Just Me

Just Me
Look,I'm just sayin'

Sunday, December 18, 2016

begining in July

     If memory serves it was in 1990. That was the year Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield began. I was stationed aboard the USS Nitro AE-23 out of Earl, New Jersey. It was sometime just before Thanksgiving. I had, along with about two hundred or so shipmates, made plans for the holiday season. Some would go home for Thanksgiving and others would go for Christmas. Not everyone gets to go to both so you put in your request and hope for the best. I believe I was looking forward to being home for Christmas. And being home for Christmas at that time meant, being in port, in the United States ! There was no skype, no cell phones, no internet. You needed a landline to stay in touch with the folks at home, or a post office ! I can't say with certainty that I had leave for Christmas. What I can say for sure is I remember getting the word, all leave is canceled. We would be leaving before Thanksgiving for the Persian gulf and if all went well we would return for the fourth of July. We had been ordered to deploy within the week.
 The pace definitely picked up in board the ship. We had lots to do to get ready. We had to transition from in port, making repairs and relaxing a bit to full on get ready ! Everything else is canceled. Whatever you were planning to do, forget it ! Tell the wife and children goodbye. It came as quite a shock. Yes, we knew what was going on but didn't think we would be deployed. I mean, it wasn't a real war or anything. Why did they need an ammo ship ? We weren't made aware of what was to follow. The bombardment, from Naval forces, was intense. It was our job to supply the ammo and to a lesser degree fuel. You see the USS Nitro AE-23 had the capability to do both. For a short period of time we did so, day and night in support.
 It hard to believe that was twenty seven years ago. I don't remember a whole lot about it. It was just another cruise in a long line of cruises. It was different in one regard, this time someone might be shooting at us. I hadn't been in that situation before. Fortunately it never really happened. We were off shore, safe from attack. As it turned out Iran had nothing to really threaten us. The closest we came was transiting the straights of Hormuz. A scud missile could have reached us while in that ditch but none was fired in our direction. At least none I am aware of. It was during this cruise that I crossed the equator and became a shellback. We also transited the Suez canal and I received my Suez Safari certificate. Did you know you can see the pyramids from the canal ? I did and saw camels too. That's as close to a Christmas scene I got that year.
  The Christmas of '90 wasn't the first one I was deployed for. It happens all the time. The luck of the draw really. Ships are on a rotation and when it is your turn, it's your turn. But, things happen and the rotation changes. Other ships break down, or a conflict erupts. As we said in the Navy. " **it happens. " And it always happens to this ship. You do what needs to be done. We decorated the ship for Christmas and had a dinner. We got mail and our " presents " from home. As I remember it we did make it back for the 4th of July. My wife and children were on the pier waiting. It was a tremendous homecoming, flags waving and everything. The only time I remember that happening. Usually the families would be there to greet the returning ship, but it was rather routine. This wasn't routine, we were back from a conflict. The closet thing I experienced to returning from war. I had been off the coast of Vietnam back in '72 but this was different. When I came back from there no one was waiting on the pier. In fact when I returned from Desert Storm/Desert Shield it was the first time I ever had anyone waiting on the pier for me. That is what I remember more than anything else. That was Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years all rolled into one for me. 1991 began in July.
 That wasn't to be my last cruise. I would have to think pretty hard to remember the others following that. Each one is just a cruise to me. My wife and kids were there to met me a few more times, that much I am certain of. When I retired I was on shore duty. When the ceremony is over they " pipe " you ashore. In my situation is was strictly ceremonial but I have seen old sailors " piped " ashore from their last ship. I remember clearly hearing that bos'n pipe for the last time. My wife and children were there for that. I remember feeling a little nostalgic, I would miss the people, but my wife was on my arm and we were going ashore. Never again would I be deployed for Christmas or anything else.