National Vietnam War Veterans Day

National Vietnam War Veterans Day is observed on Sunday, March 29, 2020. The  Vietnam War Commemoration Honors U.S. Armed Forces personnel with who served in the military between November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location of service. This totaled nine million Americans that served during that time.

The United States withdrew active troops from Vietnam in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accords were signed, however, U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War did not end until the fall of Saigon, April 30, 1975.

The Vietnam War took the lives of over 58,000 American service members and wounded in excess of 150,000. For the people who served during Vietnam and survived the indescribable horrors, coming home had its own kind of distress. Some veterans say that they were called “baby killers”, others were spit on. Vietnam veterans were met with absolutely none of the ceremony and received none of the benefits that were given other veterans. Because of this, I felt unappreciated and it took me several years to discuss my service during this difficult time in US history.

When I got out of the Navy in the early 70’s, I needed a home for my young family. After a bit of looking, I found a place for us. As a veteran, I was promised a VA guaranteed mortgage to buy a home. So I filled out all the appropriate paper work, attached a copy of my DD-214 and applied for one. Shortly thereafter I received a nice letter confirming that due to my service, and honorable discharge, I was eligible for the VA mortgage.

After a bit more time, I received a letter from the VA that said the house I was interested in was worth what I was going to pay. Whoo Hoo, second hurtle cleared. A week later I opened my mail and read that my VA loan was rejected. That’s all it said. No explanation why.

So I called the VA to ask just what the heck (not the word I used) was going on. They looked up my file and told me I hadn’t been at my present job for 12 months. I very politely replied (not so politely) that I had just gotten out of the service a few months ago and had a job within a week of getting home. I told them they can shove their program where the sun don’t shine.

For many veterans, the impact of the war carried over to civilian life. Approximately one third of veterans said that they had difficulty paying their bills shortly after leaving the service and around thirty percent say they had received unemployment compensation during the transition. Twenty percent said that they struggled with alcohol or substance abuse shortly after their discharge.

A few years after I tried to get a mortgage, my daughter was having a medical problem. The doctors thought she had bone cancer in her leg. Unfortunately, I was between jobs and had no medical insurance at the time. Once again I reached out to the VA and explained my situation. Their answer was not quite what I had wanted. It boiled down to the fact that I was S.O.L. (Sorry, Out of Luck, what did you think I meant?)

Every year, the U.S. military enlists around 175,000 young Americans and they promise to take care of those who serve. Today, this promise is upheld in the moral code of each branch of the service. Members of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard pledge to never leave a fallen comrade behind.

After their discharge, the Department of Veterans Affairs is charged with fulfilling this very same promise on behalf of a grateful nation. The problem, however, is that many veterans have difficulty accessing these programs. The Department of Veterans Affairs has estimated that 107,000 veterans are homeless in the United States every night. In my opinion, just one homeless veteran is too many.

At one time, I needed a medical device due to my having cancer. I read that the VA supplied these to veterans, so I called them. I asked the person who answered the phone if they did in fact supply these. An easy question that required an easy answer, yes or no. This person said they could not tell me over the phone but if I would fill out some paperwork that they would send me, they could give me an answer. When the paperwork arrived, there were pages of questions to answer. I also wanted a copy of my DD-214, just to get an answer to my question. All I needed was a simple answer.

We owe veterans more than just a handshake and a slap on the back. Congress and the next administration needs to fix the existing VA system and take the necessary steps to make sure that our U.S. military veterans receive the support and care that they deserve

I think it is time for the U.S. government to honor the promise they made to our veterans. As a veteran, I fulfilled my side of the contract and I think it is their turn to keep theirs… or give me back my four years.

Norb is a proud navy veteran. Who chased Russian subs during his tour of duty.

An old friend

An old buddy stopped by my house the other day. He came over because I got in touch with him due to a series of challenges I had personally taken on. This task was to contact an old friend. Just connecting with him was an undertaking because he had dropped his land line which was the only phone number I had for him. I checked his Facebook page to no avail but finally found his brother’s number. I talked to his sister-in-law who gave me his new cell number. Now we were cooking.

