Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day makes me think about my time spent with the Navy. No, not like, "Hey, Sailor, new in town?" but when I was first married and living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, where my husband was in USN computer school. During our almost ten-year marriage, five of them were with the Submarine Service. He'd already been in the Navy for three years by then - at Great Lakes for basic training, New London, CT, for submarine school, Charleston, SC, on the USS Harder, a diesel submarine. That class of boats was named for fish.

When we first married, he was at Dam Neck Naval Base in Virginia Beach to learn to maintain the computers that control the Polaris missles on the FBM class of nuclear submarines which was named for US presidents and explorers. I met some of the neatest people then and am still friends with our close group. It was my first time living out of state, and I have great memories of it.

The two FBM's he was on were the USS James Madison and the USS Lewis and Clark. It was strange when he was on patrol. There were two crews (blue and gold crews), and they alternated three-month periods. We couldn't hear from them while they were gone because the boats could receive messages but not send them because they were deterrent weapons. We were allowed three family-grams per patrol and got an extra one when we had a baby (a baby-gram). We had to call someone at the base who took down our twenty-word message that was transmitted all over the Atlantic and eventually typed out for the recipients.

I was so paranoid about saying anything that might breach security because wives had been arrested by the shore patrol for it and their husbands demoted and sent to a surface craft. Co-teachers would ask when my husband was coming home just to be friendly out of concern, but I couldn't even give an approximate date. I'd say it would be soon or in a month or something like that. Actually we didn't know and had to start calling a special number to find out when the plane would be at the Air Force base that brought them back from Rota, Spain, or Holy Lock, Scotland, bases where their subs sailed from. There was a calling network, so we'd know we could call that number.

Security was high since a whole crew could be wiped out by blowing up a plane. Navy Seals checked out the subs thoroughly before they went to sea for depth charges. I respected all the security because it was vital, and I wanted them to get home safely. He made sure not to tell me things that I would have to decide were safe topics or not - that "need to know" policy. I was tense the whole time he was gone and just about relaxed before I started dreading his leaving again.

On this Veteran's Day, I applaud all those who are in the service of our country and who have ever been and their families. Thank you!


Berry Blog said...

Fascinating entry Joy. I lived in a Naval Base town and those days were hairy in Brunswick too, for security,big secrets, and holding families as accountable as the navy boys for secrecy in all things. bu tnon of it was as scary as what you went through. It used to be a matter of social standing to be more on the "inside" than others.

Joy said...

When the Scorpion and the Thresher sank, it freaked me out. It was scary knowing he was out riding around deep in the ocean and Mediterranean with the bomb but not knowing what was going on - ever! Later on I heard stories that were unbelievable.