Greybeards, Old Salts, and Shipmates

I got married after I left active duty in the Navy. I was an airdale, and saw what those deployments and long hours and mission scheduling did to relationships. A great many just can’t handle it.

Thing is, my wife just could never understand the love I had for my fellow airdales, my shipmates. She couldn’t understand how I could get a phone call late at night from someone I hadn’t spoken to in years, yet get dressed and go out to comfort him, or help him out, bail him from jail, whatever.

Long ago, in the faraway, we stood the watch together. We flew together. We had each others back, and knew that when something happened, we could depend on each other to be there. That kind of love is hard to fathom for someone who hasn’t experienced what we did.

When that “Dear John” letter showed up, or something happened back home, or the stresses got a bit much, there was always a brother to lean on, someone to listen. It was as strong as blood ties, and it will stand the test of time.

I keep going, writing what I write, and doing what I do, because those who we lost along the way would have wanted it. We owe them our today, because they sacrificed their tomorrow. As long as I and others remember them, they are alive.

Military service changes you, in ways you won’t understand at first. Only later, as you go along, do you realize the bonds of those shared experiences, the real love of one brother for another.

God Bless those gone before, and know that we greybeards still keep the watch.


11 Responses to “Greybeards, Old Salts, and Shipmates”

  1. March 11, 2012 at 07:44

    You are the second from the right?

  2. March 11, 2012 at 10:19

    Tim, I am like you in this respect. I married while still on shore duty (after 5 years on sea duty) but with only 18-months to my EAOS. Because I was an AX my time on shore duty was very limited In that 18 months remaining I spent 14 of them at sea and called home from Naples on our Anniversary.

    Sea duty, service in the Navy or any branch of the Military is not without its sacrifices. And that is what you share with those whom you share your service. I still pull names out of guys I have not seen in 30 years, but we cruised together on the Indy (CV-62). We talk, trade e-mails and she wonders about me.

    Now my Son is home from his 4-years in the Marines and he shows these same kinds of bonds to the guys in his old unit. Driving all day and night to comfort a platoon buddy now living and struggling with life way out in Nebraska. I tell Her that it is good for both of them, that these are bonds and ties that will never go away.

    And there is no civilian equivalent. Oh they will tell you college friendships are the same but I always protest. There is a huge difference between getting drunk at a frat house together and fighting for your lives together in a far away land. Or pulling a fellow shipmate free of the foul line during a night recovery. You can’t touch a life in the same way as you do in the military service.

    BT: Jimmy T sends.

    • March 11, 2012 at 16:35

      Well said, Jimmy. My son Sean is the same way. He still “talks” online with some of his Army buddies, either those still in service or those back in civilian life. And it’s true how even a single enlistment can change someone’s outlook on life, on society, on the established order of things.

      I remember my son talking about how disgusted he was after meeting up with some of his old friends from civilian life. They hadn’t changed, hadn’t matured. Stoners, slackers, indolent, etc. He cut a number of ties very quickly.

      It’s been quite a thing to watch him since he’s been back.


  3. 6 Scott cochran (Scooter Pie) AW1, Retired
    March 12, 2012 at 01:57

    No truer words ever spoken. Thank you for putting what is between us airdales into words. Your writing helps me each day along the way my dear brother.

  4. 8 grizzledcoastie
    March 15, 2012 at 15:49

    Great stuff, again, Tim. The bond between shipmates is something that can’t be usually put it into words. But you did a fine job of it.

    I still talk to plenty of mine, both Army and Coast Guard, and we recall our antics, our disasters and our stories that get wilder all of the time. I do admit I cried when one of my old comrades died and I revel in their joys as if they were my own. Friendships I’ve made in other walks of life, like church, just don’t compare.

  5. March 16, 2012 at 21:14

    A bittersweet post Tim. I have family in our army and told my niece’s son during his training, precisely what you said to Jimmy @16.35hrs, that many of his former friends will pale and fade before his eyes. Spent half my service doing something or other alongside our military, we got on really well together. Now I have a soon to be daughter in law with 2 brothers in the USMC, one is off out there again soon. I don’t envy the task but I do the brotherhood.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your buddy Lex. I hurt with you and in so doing, and by means too convoluted to explain here, I’ve re-united with one of my own comrades in need of a knowing ear and a hand up. We rv next week after many years absence. Moving in ever mysterious ways methinks. Stay safe.

    • March 16, 2012 at 21:35

      Thanks, Hogday.

      Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s the one lesson the service teaches you that you can carry through life to use in so many situations. But the friendships you make are indeed something special. Even, as you say, after long absences, you can reconnect and it’s like you were never apart.

      Thanks for the kind words. You’re always welcome here.

  6. March 18, 2012 at 00:10

    Nice post! Three words “Shipmates help Shipmates”

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