I have known him for over four decades. Donna and I used to go to his home on weekends to go swimming in his pool. He and I had built a deck off the back of his house. This had a platform that overhung the side of the pool for diving. We used to have cookouts for dinner and the two of us would go out to a farmer’s field and pick corn for roasting. I hadn’t seen this buddy in quite a few years so we spent about two hours catching up with each other.

We talked about the weather and the recent wind storm. If you are from Western New York, you always talk about the weather. I showed him our new bedroom addition on the back of our house and he loved it. He appreciated the fact that it looked as if it has been there forever. He liked the floors, the en-suite bathroom with a walk in shower and elevated toilet. He loved the walk in closet, the pocket door, the number of outlets I had the electrician put in (22 of them in the bedroom alone) and even the magnetic doorstop. I put in a lot of thought when I was designing this space.

His son has now grown and has given him a grandson and his son lives just around the corner from my son, small world. My buddy is a very proud grandfather. His grandson is as cute as can be and looks just like his father. We told him about the exploits of our own grandchildren, discussed our children and many other things.

We talked about banks and online banking (he is for it, I’m not). According to the FDIC, the national average interest rate on savings accounts currently stands at 0.09% so I don’t see any compelling reason to keep money in a bank.

He is a Vietnam Era veteran just like I am but we didn’t discuss politics. Politics and religion are the two subjects I refuse to discuss.

We chatted about what we were doing now. About how I blog and write articles for newspapers and even get a few of them published internationally. I told him about the article I had written, a sarcastic piece on the song “Baby it’s cold outside” and the radio stations that refused to play this classic winter song. It caused such a turmoil that I no longer write for the online paper where it was first published. However, it was distributed elsewhere without a problem. This song has gotten a politically correct remake this year by John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.

My buddy now drives a school bus and boy, did he have a few stories to tell! My wife asked him about passing a stopped school bus and did she ever hit a hot button! He told us about the people that blast past his bus as he is discharging kids and indicated his experience was not uncommon. We must have chatted about this subject for at least a half an hour.

According to the New York State DMV website, a majority of school bus related injuries and deaths happen when children are crossing the street after being dropped off by the bus, not by collisions involving school buses. There is nothing you are doing, there is no place you are going, that is worth injuring a child.

He wasn’t aware that a mutual friend of ours had passed so we informed him about it. It’s sad how we lose track of our friends and loved ones over the years. I also updated him on another person, Ed, which we both knew. We go out to dinner with Ed monthly.

Our twin grandsons were spending the day at my house due to the schools being closed and were playing upstairs but you wouldn’t know it. I called them down to the living room and they introduced themselves and shook my buddy’s hand. After they went back up to play, my buddy remarked what polite, well behaved young men they were.

Our visit was very, very enjoyable and when he left it was like we hadn’t lost any time at all. Unfortunately, he had to leave and go do his afternoon bus run. I hope he comes over again soon and often. Next time I encourage him to bring his son, his son’s wife and of course, his grandson.

Celebrating a half century of true love

As appearing in the Niagara Gazette and the Lockport Union Sun and Journal

8/11/2019

Last Friday, my wife Donna and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary.

A half-century ago, we were a pair of young, clueless kids. We went out into the world with everything we owned in the back of a Volkswagon “beetle” and drove 500 miles from home to establish a life of our own in Newport, Rhode Island. If it weren’t for wedding presents, we wouldn’t have had enough money for gas to get to Newport, which was my ship’s home port while I was in the Navy.

We first moved into a fleabag motel. Living there depleted our funds quickly so we scoured want ads in the local papers, looking for a cheap apartment. We didn’t have much money but we had our love to keep us going.

Then a shipboard buddy told us about some inexpensive apartments in Fall River, Massachusetts, just across the state line. We moved into this welfare development where your rent was based on your income. I was earning $64 a month back then. Our rent was $32 a month. Fortunately our rent included the heat and electricity. After I paid the rent, I had $8 a week left over for our phone bill, food, gasoline and auto insurance. Heaven forbid my car would break down. All the money we had left from our wedding went into cheap, pressed wood furniture. We still have some of that furniture today.

We were living without the benefit of family nearby so we had no safety net and we had to do whatever it took on our own to survive. We learned more about self-dependence than we had ever known. It made us reliant on each other.

