The Home Depot Foundation Pledges Quarter of a Billion Dollars to Veteran-Related Causes by 2020 3

Yesterday’s post was about a very unhappy man who was mad at

(insert name of home improvement store here)

for not being eligible for a military discount.

I was thinking after I posted that story that many people are not aware of how much some companies work very hard to support actual veterans-in-need causes.  Because I have worked with different groups over the years, I am a bit more familiar with them. It may surprise you as well.

This announcement was made in 2016 on Home Depot’s web site.

The Home Depot Foundation Pledges Quarter of a Billion Dollars to Veteran-Related Causes by 2020

The Home Depot Foundation has focused on U.S. military veteran support since 2011. Today’s increased commitment will help address continued veteran challenges, including:

More than 39,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. More than one million veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and subpar living conditions.

“We consider it a duty and honor to give back to our veterans,” said The Home Depot Foundation board member and chair Giles Bowman. “We know they experience many challenges when they return from service and their home shouldn’t be one of them. This increased commitment demonstrates our dedication to serving our nation’s heroes.”

The announcement kicks off The Home Depot Foundation’s sixth annual Celebration of Service. Celebration of Service is a two-month-long campaign focused on improving the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families. From September 1 through Veterans Day, Team Depot, The Home Depot’s associate-led volunteer force, will work with local and national nonprofit organizations to complete projects for aging, combat-wounded and homeless veterans.

Since that time, they have also made massive donations for disaster relief in some of the major hurricanes and storms around the country. In 2018 alone, they have increased their charitable giving to over $4,000,000.

I have to assume that many of the areas affected by the storm are home to veterans and will benefit from the generosity of Home Depot and others.

I am very sorry the gentleman didn’t get his $1.50 discount on that hammer he wanted. He probably spent that much in gas as he drove across town to (insert name of the other home improvement store here).

But I did want to give a shout out to Home Depot for their awesome work with veterans of all kinds.

If you want to learn more about their story, you can go here:

Thanks to all who honor our veterans in meaningful ways.

Mister Mac

By the way, this is not a paid endorsement… just wanted to let some sun shine on a nice group of people

Memorial Day – Planting a New Seed 5

Planting a new Seed


This was a different kind of Memorial Day for our family. Our recorded history of participation in services goes back to right after the Civil War when communities all across the nation were still trying to adjust to the shocking death toll brought on by the late war. Unlike the wars that followed, there were no instant reports of most individual casualties, only telegraphed reports about large groups of dead, wounded and missing. For four years, in places with strange sounding names, men on both sides of the conflict fell victim to mechanized war on a scale never before seen on this continent.

When the guns fell silent, the grieving process began. Graves were decorated in loving memory in both the North and the South as families adjusted to their new realities. The conflict wasn’t the end of war, it was just a brutal reminder of what wars cost.


The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was the veteran’s organization that carried the banner of remembrance in the northern states. While they were no longer on active duty, the posts were ruled by General Orders and had men of rank and responsibility. My Great Grandfather John Culbert McPherson was such a man. A private in the Union Army, he carried the traditions of the proudly all the way up until his death (and apparently a little beyond). He is listed in the Memorial Day 1927 Bulletin as the Acting Adjutant (even though he had passed away five months earlier in January 1927).

Great Grandfather was a first generation American. His family had come from Northern Ireland and he was the first of the children born in America. His love for this country were probably the inspiration for both of his sons serving in the Army and Navy during World War 1, a grandson in the Navy during World War 2, two more great grandsons serving as sailors from the Vietnam Conflict to the end of the Cold War and most recently a great great grandson serving as a submariner during the Global War on Terror.


Memorial Day is in our blood. From the time you are old enough to put on a Cub Scout or Brownie uniform, you are taught the lessons of this important day. I can’t tell you when my first one was but I can tell you where it was. Mt. Vernon Cemetery in Elizabeth Township near McKeesport Pennsylvania. This is the place where John Culbert McPherson’s remains are interred just a few hundred feet from the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial. Many of my other deceased relatives are there as well and I can remember as a kid rushing with my bundle of flags trying to be the first one to their graves.


The services in Mt. Vernon go back to at least 1925.

