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I WAS A SAILOR ONCE

Posted by on February 6, 2014

I received this poem from a member of our group FRANK BOTTOMS and I thought it was worth sharing it with you all
I WAS A SAILOR ONCE AND I WOULD DO IT AGAIN

I liked standing on the bridge wing or the 06 level at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe – – the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drove her swiftly through the sea.
I liked the sounds of the Navy – the piercing trill of the boatswains pipe, the syncopated clang of the ship’s bell on the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC, and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.
I liked Navy vessels — nervous darting destroyers (they were called ‘tin cans’ for a reason), plodding fleet auxiliaries and amphibs, sleek submarines and steady solid aircraft carriers.
I liked the proud names of Navy ships: Bennington , Midway, Lexington , Bunker Hill, Saratoga , Coral Sea, Antietam, Valley Forge – – memorials of great battles won and tribulations overcome.
I liked the lean angular names of Navy “tin-cans” and escorts – – Kenneth D. Bailey, Barney, Kennedy, Dahlgren, Mullinix, McCloy, Damato, Borie. Leftwich, Mills, Stickell, Ault, Paul, Coontz , Basilone – – mementos of heroes who went before us. And the others, light and heavy cruisers – – San Jose , San Diego , Los Angeles , St. Paul , Chicago – – named for our cities. Big battlewagons proudly named for our States – – Missouri , New Jersey , Iowa and Arizona .
I liked the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we pulled away from the oiler after refueling at sea.
I liked Liberty Call and the spicy scent of a foreign port.
I even liked the never-ending paperwork and all-hands working parties as the ship filled herself with the multitude of supplies, both critical and mundane in order to cut ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there was water to float her. Underway replenishments were a thrill to watch and participate in while everyone helped stow needed stores.
I liked sailors, officers and enlisted men, from all parts of the land; farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England , from the cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trusted and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me – for professional competence, for comradeship, for strength and courage. In a word, they were “shipmates”; then, now, and forever.
I liked the surge of adventure in my heart, when the word was passed: “Now set the special sea and anchor detail – all hands to quarters for leaving port,” and I liked the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pier side.
I loved the sound of “Flight Quarters” over the 1MC, and the smells and sounds of the launch and recovery of aircraft. The continuous ballet of a flight deck in action is an awesome thing to see. Does it get any better than a big aircraft carrier defending America ‘s freedom?
The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the “all for one and one for all” philosophy of the sea was ever present.
I liked the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship’s work, as flying fish flitted across the wave tops and sunset gave way to night.
I liked the feel of the Navy in darkness — the masthead and range lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters – they cut through the dusk and joined with the mirror of stars overhead. And I liked drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small and the rocking from side to side that told me my ship was alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch would keep me safe.
I liked quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee — the lifeblood of the Navy permeating everywhere.
And I liked hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed kept all hands on a razor edge of alertness.
I liked the sudden electricity of “General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations,” followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transformed herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war — ready for anything.
And I liked the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.
I liked the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made them. I liked the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones and Burke. A sailor could find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman’s trade. An adolescent could find adulthood.
In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods – the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief’s quarters and mess decks.
Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon.
Remembering this, they will stand taller and say, “I WAS A SAILOR ONCE AND I WOULD DO IT AGAIN.”

One Response to I WAS A SAILOR ONCE

  1. Rick Dombrowski

    The Navy of today is NOT the Navy as shipmate Bottoms remembers it. I wish it was but the political pressures and posturing have taken much of the ‘esprit’ out of our once proud service and damaged it to the point it may not return to its former existence.

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