Recently I was following a post on one of my submarine Facebook pages. The original guy had posted about a lack of recognition. To be fair, he had a lot of supporters and frankly I can’t give him a hard time since I have seen some of this through the years myself.
“Okay I have somewhat of a bitch to air:I have been looking for a new career however when I get the part of the application for Veteran Status I find that I do not fit any of the categories!!!! It simply appears to me that the time I spent on the XXXXXXX does not matter since it was only the Cold War and I didn’t get some little medal for doing what I so proudly volunteered to do – Serve My Country!!! Apparently those of us that served in the 70s – 80s are not a protected status.
Okay I am done bitching – just had to air my frustration with the lack of respect we receive as veterans of that era.”
That got me thinking about why I joined. The passing years have probably clouded what I was thinking about on that Monday when my parents drove their seventeen year old son to the recruiters office in McKeesport Pennsylvania.
I joined the Navy 42 years ago today for one very selfish reason.
I wanted the adventure that my very convincing recruiter promised me was around every bend. He did not lie. I certainly did not join for the recognition since I was aware that the service was looked down upon by my generation (that whole Vietnam hangover thing).
Now to be fair, there were a few girls who thought I cut a nice figure in my dress blues. Seeing a certain girl’s eyes the first time she saw the newly minted sailor was worth the endless push ups and grinder runs in boot camp. But once you return to base and are surrounded by other sailors similarly dressed, the magic wore off a bit.
After doing one four year tour on active duty I came home (like many other vets) to a population that was in recession. Jobs were non-existent and the economy was spiraling out of control. Being a vet meant shit to a war weary country so after struggling in the reserves for a few years doing less than minimum wage jobs I went back on active duty and never looked back. The Navy provided me with the best adventures of all from that point on. In fact, April 24, 1981 marked the commissioning of the USS San Francisco (SSN 711) and that started the most memorable part of the journey.
Within six years I made Chief then Warrant and got my education. There were a lot of sacrifices along the way with my wife in tow and we only did one shore duty (5 boats, a tender and a drydock) I retired in 94 and have been working in business and industry almost non-stop since then. Its nice when people remember to say thanks but I have long since figured out that we are subject to the whims of the nation and its “leadership” No one owes me a thing. I went for the adventure and can truly say I got what I went for. Anything else is gravy and as tenuous as the daffodils in my garden – here today and gone tomorrow with every change in the weather and the wind.
There is an old saying in the Navy that we picked our rates and certainly that had a lot to do with our fates. But for any submariner, you can be proud of yourself if you wear the dolphins of a qualified man. Expecting much else from non-submariners is a fools errand. No one but a fellow submariner can understand the sacrifices, the challenges, the personal nature of the business and the real hardships we often suffered. No real submariner will ever reveal all of the times we did things we knew were not supposed to do. The Cold War was a lot hotter than many people will ever know. I don’t ever remember anybody ever telling me their life was worth the $55.00 a month sub pay we were so generously given. But as so many of my shipmates have said over the years, I would gladly do it all over again.
I am a blest man for the friendships and relationships developed over those many years. It does touch me when a younger person sees “Navy” on my hat or jacket and remembers to say thanks. I’d like to think they know what they are thanking people like me for but in the end, all that matters is that when my country needed me, I was able to meet the test and answer her needs.