I Will Certainly Pause to Honor Veterans Day
This "Patch Editor" was on active duty with the U.S. Navy from 1967 to 1971.
I am a veteran.
Maybe not in the truest sense? I served on active duty in the United States Navy from May of 1967 until January of 1971.
I did not fight the Viet Cong in the Mekong Delta. Rather, I traveled the world at the bequest of the United States government.
I will stop and pause today and think about all the veterans who served in the past, present and will do so in the future. Veterans Day is an important part of my life.
Lucky for me, I was able to apply my education and make a contribution in the regular Navy. As a journalist I rose from the ranks of Enlisted 2 to Enlisted 5, the furthest one could go before re-enlisting. Of more than 100,000 sailors in the U.S. Navy on active duty at that time, less than 1,000 were privileged to become journalists.
During my last 12 months of service, I worked in the publications and broadcast office of the USS Intrepid. We called it “The Fighting I.”
We never retreated, we just back spaced a lot on our typewriters.
I am going to visit New York City for four days in December, and one of the stops will be a tour of the Intrepid, permanently anchored on the Hudson River.
I have not set foot on that steel-decked aircraft carrier for some 40 years. That should cause me to pause and bring back some fond memories.
I thought we did important work during the Vietnam War years. We were stationed on the East Coast at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, and we mostly trained reserve Navy pilots, sharpening their flying skills a few weeks at a time. We even shadowed snooping Russian spy ships.
After boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Waukegan, IL, I was ordered to the Armed Forces Radiobology Research Institute on the grounds of the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD. I was a clerk typist there for one year.
That meant I got to experience everything Washington, D.C. had to offer, up close and personal. When you can visit the Smithsonian Museum for seven straight weekends and peer through the fence to watch official head of state visits unfold at the White House, everything seems different.
A master chief petty officer of the Navy, my superior, jump-started my career in Bethesda. He asked me wanted I wanted to be and I said “clerk typist.” He said what do you really want to be and I said "journalist."
He tossed me a 300 page manual and said, “Read it, then take the test.”
I won admittance to the Joint U.S. Services’ Journalism School at Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN. Upon graduating there, I was sent on orders to Joint Task Force Group 8.6—a combined Navy, Air Force military operation based on Johnston Island, 800 miles southwest of Honolulu.
There, I worked in radio, television operations and edited the island’s newspaper. It was sunny and 70˚F for almost 365 straight days. I swam, played a lot of tennis and made numerous trips back to Hawaii. The island was a stopoff point for President Richard Nixon's visit to Apollo 13. The island doubled as a missile-tracking site and a refueling stop for fighter pilots on their way to the Philippines and Vietnam. I went on temporary assignments throughout the Micronesian islands of the South Pacific.
Last stop, as mentioned was the Fighting I. We cruised from New Orleans to Beeville, TX to Nova Scotia. We stopped off at places such as Jacksonville, FL, Halifax, NS and Bermuda.
In retrospect, my military service was different and much more comfortable than most. I slept in clean sheets, always ate hot meals, traveled extensively and covered some of the biggest stories for the Navy in the late 1960s.
I learned that you can put your brain to work and apply yourself and be somebody. I didn’t chip paint or cook in the mess hall. Rather, I became a better writer and photographer while interviewing ship captains and admirals. When I look back, what I learned and practiced paid off for the rest of my professional career.
Please let’s stop for a moment and reflect upon the many other veterans who've made this place a safer country in which to live.