I am sure they were there earlier but that is the first of a series of bulletins I have from the many services that occurred over the last 91 years. My brothers and sister played roles many times as kids along with the Boy Scouts of Mt. Vernon and the Girl Scouts too. There was always music, speeches (that always seemed too long) and prayers. In the early years, we also liked the firing squad. If you were a quick and clever boy or girl, you would be able to gather up the brass after each volley. I still have a few empties from those days.

Somehow along the way, the service changed and eventually moved. My Dad was the Commander of the American Legion nonstop for over twenty five years and he saw the dwindling crowds. The Vietnam conflict created so much hostility to all things military and some years the service was just barely kept alive. But Dad persevered and saw his best chance to revitalize it in nearby Elizabeth. He was relentless and enlisted the help of any and all who he could convince or cajole. He boldly approached Admirals and Generals about coming to our small town knowing that in those days they would bring resources. Resources like staff, troops and sailors, equipment and boats.

In another time, I will publish the stories of the longest running Memorial Day in the Mon Valley. But not this year. This year was a bit different. This year was actually pretty painful. But it has a happy ending at least.

When I returned home to the area a few years ago, I dove head first into the VFW and Legion activities. Because of my military and civilian careers, we have lived many places around the world. Coming home was a chance to pay back the community that I had grown up in many years before. I love helping vets and children and I saw a great big hole. Both the VFW and American Legion posts are collocated (have been for years) and it seemed like there was some room for growth. While the Memorial Day program that my Dad created was going along as before, no new things were happening. Like many posts, without new members, they die. So I helped to bring back a number of programs including Speech and Writing Contests at both the VFW and Legion. These contests awarded scholarships and have been around for years but no one was doing anything to work with the local schools. So we raised funds, held the contests and got the schools back on board.

After rising in the “ranks” of the VFW for three years, I helped on a number of other programs and even obtained a grant from a large company to help modernize the post building. This is when I found out about small group politics. One of the older members began to lobby to use the grant money in ways it was not designed to be used for. Since I was the person who signed for the grant and was responsible for the audit to come, I knew that there could be a problem in the future.

So I pushed back hard. At the end of the mess, I was forced out by people who in retrospect must have been pretending to be old family friends. At one point in the conversation, I pointed out my forty years of membership in veterans’ organizations and was told that I hadn’t done it here so it didn’t count. I was also told very bluntly that I just didn’t know how things were done here so I should resign.

I think they were surprised that the “new kid” turned the grant money back into the big corporation. I will not be forced or coerced to do anything unethical. I have higher powers to answer to than small town political hacks. A little disclaimer: There are many great men and women in the Posts who have served well and faithfully over the years. The decisions of the leadership should not be a reflection on them and I wish them all well in the future.

Back to Memorial Day. What do you do when the place where your father worked so hard to grow suddenly rejects you?


First, you remember that there was a first Memorial Day. Then you remember the struggles during the years when the public just didn’t want to be involved. Then you remember that it is about honoring those who gave everything so that we could live in freedom. So my family joined me graveside this morning of one of the best men I ever knew. We erected one of his old “trophy flags” and held a small quiet service that meant more to me than any in recent history. We walked from grave to grave where our family lays and we honored the tragic loss of so many others.

It felt clean and good. I think a new seed was planted today. All things considered, it might have been just about the right time for that. A very special thank you to my family for helping to honor the sacrifices of those brave men and women. I think it was one of the best services we ever had.

Mister Mac

90 Days to nowhere… Submarine Documentary 1977 4


Another great video from a bygone era. The 41 for Freedom Boats were still in their glory and the USS Ohio was going through its growing pains at the shipyard at Electric Boat. While the patrol cycle is sometimes given short shrift by non-boomer sailors, it had a unique purpose and involved a large number of men in both operations and support.  The operations tempo and the transition to the newer subs is very nicely described here:

But for a closer look at what it was like to be a seventies boomer sailor, click on this link:


As veterans day once more approaches, I am reminded how great a price was paid by so many men and women in my lifetime alone to preserve the peace. I salute you all.

Mister Mac

New Years Day 2015 3


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.

ussvi final 3a

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.

Mister Mac



Patches 6

If you look to the right side of my blog, you will see a number of patches that reflect my duty stations (boats and ships) along the way. My sub vets vest has a fair representation of them and it is a matter of some pride that I wear each one. They all stand for a part of my personal journey and I am very honored to wear each and every one.