I was proud of Donna the first time I went to sea. She didn’t go home to her parents. The apartment we shared was now home to her, and with the help of a few friends who were close to us, she was able to stay in our place. I am thankful to our next door neighbors, Millie and her family, for helping Donna out. Tony, Millie’s youngest, would spend more time at our house than his own keeping Donna company.

One of my friends, Cole, a bosun’s mate and mountain of a man, would check in on her to see if she was OK during my absences and if she needed anything.

The neighbors would share their food with us and showed us how to apply for a monthly allotment of surplus food that the state gave to low income people. Every month we would have a food exchange in the common area of the complex. We would meet up with whatever free food we didn’t want and swap it for food we did.

It was during this time we had two of our children. How crazy were we to do this? I don’t know. We figured, “How expensive would it be to have children?” Of course, this was in the days of cloth diapers, rubber pants and diaper pails.

As I look back on those times, I have to wonder just how we made it. Foolish as we were, we managed to survive. We were from the generation that believed when you made a promise, you kept it.

I think often about how much in love we were. How our marriage was made stronger by having to make it on our own in the early years. How we couldn’t run home to our parents when we had differences of opinion. How I learned the four phrases that helped keep us together: “Yes dear,” “You are right,” “I understand,” and most importantly, “I love you.”

Now, 50 years later, I think about all the problems we overcame together, standing back to back with our guns drawn, ready to take on whatever came at us.

I now send my wife a cheesy text every morning, professing my love for her to make her smile and to let her know that I am thinking about her. I also try to keep fresh flowers in the house just because. She is the best thing that ever happened to me and I love her with all my soul.

The first time I saw her, my heart whispered “That’s the one.” Imagining my life without her is impossible and I am so lucky to be able to spend my life with her.

Norb Rug is a writer from Lockport. His email is nrug@juno.com where he welcomes comments

Christmas traditions

Image result for free christmas tree on top of car

I have written about family traditions before, this time I would like to share a few Christmas traditions from my past and a few that my children, grandchildren and I practice today.

My memories of Christmas as a young boy took place at 496 Berkshire Avenue, Buffalo. About a week before Christmas, we would go shopping for a tree. It had to be a long needle fir tree and it had to be symmetrical without any bare spots, nothing else would do. We would sometimes have to go to several Christmas tree lots that popped up on every vacant piece of land in the city. We would then tie it on the roof of our car and take it home like some kind of hunting trophy and I guess it was. It would spend a few days trussed up like a bird being prepared for cooking by on our front porch awaiting it’s role in our house.

The dining room table was disassembled and put in my sister’s room to make room for the Christmas tree. Once the Christmas tree lights were untangled, which sometimes took quite a bit of time, they had to be tested. My father was the only person allowed to put these on the tree. My mother would supervise and my father would have to swap bulbs until no two adjacent bulbs were the same color. We would then decorate the tree with all kinds of ornaments, both store bought and homemade. The final decoration would be “icicles” made of thin ribbons of lead.

On Christmas Eve my brother and I would retire to our bedroom on the second floor where we would have a hard time falling asleep in anticipation of Santa Claus paying us a visit. For some reason or other Santa would wrap our presents in the Sunday comic pages. I always thought he had run out of wrapping paper and was surprised that he got the Buffalo Courier Express. I think my favorite toy that Santa ever brought me was a battery operated, walking robot with flashing lights and “sound effects” that I received one year.

Many years later, after I got married, Donna and I moved to Massachusetts while I was in the Navy. We had a small tree but we couldn’t afford many ornaments. We made do with what we had and what people gave us. One thing I did was affix a starfish to the top of our tree that a buddy Ed and I collected from a local beach and had dried in the basement of my apartment.

That was fifty years ago. We still have that starfish adorning our tree. This has developed into a family tradition. All of my children have a starfish of their own now that sit atop their tree. A few years ago I gave all of our grandchildren a starfish so when they are on their own they will remember us with this tradition.

According to an old German legend, if you find a bird’s nest in your Christmas tree you and your family will experience health, wealth and happiness in the coming year. Who can’t use some good luck like this?  We always have a bird’s nest in our tree and my daughter Liz has one in her tree also.

