Once I was A Navyman
By E.A. Hughes, FTCM (SS), USN (Retired)
Copyright,1958, 1978
I like the Navy. I like standing on deck during a long voyage with sea spray
in my face and ocean winds whipping in from everywhere - The feel of the
giant steel ship beneath me, it's engines driving against the sea is almost
beyond understanding - It's immense power makes the Navyman feel so
insignificant, but yet proud to be a small part of the ship - A small part of
Her mission.

I like the Navy. I like the sound of taps over the ships announcing system,
the ringing of the ships bell, the foghorns and strong laughter  of Navy men
at work. I like the ships of the Navy - Nervous darting destroyers, sleek
proud cruisers, majestic battle ships, steady solid carriers, the plodding  fleet
auxiliaries and silent hidden submarines - I like the workhorse tugboats with
their proud Indian names: Iroquois, Apache, Kiawah and Souix - Each
stealthy powerful tug safely guiding the warships to safe deep waters from
all harbors.

I like the historic names of other proud Navy Ships: Midway, Hornet,
Princeton, Sea Wolf and Saratoga. The Ozark, Hunley, William R. Rush and
Turner, the Missouri, Wichita, Iowa, Arizona and Manchester, as well as
The Sullivan's,  Enterprise, Tecumseh, Cole and Nautilus too - all majestic
ships of the line - Each ship commanding the respect of all Navymen that
have known Her - or were privileged to be a part of Her crew.

I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty
Whites", "13 Button Blues", the rare 72 hour liberty and the spice scent of a
foreign port - I like shipmates I've sailed with, worked with, served with or
have known: The Gunners Mate from the Iowa cornfields; a Sonarman from
the Colorado mountain country; a pal from Cario, Alabama; an Italian from
near Boston; some boogie boarders of California; and of course, a drawling
friendly Oklahoma lad that hailed from Muskogee; and a very congenial
Engineman from the Tennessee hills.

From all parts of the land they came - Farmers of the Midwest, small towns
of New England - The red clay area and small towns of the South - The
mountain and high prairie towns of the West - The beach front towns of the
Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gulf - All are American; all are comrades in
arms - All are men of the sea and all are men of honor.

I like the adventure in my heart when the ship puts out to sea, and I like the
electric thrill of sailing home again, with the waving hands of welcome from
family and friends, waiting on shore - The extended time at sea drags;the
going is rough on occasion. But there's the companionship of robust Navy
laughter, the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea. This helps the Navyman
- The remembrances of past shipmates fill the mind and restore the memory
with images of other ships, other ports, and other cruises long past - Some
memories are good, some are not so good, but all are etched in the mind of
the Navyman - And most will be there forever.

I like the sea after a day of work, there is the serenity of the sea at dusk. As
white caps dance on the ocean waves, the sunset creates flaming clouds that
float in folds over the horizon - As if painted there by a master. The
darkness follows soon and is mysterious. The ship's wake in darkness has a
hypnotic effect, with foamy white froth and luminescence that forms never
ending patterns in the turbulent waters - I like the lights of the ship in
darkness - The masthead lights; the red and green side lights and stern lights.
They cut through the night and appear as a mirror of stars in darkness -
There are rough stormy nights, and calm, quiet, still nights where the quiet of
the mid-watch allows the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world to stand with
you - They are abundant and unreachable, but ever apparent - And there is
always the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.

I like the legends of the Navy and the Navymen that created those legends -
I like the proud names of Navy Heroes; Halsey, Nimitz, Beach, Farragut,
Rickover and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in the Navy -
Comrades in arms, pride in his country - A man can find himself and can
revel in his experience.

In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still recall
with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry - There will
come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty laughter
of the seafaring men who once were close companions - Now landlocked, he
will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas were the largest part of
him and a new port of call was always just over the horizon.

Recalling those days and times, he will stand taller and
say:                              "ONCE I WAS  A NAVYMAN !"