Recently I was asked (like many others to reflect on a patch for a USSVI region. The patch was nice and reflects the geographic area the region represents. Nicely colored, it also has a submarine template which is generic enough to fit a number of tastes for members and potential members. But like most patches, it seems to be missing something for me. The National Patch is also very nice since it a symbol of our shared qualification. It is an achievement that not every man or woman can claim.


I wonder if there will come a day where the Submarine Veterans Organization will have a patch that reflects the men (and now women) who are the Veterans. Because of submarine development over the past 114 years, there will never be a real consensus about what the optimal “submarine patch” would look like. And that opinion would change from generation to generation. DBF guys will be duking it our with Nuke boat guys until we all pass to the next great command. And I can’t wait to hear the fussing between the boys who sailed on boats with our old technology versus the youngsters that literally “fly” the Virginia class subs.

But the one unifying thing between all generations is that sailor who shows up at the head of the brow one day with a seabag slung over his shoulder wondering what the hell he has signed up for. My favorite Navy symbol of all time is The Lone Sailor which graces the Navy Memorial in DC and many other places around the country (including Norfolk). Did you know that the guy who was the “model” for the statue was a boomer sailor from one of the Trident subs?

I wonder what that symbol would look like if it were to reflect the submarine forces? I wonder if it would even be possible?



The sailor who mans the watch transcends every divide submariners have ever had. It doesn’t matter if he was on a ship named after a fish or a man. Nuclear powered or diesel. Boomer or Fast Attack. East coast or West coast. Just some kid from someplace in America that put on a brave face the first time they closed the hatch on him and ordered the ship to submerge. When someone captures that, I think it will be the real symbol of our great group.

Mister Mac

A little respect… 42 years later, its still not that big of a deal 20

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).

A school 2   scan

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.

To all those who served, Thanks again for what you did.

To those who waited on the pier for their sailor to come home, thanks to you as well.

Indianapolis Commisioning

I wonder if I’ll make it to Fifty years. I don’t have enough room on my Sub vest for a Holland Club stitching but I suppose I can always buy a hat.

About the title of the post: A little respect goes a long way to an old guy whose health is failing now (probably accelerated by living in a steel can under the water). While I personally am okay living on my memories of the great adventures, it wouldn’t hurt for you to thank one of those guys from time to time, just to remind him that he did something most men never did.

Mister Mac


Miscellaneous… 1940 2


The Bluejackets Manual has been the mainstay for educating sailors since 1902. Prior to that time, the sailors were considered to be too illiterate to merit having a manual with instructions on how to be an American Bluejacket. For a hundred and twelve years, the manual has undergone a number of revisions to reflect changes in the fleet and in tactics. I have talked many times before about the interwar attitudes concerning the pride of the fleet – the Battleships. To be fair, I have had a lifelong affair with the idea of big ships ranging the ocean and pounding it out in epic battles.

BJM 1940 2

The very first manual I ever held in my hands belonged to my Grandfather, Robert W. Parkins (the man I was named after). His Tenth Edition was published in June of 1940, over a year before the American Navy was savaged at Pearl Harbor. Grandfather served as a River Patrol leader in Western Pennsylvania and although I never asked him, I am sure the book was used to train his Coast Guard crew (and maybe himself) in the arts of seamanship.

 BJM 1940 1 - Copy    BJM 1940 1

The book is divided into Seven Parts marked by 59 Chapters.

Part 1 is for the new recruits and discusses the merits of a career in the Navy. Rules, regulations and basic skills in all things nautical round out the section. The remaining Six Parts go into more specific detail on everything from health care to marlinspike seamanship. This how to book was critical for each sailor in developing the mental, moral and physical attributes that would help them become American Bluejackets.

BJM 1940 3  BJM 1940 3 - Copy

In 1940, submarines were still considered a minor part of the fleet.  There had been many advances since the First World War and the Sugar Boats (S Boats) of the Asiatic fleet had proven that squadrons of submarines could operate far from America’s shores supported by a minimum of resources. Fleet type submarines were being built to replace the older boats, but they were still considered an extension of the real fleet. Events over the next five years would build a path that would change that view forever. But in 1940, Submarine life as a career was not high on anyone’s priority list.

In the ship description section, whole pages of information are provided praising the attributes of the monstrous capital ships of the line. There is a picture of the Skipjack on page 195 but little more than a brief description of what a submarine does accompanies the picture.


The last section of the book is called Miscellaneous. Here is where the Bluejacket finally learns about submarines and life on board the boats.