Other Christmas traditions our family has involve food. Every grandchildren gets to select, as part of their present a “Christmas” food from Nana and Papa. They have picked things like Ramen noodles, potato chips and whipped cream as some of their choices.

My son, Erik and his wife, Heidi also host a Christmas Eve dinner that starts with snacks during the afternoon, Olives and Pickles, Chips and dip, Buffalo chicken wing dip etc. Actually you could graze your way thru the afternoon and not need anything more.  But then they have a full blown meal in the evening. We can choose from a cold cut platter and rolls, Beef on weck, Beans, macaroni and pasta salads, regular salad and many other dishes. They also set out Christmas cookies and various other sweets. One year they offered us homemade marshmallows.

Just in case you didn’t have enough to eat, the following morning my oldest daughter, Liz had a Christmas day brunch at her house. We have Stuffed French toast, Breakfast sausage links, Potatoes, Muffins, Eggs, and many more things to eat. With all this food, I was ready for a nap.

After Brunch we would all settle into the living room with me in a recliner in front of her roaring fireplace to open presents. I love watching the eyes of Ian and Kaelen, the younger grandchildren, light up as they rip open the colorful wrapping paper and see what gifts they have received. What starts as a controlled afternoon quickly turns into chaos. It is wonderful having all our children and grandchildren under one roof on this day.

This year unfortunately, her house has been sold and she is temporarily staying with us. My youngest daughter, Dawn has offered up her house for Christmas brunch as long as in her words “I don’t have to cook”. Dawn serves a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner so I don’t blame her not wanting to also do Christmas, so I guess Liz will be spending time at her house cooking our meal.

It really doesn’t matter where we hold our holiday celebrations though, they could be held in my garage or a storage shed on Transit Road. It’s the people and the food, the conversation and the laughter that make this season important to me.

Norb is a writer from Lockport that has also lived in Buffalo and Massachusetts.

The Gambler

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My name is Norb and I’m a gambler. (Muted response, Hi Norb.) I don’t bet on the ponies or play poker. I don’t play the over/under on sports games but I gamble every day.

When my alarm goes off and, at seventy, when I swing my legs over the edge of my bed, I gamble on the fact that when I stand up, my legs won’t collapse. I’ve been to the hospital a few times when I “melted” as I call it. I don’t fall, just slowly collapse to the ground because my legs can’t support me.

Once I am up, I shuffle to me kitchen where I lay bets on a number of things. I make myself a breakfast sandwich and I gamble several times. I make myself a ham, egg, cheese and kimchee breakfast sandwich in the microwave. According to Consumer Reports, “More than 10,000 people were hurt using microwaves.” I gamble the egg I use won’t give me salmonella or the ham I use won’t give me food poisoning. I’ve had food poisoning, also called foodborne illness, once in my life and it wasn’t fun. As I cut my English muffin I am reminded that lacerations caused by kitchen knives affected more than 900,800 people in 2012, according to the www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. I gamble I don’t cut myself.

After I eat my sandwich, risking choking, I then go down my back steps gambling on the chance they aren’t wet or icy causing me to slip, go ass over tea kettle and doing a face plant on the concrete sidewalk at the bottom. My wife has put non slip strips resembling black sandpaper on the steps to help prevent this.

I then take my biggest gamble of the day. I get into my car, turn on the ignition and ease myself on to the road. According to driverknowledge.com, the average number of car accidents in the U.S. every year is 6 million. I wager on fact that every other driver isn’t DWI or Texting or Chatting on their cell phone and are paying attention to their driving. When you think about it, half the vehicle to vehicle car accidents on the road are caused by the other guy. I may be the best driver in the world but that might not help me if someone is acting unsafe on the roadway.

I also gamble, if it is winter, the road crews have plowed and salted the roadways properly before I drive on them. I have traveled on unplowed roads before and I slid into the ditch.

Other gambles I have taken were asking my wife of 50 years to marry me. This was probably the most important chance I have ever taken. I would have been devastated if she would have said no. I tried to “stack the deck” to favor me when I asked. Knowing how much she loved children I asked her to have mine.

