Saturday, January 9, 2010

Remembering the Sea

A common question from friends and some family is what it is I do once a month and a couple of weeks a year and at some point...for many weeks on end. I don't talk about it too much on here, especially the when/where/how long/why, mostly just to protect my family. My blog, as you know, can be read by anyone in any corner of the planet. Many times, I start to type about it, then backtrack and delete it all after thinking about what I just typed. I really do like to talk about it as I'm very passionate about it, just like's just a different "kind" of passion. In running, I seek to run and push myself beyond previously unbroken or unknown limits and reach a sort of never-thought-possible state of being. I guess that sorta explains my drive for running 100-milers. 26.2 just doesn't do it for me anymore! While in uniform, however, my passion lies within serving my country before myself and that means a different kind of sacrifice. Hopefully not the ultimate sacrifice, but sacrifice in time, missed family events, and maybe even some RUNNING events. I truly love my country, not any party or political ideology, but the good 'ol red, white, and blue. I hold those who have come before me in very high regard and don't ever take for granted the freedom I have to do as I please, thanks to them.

I love quotes that capture the essence of different things in my life. The "I Love to Run" group on Facebook is a great example. They post little snippets every day that capture the magic of running and going the distance. Military service and service in the Navy are stumbled upon every once in awhile as well. World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Vice-Admiral John Bulkeley is quoted as saying: "The Naval Officer is truly unique for he must have the capacity to simultaneously love his country... his service... his family... his shipmates... and the sea. He needs each of them unquestionably as each of them needs him... and the demands which are placed on him never diminish, they only grow." (There is no higher medal than the Medal of Honor...he also had a ship named after him and served honorably for a whoppin' 55 years! He passed away in 1996 at 84 years of age. Here's his bio.) The admiral got his quote dead on. I may be a land-based reservist these days, but I served on active duty for 10 years and have been on several ships and have sailed the oceans blue quite a bit. I miss those sunsets over the horizon, the burning jet fuel while F-18s are catapulted off of the flight deck, and firing up the nuclear reactor as we prepare to go to sea. So yea, I miss it. I love my family more, but I miss the sea.Speaking of the sea, I remember the USS Virginia (above) well. Decommissioned and chopped to pieces by now, it was my first ship, hull number CGN-38 (nuclear guided missile cruiser). I finished Naval Nuclear Power School in 1992 then reported aboard the 500 person crewed ship in 1993. I remember well my first time at sea. A hurricane (I believe it was Emily) was heading inland at a high category towards the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area and the ships in port were ordered to sea. Our ship had been slated to be decommissioned and it's final voyage was scheduled for the fall but Emily forced us out to sea to outrun the hurricane. Well, we went to sea but went straight through the outer rim of the storm. As a fairly small ship, it was a rocky ride, to say the least. As a newbie sailor, I puked my guts out and ate more than my fair share of crackers. I hadn't yet earned my "sea legs" as we like to say but after that, I never got sick again. Looking at the picture of the Virginia above, it reminds me of evenings that I stood besides the rail and watched the sun set and wishing my new bride was with me to witness it. I remember standing in the superstructure as they fired test-missiles and sometimes, the 5 inch gun. I also remember test-shoots of the tomahawk cruise missiles out on the fantail (the rear of the ship). Port calls in Cartagena, Columbia (Marjie got emeralds from that visit), Curazao Venezuela, and San Juan were the highlights of the Virginia's final cruise. When I left the Virginia for a brand new aircraft carrier, the John C. Stennis (CVN-74), not much was left of her. Her superstructure had been removed and all the spent nuclear fuel shipped to some secret hideout somewhere. I prefer to remember her out to sea as you see up above. It just makes the Admiral's quote even more resonating to me.

So today, far separated from my days as a nuclear mechanic and now a commissioned Navy Supply Officer, I am looking forward to the leadership growth...and challenges that lie ahead.
It is truly an exciting time in my Navy career and one I wouldn't change it a bit. Luckily, it's my wife and family that I have to thank. Marjie has stood by my side and is 50% of the equation and has been so since 1991. She continues to support me and my girls are learning what it's all about. The world climate today in the 21st century has done nothing to deter us from service to our country and from the recruiting numbers among the services, other fellow sailors, Marines, Airmen, and soldiers agree. There is never NOT a time to serve. (yes, that was a double-negative for you teacher-types out there!)

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