From the Manual:

Submarine Service

“The modern type submarines, which are now named after fishes, are about 310 feet in length, displace 1500 tons when on the surface, and carry a crew of 5 officers and 55 men. They are equipped with torpedo tubes in both the bow and the stern, and mount a three inch gun which may be used against either surface targets or aircraft. Their maximum speed on the surface is about 21 knots, using Diesel engine electric drive, and about 8 knots submerged, using storage batteries and motors.”

The book then describes where submarines are located (leaving out about 90 percent of their actual home ports) and talks about training and opportunities to learn modern advances in electricity, storage batteries, and Diesel engines.

Enlisted men who serve on board submarines receive additional pay for service on actively commissioned submarines at the rate of $10.00 a month for a non-qualified man, $25.00 per month for qualified men, and $30.00 per month for Chief Petty Officers and Frist Class Petty officers one year after qualifying. This rate remained the same throughout World War 2.

Even in 1973, Hazardous Duty pay was a whopping $55.00 per month for all submariners which is proof that we did not do it for the money.

Qualifications were described in short detail and the opportunity to learn more about technical matters is the way the paragraph ends. A page and a half of very generic information in a section called Miscellaneous seems like a very short tribute to the boats that would prove to be an overwhelming force in the war to come.

The cost was very high.

“To those whose contribution meant the loss of sons, brothers or husbands in this war, I pay my most humble respect and extend by deepest sympathy. As to the 374 officers and 3131 men of the Submarine Force who gave their lives in the winning of this war, I can assure you that they went down fighting and that their brothers who survived them took a grim toll of our savage enemy to avenge their deaths. “


From a speech given in Cleveland, Navy Day 1945, by Vice Admiral C.A. Lockwood, Jr., Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet January 1943-January 1946.

But the cost was much higher for the enemy

The Japanese Merchant Marine lost 8.1 million tons of vessels during the war, with submarines accounting for 4.9 million tons (60%) of the losses. Additionally, U.S. submarines sank 700,000 tons of naval ships (about 30% of the total lost) including 8 aircraft carriers, 1 battleship and 11 cruisers. Of the total 288 U.S. submarines deployed throughout the war (including those stationed in the Atlantic), 52 submarines were lost with 48 destroyed in the war zones of the Pacific. American submariners, who comprised only 1.6% of the Navy, suffered the highest loss rate in the U.S. Armed Forces, with 22% killed.

Considering the achievements of the submarine force, “Miscellaneous” seems a bit of an understatement.

As the men of the Silent Service continue to approach the gang plank for their last liberty call, never miss a chance to say thanks for their courageous service.

Mister Mac


Teddy Roosevelt was the first American president to go aboard a submarine and participate in a dive. The USS Plunger dove beneath the surface of Long Island Sound on March 25th 1905 with the President on board.

President Roosevelt not only achieved this historical first but was the man directly responsible for establishing submarine pay. The naval Admirals and bureaucracy of the day thought that submarine duty was neither unusual nor dangerous, and classified it as shore duty. For that reason, submariners received twenty-five percent less pay than sailors going to sea in destroyers, cruisers and similar surface ships.

From a story researched by Robert Loys Sminkey, Commander, United States Navy, Retired:

“Roosevelt’s two hour trip on Plunger convinced him that this discrimination was unfair. He described submarine duty as hazardous and difficult, and he found that submariners “have to be trained to the highest possible point as well as to show iron nerve in order to be of any use in their positions…”

Roosevelt directed that officer service on submarines be equated with duty on surface ships. Enlisted men qualified in submarines were to receive ten dollars per month in addition to the pay of their rating. They were also to be paid a dollar for every day in which they were submerged while underway. Enlisted men assigned to submarines but not yet qualified received an additional five dollars per month.

Roosevelt did not dilly-dally once he made a decision. He issued an executive order directing the extra pay for enlisted personnel. This was the beginning of submarine pay!”

“Ever a Submariner” by Jody Durham, MM2/SS (A Gang) 40

I am obviously a sucker for a great submarine story. I spend much of my free time researching stories about a rare breed of men who chose voluntarily to sail on ships designed by their creators to sail beneath the oceans surface. I was recently introduced to Jody Durham, a fellow Cold War sailor (and a brother A-ganger), who captured the essence of being a submariner with such clarity that I felt like I should share it. These are his words. But truly, these are the memories I wish I could have captured half as well. This story is posted with Jody’s permission. Obviously, please respect all copyright rules and give proper attribution.

