Memorial Day….remembering Jack
Its Memorial Day here in the US, a day when we suppose to stop to think, reflect maybe and honor many of those who paid the ultimate price with their lives in our War and forgotten Wars in this nations history. For some it’s just another day and excuse just to go shopping for sales in our capitalistic society and for others it’s a day to celebrate by throwing a big BBQ with friends and family. If you’re in the universe of EVE you could be more humorous like Rixx Javix and celebrate Memorial Day with a twist and different perspective as it relates to EVE.
I served my time in the Navy voluntary including resulting deployment in combat zones several times starting when I was as young as 18 (Kinda why I resent that word, Carebear!). That don’t seem like that long ago. I was 3 times Veteran before I was 22 yrs old. When I was a kid, I used to think you had to be an old man to be a Veteran. I don’t know anyone that I served with personally while in the Military that ever died on active duty or anytime after other than just 1 personal friend. I do know we came so very close to hitting a Mine once on our ship last Persian Gulf tour in our sector of patrol during the Gulf Wars. A sister ship relieved us of patrol as he headed out of the Gulf into the Indian Ocean to head home and next few days after, that same ships struck a Mine in the very same area we were patrolling for weeks before. Quite a few sailors died including several in Engineering. I worked in Engineering. I remember I got really mentally sick thinking of life and death that with my entire life flashing before me in fraction of seconds and even more sick when I think just how far or close I worked next to the hull plates all the way down in the engine room. Not a good place to be striking a Mine. But its some the stuff I always think about reflecting on my years in the War as a Veteran. I’m grateful still to be alive.
And so I remember the only personal friend I have lost a few years ago that I did served with in the Military and combat together. Jack was from St Louis, I learned Jack died just a few years ago from my other Navy buddy and best friend Glenn that also live across the country in St Louis. Jack died from a bigger than golf ball sized cancer tumor in the brain not too long after it was discovered. He died too young and way shorter in years than he should have lived to see. He lived life in a large way and was a great friend in the years I served with him and knew him. I was glad to know him as a shipmate/former shipmate and as a friend.
I was 17 when I was assigned to my first Navy ship a small Knox Class Frigate in San Diego. I met my best friend to be Glenn during my tour assigned to that ship command as he had just come from being stationed overseas in Japan. I saw my first combat duty during the Gulf Wars on that ship. But Glenn used to tell me sea stories from his perspective and about life across the great pacific for all the years he served over there in Japan being forward deployed. Kinda like how a father tells stories to his kids about life. Glenn used to tell me about the good times and the good times hanging out with Jack and company. It used to seem unbelievable to me. I was 17 barely 18 yrs then in the Navy and though man that’s a different world, maybe someday if I’m still in here I’ll get there. Life didn’t seem all that interesting in San Diego even If I was new to the place.
Eventually I did my time on that ship and worked my way to going back to school in the Navy for a new special billet (think new job type). After agreeing to a year extension on my enlistment (unthinkable that is) and almost a year of schooling in a small class I passed it. I got my new rating designation in a Shipboard Engineering field. In a small class of less than 12 at the end I had the highest grade of the class. That meant I got first pick at choosing from among all the Navy Billet Assignments assigned to our soon to graduate class. And of among all the assignments was one assignment to a relatively new Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser Ship (U.S.S Bunker Hill) in Japan with all the other class billet assignment assigned state side (US). Everyone else wanted to stay close to home being stateside. No one in class was sure what I would pick. But I kept thinking about all the sea stories my buddy Glenn used to tell me about all the good times across the pacific ocean being stationed in Yokosuka, Japan when he was there. So it was a no brainer having the class top pick of assignments choosing from the list. I’m going to Japan! And the ship (Cruiser) I was going to was still fairly new just a few years christened with cutting edge technology and weaponry in the fleet at the time. It was the tip of the spear badass and very good command I had heard.
So I called up Navy buddy Glenn, him still in San Diego on my now old ship command soon to be decommissioned. Told him I was gonna get shipped off to a ship in Japan and asked for any advice, I was 18 maybe close to 19 yrs old. I was going as far from home as it possible on this earth and I was fine with that being so young and clueless to the greater world beyond. Glenn asked which ship I was going to and I told him which one the Bunker Hill CG-52. He said that was a really solid ship with a good command. He said his buddy Jack was also on that ship. Really! Awesome! Cool then, I’m in luck. He told me to look up Jack and tell him I’m a friend of his, they both also being from St Louis. So off I went to Japan on my next Navy assignment to my next ship command being excited and on the longest flight ever. I got to spend 1 hour in Alaska on the flight over, I was there!
After getting to Japan on a very long trip I eventually got to Yokosuka Naval Base, quite a process that is. Japan was nothing what I had always thought It would look like after watching years of Kung Fu Theater movies on TV, far from it looked there. It looked westernized, wow the joys of learning things traveling the world beyond. But I got to my new ship command the Bunker Hill, it looked slick, new and badass back then. I checked in all that Navy paperwork. I eventually met saw Jack in the first 20 minutes after getting onboard as soon as I got down to the Engineering section where my new rack (bed) was. Jack was in their hanging out as I came through the door to the area. And I no doubt at that moment knew who he was. He had a bid smile on his face grinning ear to ear and was cracking lots of jokes and jokes at the new guy…… Me! But it was all good, he was a funny guy too. I told Jack I was a friend of his old buddy Glenn back on my last ship in San Diego. He kinda already knew who I was as Glenn had told wrote (before email era) and told him I was coming to the ship before hand. I think he gave me a high-five and got a bear hug as jack was a big tall well-built guy. He was a big dude that you didn’t want to fight with, really!
