I grew into it.
When you are seventeen and the whole world is just outside of you front door, you can be a little anxious to get started. Some kids will go off to college, some will go to work in a factory or mill, and some kids find themselves drawn to something more adventurous. In my case, that was the military and more specifically, the Navy.
I convinced my parents to sign the permission slip and without much real thought on my part (other than the foreign ports I would hopefully see) I raised my right hand and said a bunch of words. At seventeen, I honestly had very little idea what the words meant or what I was obligating myself for. As we were lining up to say them at the Navy office, I seem to remember a serious feeling coming over the whole proceeding. Up until that moment, the kids that were in the room with me had been typical kids just kind of joking and being “brave”. Then we all said the words together…
“I… (state your name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the Officers appointed over me according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Yep. Seventeen years old and I just took an oath to support and defend a document I had barely read in school and understood even less. I was supposed to defend it against all enemies both foreign and domestic (whatever that meant) and I was going to obey the orders of a guy I have never met in person and a bunch of men and women who I had not yet met.
What was I thinking? I was only seventeen. I had only shot a gun a few times before and certainly had never shot at another human being. And orders? Holy cow, my Dad and I used to fight like two prize fighters over the stupidest stuff. Now I had to willingly follow the orders of some guy I hardly knew?
But I grew into it.
The Navy very wisely sent me off to boot camp where I met a large number of other bewildered young men. We marched, we got up at a certain time every day, and we learned about Navy stuff while starting to become men. We learned to look out for each other and give up some of our self. We learned about teamwork and sacrifice. We learned that there are consequences for bad behavior and we learned about authority.
On graduation day from Boot Camp, our parents and girlfriends came to see us march one last time. I was in the band and I still can’t remember a group of guys performing those songs with any more pride or talent. When the last note was finished and the announced that we were now US Navy sailors, there was a sense of completion and a sense of fear of the unknown ahead. What kind of sailor would I be? Would the task be more than I was able to complete? We had heard all the stories about brave men and ships being attacked by the enemy and to be honest I was not certain I would measure up.
But I grew into it.
The challenges would come faster and faster over the years. Technical schools, submarine school, the first of my five boats leading to becoming a Chief Petty Officer. But through it all, we learned our new roles and we were ready to do what we had agreed to do those many years ago in a small town Recruiters office someplace in America. We became the teachers and the mentors and the leaders who served this great nation in times of peace and war. Then the day came when our time was up and we had to relinquish the watch. A new generation would fill our billets and have to carry on the traditions. The nation would have to depend on them for protection. I wondered how they would do.
But you know what? They grew into it too. As the earth continues to turn and as freedom loving peoples still desire freedom, a strong Navy will always be needed. There will never be a shortage of enemies who would take that freedom away if they had the means.
I just pray as I look around the country now that enough young people will still be willing to raise their right hands and give themselves and the country a chance to grow into an even better place than when my generation were in charge. This modern Antifa movement is kind of frightening to me. Many of these kids are seventeen too and maybe aren’t sure what it means to attack your own country. There is a word for that: Treason
Once in a while, I get emails from people who have checked out the web site and found one of the pages meaningful. I recently got this email and wanted to share it with my readers.
Our veteran population is growing day by day and the issues and concerns they will have to face do not stop when they hang up their uniforms. We think of them sometimes but the problems they face are real and exist every day. Overcoming a long term health issue can be challenging when facing it alone so any additional resources mean making the difference between success and failure.
The Leansubmariner will continue to do its best to bring connections to people still fighting the country’s battles, even the ones they sometimes have to fight in silence.
I’m writing to thank you for the resources here you’ve put together to help those who serve. My father-in-law is a disabled vet and lung cancer survivor, and it has meant the world to be able to find resources to help him pay for everything he needs. You’re really doing a great service for people like him – I cannot thank you enough.
I’m happy to pass on some other pages we’ve found useful, in case you or your viewers might think so too:
Aging Vets – How to Plan Wisely for Your Future
Residential Leases and the Military – Your Rights
Resources for Vets & Families Living with Cancer
Military Veterans Resource Center
Assistive Tech for Veterans and Military
Guide to Military Moves
Behavioral Health for Veterans
Mental Health Needs of Vets & Families
Justice for Vets
As Memorial Day 2015 approaches, I am once again reminded that submarine sailors paid a heavy price during the second World War in a way that is vastly more expensive that nearly any other type of war fighting based on a per capita measurement.
