion and told them about me – and that I already had 3 semesters of college in Radio-TV-Film. After I series of interviews – up the chain of command – I was sent off for 6 months for print journalism and broadcast journalism. He gave up that apartment and moved back to the ship and I left for a US Army Fort (Benjamin Harrison) in the outskirts of NE Indianapolis. That was in May 1973.
When I got back to the USS Okinawa 6 months later it in was in the Philippines and just a week or two into a WestPac (Western Pacific Cruise).
Besides being responsible for my schooling in the Navy this guy taught me some basic USN Enlisted Survival Skills, such as the names and numbers of two USN Regulations that both had to do with “not abusing sailors” – both of which did come in handy when I had to suggest to an officer or two over the next 2.5 years that they might be in violation of US Navy Regulation so-and-so.
We owe much to our mentors and coaches – and this sailor was both to me. When I got out – I had had to first have a hernia operation at the last minute – and when I got early release from the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego I scrambled back to the ship, found the Dispersing Officer so I could get my final pay – and I left – without seeing my friend. That was on October 10, 1975.
All the phone numbers and addresses of family and friends that we had exchanged were soon too old and useless and it wasn’t until 44 years later that we were able to connect, in May 2019.
We’ve talked twice on the phone, sent a dozen text messages back and forth – and are trying to schedule some sort of a reunion. It may be a while due to his business dealings and my recovery from the first knee replacement – and then the second knee replacement to be schedule sometime later this year.
I’ve been reflecting a lot on those Navy Days this past week, and about my shipmate who did so much for me back in the day.
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