Two children later, I also took a chance when I got out of the navy.  The movers were supposed to be at my apartment at 8:00 AM and pack us up for the trip back to Western New York. Donna and I got up early that day and made sandwiches, filled bottles for our two daughters and prepare for our road trip to Western New York. We figured it might take the movers 3 hours or less to load up our merger possessions so we could head home.  We packed up our Volkswagen Beetle with what we thought we would need for a few days, filled a cooler and waited for the movers to arrive.

They only missed this appointment by 12 hours showing up at 8 PM. By 11 PM we were sitting in our empty apartment and had a decision to make. Should we start an 8 hour long drive, in the middle of the night, in the ice and snow of January, after being up for 18 hours? Our other choice was to stay in a motel overnight and leave for home in the morning when we had some sleep and were fresh.

Donna, my wife was as anxious as I was to get home so we gambled on option one. She said she would stay awake and keep me awake during the trip. So I went all in. We loaded the kids and the last of our possessions in our car and I started to drive

The first 25 miles went well, Donna and I chatting about how glad we were to be going home, but as soon as we got outside of Providence, Rhode Island, Donna fell asleep. I gambled again and decided to drive straight through. This almost proved fatal. I tried to deploy a few ways to try and stay awake. I turned the radio real loud and opened my window allowing the freezing air in.

I had fallen asleep a few times during that long trip but I would manage to wake up when my tires would hit the shoulder. The last time I fell asleep however I woke up in the median to snow flying over my car as I was plowing it. I jerked my steering wheel to the right and popped back on the roadway like a Jack-in-the-Box. Thank god no one was hurt.

We all are unaware we are gamblers and unknowingly gamble several times a day.  Follow Norb at  https://whywny.home.blog/

Hiring Veterans is good for everyone

Don’t Forget, Hire a Vet.

That person behind the counter or clerk you meet in the aisle of a store that you encounter today just might be a veteran. Veterans and reservists help staff and run operations for lots of businesses both locally and across the nation, including restaurants, manufacturers and retailers. Mighty Taco in Lockport has an Air Force veteran working there and we always spar with each other because I was a Navy veteran.

Hiring veterans benefits everybody. I can think of no better way to say “Thank you for your service” than to offer a veteran a job. Many veterans, both enlisted or officers, have higher education degrees, and many of them are very hard workers. Sometimes the job proficiency that you are asking for is something that can be taught and many ex-military are quick learners. Employers may want plug and play, but they are going to have to train someone no matter who they hire.

Many employers who seek out veterans to hire have stated there are many benefits in attracting veterans such as the experience that they bring like more focused attention and the ability to work independently. Military people are resilient and reliable. They don’t get upset or disturbed by change and you can count on them. They are used to going in and tackling challenges and accomplishing a mission.

Hiring veterans can provide tax advantages to employers as well. Because I was a Vietnam veteran, my employer got a tax advantage and I helped them fulfill their “diversity” quota. It was not only a win, win for them but it was a win for me.

I frequently see people with a ball cap on that lists a branch of the service or the unit they served with. I make it a point to walk up to them and welcome them home, thanking them for their service. It takes a special type of person to devote a part of their life to our country. Sometimes we may bust on each other for being in the “wrong” branch of the service but we are all brothers and sisters in arms.

One company, Walmart, is more than halfway to its goal of hiring 250,000 veterans by 2020. Walmart calls its program the Veterans Welcome Home Commitment. Through the program, it guarantees it will offer a position to every veteran who’s honorably discharged after Memorial Day 2013, or later. So far, the company said it’s hired about 188,000 veterans and promoted 28,000 more. Company officials also view military veterans honorably discharged before 2013 as potentially desirable employees, based upon their subsequent training and experiences.

Hundreds of companies that make hiring veterans a priority are about to get some attention from the U.S. Labor Department through a recognition program Congress created earlier this year. The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing (HIRE) American Military Veterans Act, signed by President Donald Trump in May, creates the HIRE Vets Medallion Program to provide that recognition.

The medallion program will recognize about 300 participating employers in 2018 before being expanded the following year, federal officials said. “Through their military service, America’s veterans have leadership skills, technical expertise, and proven problem-solving capabilities. These are attributes that any employer would want.”