This video certainly captures many of the issues they faced.
What worked best in the past three and a half years? Not surprisingly, submarine sea stories were the most popular.
I am grateful to the folks who have contributed as much as I am to those that have visited. So here they are as of today (January 31, 2015)
One that did not make the top five was one of my very favorite posts and truly shows the bravery of a generation that is fast leaving us: https://theleansubmariner.com/2011/10/25/taffy-3-courage-beyond-measure/
As always, thanks for your visits.
Did your favorite make the list? Let me know what it was and why it was something you liked…
Thanks for dropping by.
We got up a little late this morning since we tried to see the New Year in last night. Then we had a short meal, a few quiet moments writing in the new “Journal”, and some very sincere praying. The journal was a gift from a family member and asks you to respond to new a question each day. The two of us then write in our thoughts. I believe it will help us to grow our foundation a little stronger. Today’s question was “Love is …?”
Last year was pretty full with work and projects. The picture at the top of the page was from a recent visit to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh. I found my Great Grandfather’s name on his Regimental Plaque – the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery during the Civil War. We also found a picture of one of their reunions that I had never seen before. He was still alive when this was taken but I do not know if he was in the picture.
This will be a very busy year I think.
The work situation is a giant question mark as always. Hoping for a stable year but not so sure that will be in the cards. I asked God this morning to give us the guidance we need, the patience to wait for His work to unfold, and the vision to see the path as it opens up before us.
My submarine veteran’s world will be very busy with a San Francisco Homecoming and USSVI Convention in Pittsburgh PA in September.
There seems to be enough interest to launch a new organization for USS San Francisco SSN 711 Veterans so more will be coming this year as we achieve our NPO status. The San Francisco itself is scheduled to become a permanent training facility in Charleston so we will be looking for partnerships with them.
I am in line to be elected as Vice President of Education for the Pittsburgh Navy League and I am very excited about seeing ways to help the organization grow. We have been supporting the USS Pittsburgh crews and one of the long term goals is to prepare for the sad day when she is retired from the fleet. If the fates allow and we do our homework, the plan is to someday have a permanent exhibit to honor the boat by the placement of her sail in an appropriate place.
The VFW and Legion Children and Youth programs last year were very successful. Our work with the Middle School and High School in four different contests resulted in some very competitive entries. Our Patriot’s Pen entry placed Second in the District and our posts learned a lot to help us in the coming contests for 2015-16.
Memorial Day is always a big part of our life. Both Debbie and I are on the committee for our small community and we will begin having meetings very soon. The Remembrance Ceremony in Elizabeth Pennsylvania is one of the longest continuing programs in the Mon Valley and has had many dignitaries from both the military and government over the years (including a Vice President). I have been a part of the program for over fifty years in one way or another and it is something worth seeing.
It wasn’t all about the Navy and Veterans this year. I have been called to help support the ministry at the Church we have been attending. I had already been preaching there on occasion but now will fill the pulpit once a month on a regular basis. It is a small Church but I can feel God’s presence working there. It is a good place to achieve a meaningful balance in the complexities of our lives.
Thanks again for stopping by.
The blog has over 199,000 hits as of this morning. There was a part of me that had hoped for a New Year’s miracle of 200,000 but all in all, 199K is still pretty cool. For the year, we hit about 107K for this year alone which is more than all of the previous years combined. I am working on a long term project on pre-WW2 submarines that is very time consuming (for the little time I have left after work and other commitments). But I am convinced it is a great story and has never been done exactly like the way I am working on this one. Stay tuned.
I hope your New Year is filled with joy and adventure.
I posted this a few days ago on Facebook and the response has been pretty terrific. Lots of “Shares” and hundreds of “Likes” from all over the world.
The picture has been on the blog a few times but I was thinking about what a veteran really is. As I told a group of high school students today, I have never met a veteran yet who claimed to be a hero. Most of us are just content with blending back into civilian life at the end of our hitch (regardless of how long that hitch ended up being.) Its been over twenty years since I retired and I find myself more and more gravitating towards veterans groups like USSVI, American Legion and VFW. None of the groups I belong to have bars so when we meet its normally to associate with people who have something in common with us.
