Forty Years Gone
by Mike Hemming
Thirty, forty or fifty, the number doesn’t matter. its just a measure of the time that has passed. It’s the faces and names of the shipmates that matter. Faces and names, names and faces, are not always matched up. Shipmates remembered even if it’s only bits and pieces. We remember in snippets of things long gone, until we sometimes ask in our own minds did that happen or was it a dream or a story passed on? We would never say that out loud, for around our old buddies we always claim to remember all the good times and sometimes the bad.
They were good men that came from all over for many reasons and sailed together for a time. A time of testing and training, for men would pass on things to you that they themselves had learned. For you were expected to pass that knowledge on to those who came after you. It was a struggle to learn it all, sometimes. But you were learning lessons taught by the school of hard knocks. A school that lists the names of some 4,000 men who don’t want you to repeat mistakes already made.
There were faces of men now gone who once fought a hot war, who told you of traditions to honor those who did not return. Men that had seen too much to even tell it all. They were fighting a hard enemy that rarely gave quarter and so none was given back.
Faces of men that sailed through the years of a long cold war to hold our enemies at bay. Sacrificing years, marriages, limbs and even their lives at times to do what they thought was right. Years of stories untold even today watching the Bear and preparing for a war. Serving on boats built to fight a hot war and then holding the line through a cold war. Until the new boats that were built for the next hot war, a war that fortunately never came.
And faces and names of those that sailed with you and now are gone these many years. We all say, “I wish I could see him one more time, but I don’t know where he is.”
He was an old salt that guarded your back while ashore. Or a young kid that became a man when he stood beside you and fought fire or flooding without backing down. You didn’t say ”thanks’ that day, but now you wish you had. They are all there in the time that has flown away from us.
We have all moved on now for better or worse. Some of them did more and some we never called upon to do more again. They returned home and went on with their lives. Names of men tested and found to be shipmates, an honor which can never be taken away. Faces with names that we shouldn’t have lost as we traveled down the road. A road that led us away from what we did then as it always has to. But we shouldn’t have lost all the faces and the names for all time. The faces and names of these special men that wanted to do something few can do. They did it for reasons unknown to themselves, sometimes much less to others that can never understand the pride in the accomplishment of what they did.
For when the paths we travel meet again, we will all reconnect faces and names again. But wouldn’t it be nice to sit with that lost shipmate forty years gone and remember that life just one more time, right now?
An Ode To Sailors – Everywhere
I liked standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe.
I liked the sounds of the Navy – the piercing trill of the boatswain’s pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship’s bell on the quarterdeck, harsh, and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.
I liked the fierce and dangerous activity on the flight deck of aircraft carriers, earlier named for battles won but sadly now named for politicians. Enterprise, Independence, Boxer, Princeton and oh so many more, some lost in battle, and sadly many scrapped.
“I was a sailor once.”
A poem worth reading, submitted by LeRoy GrafHe was getting old and paunchyAnd his hair was falling fast,And he sat around the Legion,Telling stories of the past.Of a war that he once fought inAnd the deeds that he had done,In his exploits with his buddies;They were heroes, every one.And ‘tho sometimes to his neighborsHis tales became a joke,All his buddies listened quietlyFor they knew where of he spoke.But we’ll hear his tales no longer,For ol’ Joe has passed away,And the world’s a little poorerFor a Veteran died today.He won’t be mourned by many,Just his children and his wife.For he lived an ordinary,Very quiet sort of life.He held a job and raised a family,Going quietly on his way;And the world won’t note his passing,‘Tho a Veteran died today.When politicians leave this earth,Their bodies lie in state,While thousands note their passing,And proclaim that they were great.Papers tell of their life storiesFrom the time that they were young,But the passing of a VeteranGoes unnoticed, and unsung.Is the greatest contributionTo the welfare of our land,Some jerk who breaks his promiseAnd cons his fellow man?Or the ordinary fellowWho in times of war and strife,Goes off to serve his countryAnd offers up his life?The politician’s stipendAnd the style in which he lives,Are often disproportionate,To the service that he gives.While the ordinary Veteran,Who offered up his all,Is paid off with a medalAnd perhaps a pension, small.It is not the politiciansWith their compromise and ploys,Who won for us the freedomThat our country now enjoys.Should you find yourself in danger,With your enemies at hand,Would you really want some cop-out,With his ever-waffling stand?Or would you want a VeteranHis home, his country, his kin,Just a common Veteran,Who would fight until the end.He was just a common Veteran,And his ranks are growing thin,But his presence should remind usWe may need his likes again.For when countries are in conflict,We find the Veteran’s part,Is to clean up all the troublesThat the politicians start.If we cannot do him honorWhile he’s here to hear the praise,Then at least let’s give him homageAt the ending of his days.Perhaps just a simple headlineIn the paper that might say:“OUR COUNTRY IS IN MOURNING,A VETERAN DIED TODAY.Author ‘Unknown’