Companies acknowledged through the program will be able to show off HIRE Vets Medallions on their websites and within their social media posts and in printed materials.

Many times, employers don’t quite understand how to convert a veteran’s experience into comparable private sector jobs and frequently there aren’t jobs that correspond to their experience. I can’t think of many jobs that would utilize a Navy Seal’s or a Gunner’s mate’s training for instance. The problem is understanding that every veteran has had so many more duties than it initially appears. While veterans have educational opportunities by the use of the GI Bill, sometimes going back to school isn’t a realistic option. They still have to make a living especially if they have a family.

Many mistaken beliefs about veterans are driven by the high-profile stories that are covered in the media. There’s also the influence of an extensively quoted statistic from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In its 2012 suicide data report, they found that every day, an average of 22 veterans take their own lives, although this number doesn’t mean their death is just related to their being in the service. The population cannot be distilled down to just a simple number.

A few industry players are attempting to counteract this problem with specialized programs that cater to veterans and their families. The Cosmopolitan, a resort in Las Vegas actively recruits veterans and they reported this past year that 200 of their 5,000 employees are veterans or spouses of veterans.

Norb is a Lockport resident, a proud American and Navy veteran.

Words of love, so soft and tender, won’t win a girls heart anymore:  The Mamas And The Papas (1966) 

man and woman holding hands walking on seashore during sunrise
Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com

 

When I was in the service, I would try to write my wife as often as I could, relating where I was and what I was doing. These usually contained expressions of my love for her but the envelope, oh the envelope, I would adorn it with the number 143. That was my code for the number of letters in the words I love you. One cruise she was pregnant with my daughter and I wrote the 143 vertically and put a smaller 143 inside the 4. This represented my wife carrying my child.

As a family we have many ways of expressing our love for each other. If we happen to be holding hands, 3 gentle squeezes mean I love you. This will be followed by 4 gentle squeezes in response meaning I love you too. Another way we express our love for each other is by flashing the ILY a sign from American Sign Language which means I love you. The sign originated among deaf schoolchildren using American Sign Language to create a sign from a combination of the signs for the letters I, L and Y and is our personal “gang” hand sign.

Another way we say I love you is by saying “Owie”. This developed from a daughter who as a very young child and was just learning to talk responding “owie” every time we said I love you to her. Again this is a family specific way to let each other know how we feel about each other without yelling I love you in a crowded room.

One time I used a label maker to put I love you on the lid of the wash machine so every time my wife did laundry she would see it. This had a very humorous side effect one day when my furniture was in storage at my parent’s house after I got out of the Navy. A repairman showed up to fix the damage the moving company caused to the washer and when he opened the lid he said “I love you”. My mother was aghast until the repairman explained he was just reading the lid.

When I worked, I used to call my wife in the middle of the day to chat and tell her I loved her. There are many ways to say I love you and we say it to each other frequently. I tell my wife I love you several times a day and she says it to me but I also try to have fresh flowers in the house because she likes them and it is my way of saying I love you. She on the other hand, always ensures I have clean clothes. I frequently remark on my magic underwear drawer that seems to fill itself up whenever it gets low. She always makes me delicious meals and desserts. This is part of the reason I have gained 90 pounds since we married 48 years ago. That’s 90 pounds of love she gave me.

When my wife had a minivan I found some red rubbery hearts that I stuck on her rear view mirror. Every time she looked at it, it was like I was telling her I love you. When I bought her the new minivan this was one of the first things I transferred.

The love we show has spilled over to our grandchildren and they will frequently end a text to either Nana or me with a 143. We have several paper hearts that our granddaughter made sprinkled throughout our house. She stuck them on the bathroom mirror, the television in our bed room and many other places. Every time we see them we know we are loved.

We recently watched an 11 year old for a month this summer. We watched her from the time she was 7 weeks old until her family moved to North Carolina. One day she left me a note saying”Love Ya” on my end table. This is now taped inside my laptop where it reminds me of her every day.

It is easy to let someone know you love them. Write on the bathroom mirror with a small amount of hand soap on your finger and when the mirror steams up you will leave a little love message! On your way out in the morning, draw a heart in the snow. Telling someone you love them doesn’t have to be a grandiose gesture. It can be as small as a squeeze, a word, or just doing something nice for a person.

