Are You Crazy? --- Hope You Get To Go

by Mike Hemming
 
 

Actually, I have heard the second far more then first. Though, I expected it to be the other way. What I am talking about is sailing the Razorback back from Turkey. If you don’t know, North Little Rock, Arkansas is trying to get her back from Turkey for a display. It's too expensive to tow her back, sailing her with volunteers would be much less expensive. Most have been supportive, starting with my wife and family. After reading her the post about the Razorback, she was quiet for a minute, then said,

"You had better get your name on the list quickly."

Not an easy thing for her to say, as I would be gone according to the plan during our busiest time of the year. My son also agrees and he works with us. He will also have to take up for me being gone.

Left unsaid by some I’m sure is the,

"Are you nuts?"

Well, I may be, but I want to do it for a lot of reasons.

Years later, I realized my swift departure from the Navy left some 'unfinished business' in my mind. It was one of those 'Lets save some money discharging everybody that has less than 90 days left next week' things. I had 81 days left on that Monday, on Thursday I was a civilian again. I am still not sorry, but I wish that I could have said some goodbyes to some very good friends. I wish I could have made one more cruise, savoring the good things about sailing a submarine with a good crew.

You remember the reasons why it was worth doing.

On the bridge, with the bow parting a calm night moon light sea. Dark water becomes white at the bow. Then passes down the tanktops to slowly return to dark water again aft. Leaving a wake that arrows through the night up to your receding stern.

Leaning elbows down on the chart in control listening to the chief impart wisdom about the 'Old Navy'. Or BS about something he knows nothing about, but has a grumpy attitude about, in salty terms.

Sit on a bunk in the forward room playing 'Cutthroat' cribbage with the watch as your world rides up a wave and slides down it's face. It doesn’t matter if you are playing for points or pennies, to you it’s a friendly clash of titans. The winner will be the forward room champion for the day.

To head aft through the airtight door into the berthing compartment, dark, dank and dingy, full of men that sleep well while you are on watch.

Of course the rumbling thunder of two big Fairbanks Morse engines, sounds that seep into your bones. Along with the hot diesel oil and smoke odors that get into a snipe's blood and never really get out again.

Drawing a cup of (in reality) bad coffee leaning against the sink and drinking it and not complaining about the taste. This is because you are listening to a most ridiculous non-sensible discussion by shipmates who know almost nothing about what they are talking about. It doesn’t matter, you will probably join in and add your smoke and fog to the cloud of words anyway.

On the surface in the calm before a storm, to port, a red sun slowly sets, turning the sea to blood and gold. To starboard, a towering thunderstorm races down on you to turn the calm orange tinged sea into gray mountainous violence for a long few hours. For a while, I want to feel the power of the sea, not riding high above it like on a cruise ship in luxury. But down eye to eye with it and hang on to bunk chain in a rolling, bucking, round bellied, smokeboat.

You will remember all these things and more.

I want to do at least some of them one more time. I want to refill my memory banks and try to write them down. Then write them down so hopefully they are kept somewhere so others will read them and realize what we did and what we had. And maybe, just maybe, a few young men will say,

"Hey I want to do that."

"I want to sail with men like that."

I think that on the way back, the Razorback should stop for a moment where the Scorpion lies quietly deep below and conduct a short service for those men. It would be a good way to honor those Cold War Submariners that gave all they had, so far from home.

Plus to remind others of our fallen brothers and that,

We will never forget them.

 

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