Our service as individuals is as varied as the grains of sand on Omaha Beach. Some of us carried guns around with us and some did their fighting in a mess hall or a company clerk tent. My favorite Marine is quick to tell you he only spent one day in combat in Korea. He often forgets to tell you about the months he spent in a hospital in Tokyo afterwards trying to get his life back together. Many of the boys/men were drafted (at least until 1973). But to a person they will tell you that being part of the service was a pivotal point in their lives. They came home to a world that was smaller than when they left and not quite as disciplined compared to where they had just been.
My Posts are just finishing up the written and oratorical contests for the 2014-15 year. Its absolutely amazing to read the words that these kids use for veterans and why we are so special to their world. I was humbled to read them and even more to hear some of the kids speak at the assembly in school today. It really gives you hope for America when you see that kind of thing happen.
In years past, I have said that for all they did, every day should be Veteran’s Day. I still believe that but it is kind of special to know that we get at least one day where many people take the time to say thanks.
So to all of my fellow Veterans, let me add a thank you of my own. It wouldn’t have been the same without you!
This was a post that I put up on Facebook in 2014. It has been shared over 8500 times in the time it has been on Facebook
I am grateful for the feedback already sent
On February 16, 2017, it came to my attention that the story has been cut and pasted with unauthorized alterations and no attribution. I never copyrighted the post or the material but rest assured that it is still my intellectual property. I have shared this freely with the submarine community. All I ask in return is that it not be altered and credit be given where possible.
Rules of Engagement
First and foremost, I want to thank you for stopping by and visiting my blog. It has been a work of love for the three years I have been publishing and has resulted in over174,000 views around the globe. In all, there are over 450 posts from either myself or one of three other writers which have attracted 1,250 comments here and thousands on the various other media I am linked to.
In the history of the blog, I have only deleted (unpublished) two comments. Both had some things in common so I thought it might be a good idea to briefly discuss what I call “The Rules of Engagement” if you want to participate in a conversation or give feedback. They are relatively simple but will be enforced with an extreme prejudice. I have readers of all ages and I assume all of the various gender descriptions currently in vogue. I am also confident that many different types of religions and belief structures are in play since I have been seen in every corner of the world. This is based on my analysis of the global visitors I see in the background statistics of the web publishing site I use as well as the cute little map of the world on this page.
Rules of Engagement:
1. Decorum. I often enjoy a good debate. That debate however should be conducted in a civil manner. There are about 7.251 billion people on the planet and chances of us all agreeing on everything are pretty small. I would even bet that the odds are something like 7.251 billion to one against that ever happening. Using a lot of caps in your note is another way to single you out as “special” but maybe not the kind of special you want to be remembered for. SPRINKLING them in between your OTHER words makes you EVEN MORE SPECIAL but not the kind of debater that I feel will have any ability to actually read my responses.
2. Language. Obviously English (or the American equivalent) will give you the most chance of a thoughtful response or in some cases seeing your own comment in print. My spam gadget removes about a thousand non-recognizable spam attempts a week but occasionally it does let through some cleverly worded spam about Chuck Norris being a spokesman for a Chinese underwear manufacturer that wants me to promote their product. I normally decline their offer.
3. Really specifically offensive language. The decline of our civilization has made the use of F-bombs more and more acceptable in places like Hollywood and the House of Representatives. How nice for them. A sure fire way not to make it to the published comments on this blog is to think you are a movie star, politician or rap star. That includes inviting me to conduct asexual activities using words that describe an activity I am quite sure is physically impossible. On a purely editorial note, telling me to F… off is baffling and somewhat confusing. In sixty years, I have never quite figured out exactly what people mean when they say that and keep repeating it louder as if that will make me understand any better.
4. Family Ties. My Mom and Dad were married. I have the copy of the signed certificate and a lovely picture album of the day. It was a wonderful ceremony based on everything I can see and that sort of destroys the use of the word used about my legitimacy as a person. Also, my Mom is an angel and has been a loving Christian woman her entire adult life. She is a regular contributor to many spiritual and community organizations and has been a volunteer in many of those same organizations for years. She is also fond of small animals and helping helpless people. So calling me a son of a (insert derogatively incorrect label here) is just factually inaccurate.