And so 20 minutes on my ship assignment in Yokosuka, Japan I met Jack who became my first and best friend on my new ship stationed overseas. Jack was already in Japan already for about 9 years, he knew everybody. You ever met those people who kinda like know everybody? Though him being from St Louis Jack spoke fluent Japanese, he drove and had his own car in Japan a Subaru and few people on base let alone the ship even own cars then to get around outside the base. Jack knew how to go anywhere and everywhere, he knew how to get around. Jack was always on the go going places and places you couldn’t figure out how he knew about or found. He had all kind of connections been stationed and living over there for almost a decade. My buddy Glenn had always told me to just hang with Jack and that I would be ok and have a great time and that I would learn stuff hanging out with Jack. So I did.
And for the several years I spent in the Navy assigned to my ship command in Yokosuka, Japan, I stayed close to hanging with Jack learning things. I was having a great time and going around all over the place. I was also slowly learning how to speak as well read the language. Eventually I was totally on my own going places having learned enough to get around myself all from Jack. But I still at times did hang out with Jack and the fellows (ship buddies) when at times there didn’t seem like much to really do. Jack often had some grand idea to go far places that other people on the ship wasn’t as adventurous to go to. Jack you going where? How far is that? Jack: I’m going to Osaka. Me: Where the hell is Osaka? How the hell are you getting there? Jack: We taking the Bullet Train. Me: What? Jack would just say trust me, if you come you gonna have fun. I trusted Jack, so I was always willing to tag along. Jack always had my back in case of anything! He was always looking out for me like his little brother, he always seemed that way. He was just a fun big guy to hang out with that knew how to fight if he had to as well. He worked when he had to but he played hard as well.
It was because of Jack that on one New Year’s EVE when I didn’t quite feel like going anywhere really that he talked me into going with him to a New Years event somewhere seemingly far at the time. I had never been there before. It was an Army Base far from Yokosuka Base and you had to get there by car you couldn’t by train exactly. Jack had a car which few people on the ship had at the time so I think it was one other person, Jack and myself that went. It was there at the event with Jack that I met a very special Japanese snowflake that made the rest of my years in Japan very memorable. I owe all that to Jack. I remember one Friday night a group of us the fellows from the ship headed off to Tokyo to see a concert by group from the US. We had bags of drinks which was the usual thing from the package store (ABC). Much cheaper to buy it on base and get the kind you want. Tokyo was like 2 hours by the Red Train from Yokosuka. We drank a bit all the way there to the concert, though I wasn’t one to really drink much like the other fellows. It was kinda social group thing.
I remember getting to Tokyo and riding the subway. I remember getting to the concert which was packed, we had tickets. I remember standing in line with the fellows waiting for the concert to start. And the next think I remember? Well I don’t. I remember waking up a bit terrified and concerned seeing bars in a Japanese Police Station jail cell with a big hangover. A bit concerned as to exactly how did I get from the concert to there and where was everyone else. It wasn’t all to unusual in Tokyo or Japan in fact when I was there if you were a bit drunk in public for the Japanese Police to kinda lock you up over night somewhat or for a few hours till you kinda sober up so you don’t do any harm to anyone or yourself then release you when your kinda awake and sober on your own accord. So they let me out after being there sleeping for several hours. I had no idea how I really got there. I didn’t remember seeing the concert either. But it was early morning next morning getting back to the subway station before the trains started running again that I met up with Jack and the fellows. Everyone including Jack wondering where the hell I was all night as they were looking for me and couldn’t find me. I told them they wouldn’t believe it! I told them I was in Jail! They didn’t quite believe that at first either, it was all too funny. We just took the subway to train and rode it all the way back to the base sleeping on the train. There are plenty of other sea stories. Jack was there for some the best of times and worst of it while I was in the Navy. You tend to remember the good times mostly. Some the stories I can remember would never ever get told but only ever understood by those who had a friend like Jack in the Military somewhere. You remember all the good times many years later, despite the bad ones. But we all had fun together in the Navy and with shipboard buddies doing crazy stuff as our ship traveled to many countries all over and across the Pacific rim, Indian Ocean everywhere on Deployment, Special Ops Ship Assignments during the years the ship was forward deployed in Japan and many memorable times despite the trying times many days were in the Military.
So Jack died a few years ago. He was one the best friends I ever had and was like a big brother to me. I never got to tell him how great a friend he was and because of that friendship how it changed my life there and ever after. As well what impact that had on me all these years later. I can’t say I ever lost a real life friend during war or combat duty to remember today. But I have lost a really close real life friend who I did served with In combat during trying times who is not here today. And that friend was Jack and I’ve never forgotten Jack. He was larger than life and he lived a lot of it. I was just glad to be there to be apart of some of the good times we all had.
When I often think of Memorial Day it mean something very different to me personally having served in combat zone several times in the wars of the last 2 decades. We all serve in the Military branches in different ways voluntary. Memorial Day means something different to me than just a day of BBQ and Shopping like most tend to do. I think of those who are in harm’s way just trying to do their duty and get home to their family all in one piece. You always hope you get home in one piece, just like you left home. Everyone there wants to. You think of the friend you leave behind, many times wishing you were still back there. You think of your buddies that you served with that mean something far greater to you in ways that most normal people in society will never ever truly understand your connections forged with them.
For those in harm’s way I sincerely hope you all make it home soon hopefully in the same condition you left.