Mister Mac

Jody Durham

“Ever A Submariner”

“I liked popping the hatch at the top of the sail at sunrise and being the first to savor the scent of fresh air for the first time in 8 weeks… watching dolphins race in the bow wave on the way back home to Pearl… the tear-drop hull of the boat beneath me silently slicing through the sea.

I liked the sounds of the submarine service – sounds that we alone could hear, as we were the “Silent Service” where others were concerned – the ascending whine of the dive alarm sounding, and the haunting echos of “Cayooogah, cayooogah… Dive! Dive!” from the boats of yesteryear, the gruff voice of a Chief headed aft… “Down ladder; Make a Hole!” – the indescribable creaking sound of hull-steel compressing at depths that remain classified to this day.

I was impressed with naval vessels – bracketed in the aperture of Periscope #2, the crosshairs gently rising and falling across their silhouette on the horizon, while obtaining range, bearing and angle off the bow.


I liked the names of proud boats of every class, from the “pig boats” of WWI to the sea creatures of WWII, like Barbel, Dorado, Shark and Seawolf, and the Cold War boats that bore with honor the names of these and 48 others that are “Still on Patrol.” Boats honoring national heroes, statesmen and presidents: Washington, Madison, Franklin and more. Whole classes of boats honoring cities and states: Los Angeles, Ohio and Virginia.

I liked the tempo of opposed piston diesels and the “pop” in your ears when equalizing to atmospheric when the head valve first opens to ventilate and snorkel. I miss the “thrill” of riding an emergency blow from test depth to the top at a nice steep bubble.

Surface surface surface

I enjoyed seeing places I’d only dreamed of, and some of which I’d heard of from my grandfather – who had seen them under very different circumstances and conditions… places like Pearl Harbor, Guam, Truk Island and Subic and Tokyo Bays.

I admired the teamwork of loading ships stores, the “brow-brigade” from pier to boat, and lowering them vertically through a 24” hatch to the galley below. I relished the competition of seeing who could correctly guess how many days underway before the fresh eggs and milk ran out and powder prevailed upon us henceforth.

I loved my “brothers,” each and every one, whether their dolphins were gold or silver and regardless of rate or rank. We shared experiences that bonded us evermore, and knew each other’s joys, pains, strengths and weaknesses. We listened to and looked out for each other. We shared precious little space in which to live and move and work, and we breathed, quite literally, the same recycled air.

After weeks in cramped quarters, my heart leapt at the command, “Close All Main Vents; Commence Low Pressure Blow; Prepare to Surface; Set the Maneuvering Watch.” When safely secured along the pier, the scent of my sweetheart’s hair evaporated the staleness emanating from my dungarees.

Going home

Exhausting though it was, I even liked the adrenaline rush of endless drills, and the comfort in the knowledge that any dolphin-wearing brother had cross-trained just like I had… not only on basic damage control, but to the point of having a basic working knowledge of every system on the boat, such that when real emergencies inevitably arose, the response was so automatic and efficient they were almost anti-climactic.

I liked the eerie sounds of “biologics” through the sonar headphones, the strange songs of the sea in the eternal night below the surface of the deep blue seas.

I liked the darkness – control room rigged for red or black, the only illumination that of the back-lights compass and gauges of the helm and myriad of buttons and indicator lights across the BCP. I liked the gentle green glow of the station screens in the Sonar Shack and Fire Control. I grew to like coffee, the only way to stay awake in the numbing darkness of the Control Room with the constant rocking of the boat during countless hours at periscope depth.

I liked “sliders” and “lumpia” and pizza at “Mid-rats” at the relieving of the watch. I liked the secure and cozy feeling of my rack, my humble little “den,” even when it was still warm from the body-heat of the guy who just relieved me of the watch.

I liked the controlled chaos of the Control Room, with the Officer of the Deck, Diving Officer and Chief of the Watch receiving and repeating orders; the sound of Sonar reporting: “Con-Sonar: New Contact, submerged, designated: Sierra 1, bearing: 0-1-0, range: 1-0-0-0 yards, heading 3-5-0, speed: 1-5 knots, depth: 4-0-0’.”