5. Syntax and spelling. I try to make it a general rule to never send emails and letters when I am mad. Mrs. Mac typically catches both and then it forces me to do an update which is not very lean and filled with waste. You making those mistakes also makes your argument much weaker since it means you didn’t even take the time to do spell check (or don’t know what spell check is). Using big words where little ones will do is always fun but make sure you actually know what they mean. My favorite scene from a movie called The Princess Bride made a few years back is a great reminder:
6. Attacking the United States Military and those who served honorably. The enemy attacks the US Military. Their “tools” and useful idiots attack both them and veterans. There are probably a buzzilion web sites run by Commies, Fascists, Pinkos, Loonies, Haters, people on anti=depressants and people with questionable character where your hate speech is not only welcomed but encouraged. Military people have done some bad things as individuals in our short history. They have also saved whole populations from evil people. Please feel free to spew your anger and hatred anywhere else. It is not welcomed, encouraged or acceptable here. With so many place to go on the internet, this should not put your fragile ego in danger of collapsing.
7. My God. I am unabashedly Christian and make no apologies for that belief. That does not mean I am perfect, only forgiven. Its in our handbook and in my heart. I do not attack others for their well grounded beliefs even if that includes dancing around the big stones in England completely naked. But another sure way to get placed in permanent “Blog Jail” is to take the name of my God in vain or as any part of a curse which is commonly used among those of lower intelligence when they can’t come up with an actual adjective. Or verb. Or pseudo noun. You will join the legions of spam that are crushed like little tiny grapes on the path to eternity.
8. This IS my high horse. If you don’t like me riding up on Old Boaz, please feel free to turn around and head back into the pasture you came from. No harm will come to you (unless you tread where Old Boaz did his business which I have little control over.) Cursing at Boaz or me for our “self-righteousness” is silly and a bit pretentious on your part. Telling anyone that you have done everything they have done which seems to give you special powers is also a bit of a stretch. Every single person I have ever met has done some pretty interesting and unique things. Maybe even you. We are alike in some ways and different in others. I have never walked across the Mohave desert. But I bet most of you have never been shot off of number two catapult on the USS Nimitz in a C2A on a very clear day off the coast of San Diego after completing a very successful mission. (for the record there were six of us not counting the flight crew so that one was not really unique…)
9. Assumptions. We all have them. They tend to be too overgeneralized and frankly are not very accurate. Calling an entire generation of men who wore a uniform too stupid or lazy to think of anything else to do is definitely an assumption. I could list many others but one of us may be too stupid or lazy to actually take the time to understand.
10. Respect. I always try to start with respect. Doing any or all of the things listed in 1-9 will diminish that respect exponentially. I pay for the electricity that powers the computer and the wireless modem. I also bought this nice little computer and the house it sits in. I worry over the blog like a mother hen worries about her chicks. If you want to disagree with me, that is cool. If you really get mad, follow Howard’s lead: (you’ll like his language… he violates almost every one of the ten rules)
At the end of the day, its just a blog. I’m just a guy growing older by the moment. I want to spend all of those moments sharing memories with shipmates and friends. I have learned a lot doing this for the past three years and Lord willing and the crick don’t rise, I will keep on doing it.
Post script: Careful readers may notice that I violated Rule number one in the construction of Rule number eight. Good catch if you did… however, I would encourage you to re-read Rule number eight again slowly. Old Boaz appreciates your attention to detail. Giddy up
Robert “DEX” Armstrong, Legendary ‘After Battery Rat’ on Eternal Patrol
Submitted by: Pat Householder on 7/8/2014
Dex cast off the lines of life at 6:20 AM EST July 8, 2014 and sailed off on his final patrol.
A larger than life character with a remarkable talent for writing thoughts and actions that all diesel boat sailors could relate to and say with a smile, “That was me when I was just young squid too!”
Dex will join his beloved Solveig in a shared plot at Arlington National Cemetery at a time and date yet to be announced.
To all who sent cards to DEX, THANK YOU! His Nurse said the stack is bigger than any she has ever seen come in on one day and she enjoyed reading them to Dex on what turned out to be his last night.
Dex, irreverent rascal that he was, would want us all to enjoy his submarine tales and a link to his AFTER BATTERY RAT tales is linked here.
Rest your oar, shipmate! We who remain will keep your memory alive, and thanks for the precious memories!