The Mamas And The Papas got it all wrong. Words of love will win a girls heart.

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Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

“In the Navy. Yes you can sail the seven seas.” (Village People)

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The U. S. Navy says 13 October, is the anniversary of its official founding.  The Second Continental Congress passed a resolution that formed the Continental Navy under President George Washington. Dangers to American merchant shipping by Barbary pirates from four North African States, in the Mediterranean, led to the Naval Act, which created a permanent standing U.S. Navy.

I celebrate the Navy’s anniversary and recognize all the brave men and women who have served, now serve and will serve our country. Today it’s the largest and most capable navy in the world, with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage. The Navy also boasts the world’s largest aircraft carrier fleet, over 300,000 active personnel, and nearly 100,000 in the Reserve.

I enlisted in Buffalo in 1967 and spent 4 years of my life in the Navy during the Vietnam War.

One of my greatest pleasures during that time was messing with the career Navy personnel by not using Navy speak. I will give you an example.  I would say something like “I was walking from the round end of the boat to the pointed end of the boat by going down the hallway and due to the floor being recently mopped, it was slippery. Someone suddenly opened the door to the bath room causing me to run into the wall. As I continued walking, I noticed a light out on the ceiling. I went down a set of stairs, into the cafeteria and had a drink of Kool-Aid. I then exited thru a door to the outside. I went to the front of the boat and threw a rope into the water to measure the depth of the water. When I got a measurement I called up to the driver in the front seat and told him the water was 100 feet deep. The driver then turned left and I went back into the boat, went to my bedroom and lay down in my bed. “

I will now convert the above paragraph to Navy speak.  I  was walking from the “stern” of the “ship” to the “bow” of the “ship” down the “passageway” and due to the “deck” being recently “swabbed”, it was slippery. Someone suddenly opened the “hatch” to the “head” causing me to run into the “bulkhead”. As I continued walking, I noticed a light out on the “overhead”. I went down a “ladder”, across the “mess deck” and had a drink of “bug juice” I then exited thru a “hatch” to the “main deck”. I went to the “bow” of the “ship” and threw a ‘line” into the water to “take a depth sounding”. When I got a measurement I called the “pilot” on the “bridge” and told him the water was “600 fathoms” deep. The “pilot” then turned to the “port” and I went back into the “ship”, went to my “quarters” and lay down in my “rack”……. There was no rule that said you had to use Navy talk.

I also loved to paint my shop and the things in it. I painted murals on the walls and drawers. One locker I painted a black light “rising sun” on it and a set of drawers had a black light Jesus Christ Super Star on it. I also had a wooden chair with vertical slats in my shop. I painted the horizontal piece of the back rest blue with white stars and the vertical slats I painted red and white. I did the same with the metal trash can I had. The top was painted blue with white stars and the bottom was striped red and white. This was not a problem for the people on my ship as they understood me. It was a problem one day though when we were the second ship out from the pier and I had to carry the garbage across this ship. The “lifer” (career Navy person) on the quarter deck took offense to the garbage can and called my commanding officer demanding I repaint it.

He said I was being disrespectful towards the flag. Not wanting to cause a fuss (yeah right). I did repaint the trash can. We had 2 shades of grey a light grey called “haze grey” that the hull was painted with and a “deck grey” that we painted the …well…decks with. The trash can now had a dark grey band on top with light grey stars and the ribs of the can alternated between light and dark grey. No more disrespect to the flag now, just a nice pattern.

I ended up moving my “rack” (bed) into my shop suspended by ropes that I could use to pull it up to the “overhead” (ceiling) when I was not sleeping. Suffice to say Navy life and I didn’t get along too well together. I don’t know who was happier when I got out, me or them.

The Navy did do a few things for me though, despite my best efforts. I got to travel the world, they gave me a level of maturity that I think would have taken me several more years for me to achieve if I wasn’t in the service and both of my daughters were born during my enlistment for only $25.00 each. As I look back on those years now, I realize they taught me how to be independent which is probably one of the best life lessons I could have learned.