I liked the rush of “Man Battlestations; Rig for Quiet” announced over the 1MC, and the “outside of my rate” role I played as CEP plotter during war games, and later… SpecOps – the window to another world that I was allowed to peer through… the tactics, stealth and tenacity of our Captain making prompt and purposeful decisions to see us safely and successfully through the mission.

I appreciated the fact that I was a 19 year old kid, entrusted with operating some of the most sophisticated equipment in the entire world, and the challenge of doing those tasks in a 33’ x 360’ steel tube, several hundred feet below the surface, in potentially hostile waters.

I admired the traditions of the Silent Service, of Men of Iron in Boats of Steel, where you were just a NUB until you were “Qualified” and had EARNED the respect of the Officers and crew. I revered past heroes like inventor John Philip Holland and innovator Hyman G. Rickover. Such men and those that followed, both Officer and Enlisted, set precedents to follow, standards to uphold, and examples of bravery and self-sacrifice like the world has seldom seen. We were taught to honor these traditions. Somewhere far below the ocean’s surface, I became a man… and not just any man. I became… a Submariner.

Our story is seldom told, but we are truly un-sung heroes. We contributed significantly to the winning of wars, the liberation of the oppressed and the preservation of both peace and freedom. Many of us served during the “Cold War” – collectively, we stood the watch, patrolled and performed acts of top secret espionage – and we did so CONTINUOUSLY for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – for over four and a half DECADES. We kept a very fragile peace intact – very likely preventing global nuclear annihilation in the process – by virtue of our strength, vigilance, endurance and integrity.

Yes, we WON that war, and did so without ever once having to fire a shot in anger. Though we’ve been awarded many citations and medals, there are none that exist for that particular campaign as a whole. Our reward is the solemn pride that each of us possesses within our own hearts, the freedoms that we enjoy as a people, and the loving care of our friends and family—who stood the watch in their own way, supporting us in our absence when we were in harm’s way far, far from home.

Decades now have come and gone since last I went to sea. The years have a way of dimming things, like looking at the past through a smoky mirror. I went, as many others, my separate way… raised a family, and moved on… but a part of me, my Sailor’s Soul, will always be underway… somewhere… in the darkness, in the deep, making turns for twenty knots… pushing a hole through the water.”

Written By:

Jody Wayne Durham, MM2/SS (A-gang)

USS Los Angeles (SSN-688), ’85 – ‘88

Silver Dolphins

{Please see Author’s Note below}

*Author’s Note:

“Ever A Submariner”… An essay written in stark contrast to

“I Was A Sailor Once, And I Would Do It Again” by Mark Midgley*

There exists, throughout the military, a jovial and light-hearted “inter-service rivalry” between the various branches, US Navy and Marines, US Army, US Air Force and US Coast Guard. We each are proud of our own particular group, and rightly so, yet we also maintain a healthy respect for the role of each of the others. By virtue of their unique role, and the fact The Submarine Service is entirely comprised of volunteers (consider that these men volunteered not once, but TWICE, to serve our country in this way)… Submariners justifiably consider themselves among the elite… the best of the best. Thus a rivalry exists also within the Navy itself – between us “Bubble Heads” and our shipmates of the surface Navy, whom we lovingly refer to as “Skimmer Pukes.”

I am a member of several social media “groups,” – mostly submariner exclusive groups, but also of a couple that are comprised of US Navy sailors (active and retired) at large. It was in one of these groups (US Navy Machinist’s Mates – Facebook) that I came across the essay “I Was A Sailor Once…” mentioned above. Being by nature somewhat self-assured and assertive (ok, ok… cocky and aggressive), I initially began writing this essay as a paragraph by paragraph snarky, smart-aleck response to Mark Midgely’s essay. The reader can see some evidence of that in the opening paragraphs. But as I continued, I came to admire the other’s work as a genuine, heart-felt and reverent reminiscence of his personal Naval experience. And I too had experienced some of the same things. But I quickly realized that much of what he had expressed from his surface Navy experience was entirely foreign to me. I mean, the only salt-spray I experienced underway was from a sea-water pipe leak! So, while my essay still mirrors his to some extent, from the point of that realization it serves to give equal homage to the Naval experience as observed through the headphones of the Sonar-man, the greasy hands of the Auxiliary Machinist’s Mate, the chart-table of the Quartermaster and, as can only be seen through the eyes of the Officer of the Deck on the #2 Periscope.

Nautically Yours,

Jody Wayne Durham