Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fair winds . . .

. . . and following seas.

Yesterday, I had the honor of being invited to the retirement ceremony of a great friend, a commander in the United States Navy.

Jim spent his entire 20-year career in the helicopter Wing. Pilot, flight instructor, department head, Wing chief of staff. He flew helicopters in harm's way.

The Wing gave him a terrific send-off, and he deserved it. The Navy has a great tradition of ceremony. Whether it be the christening of a ship, a change of command, or a retirement, they do it with pomp and circumstance - and rightly so.

Jim's retirement was appropriately held in a helo hangar, on a deck in front of a garrison flag that must have been 15' x 24'. There were ushers, sideboys and the Fleet Forces Band. Dress whites, with white gloves and swords were the uniform of the day.

For those of you who haven't seen a Navy ceremony, the officers first march through the line of sideboys, smartly salute, and are piped "on board." Then, there are speeches, a decoration (medal) and other awards.

During his remarks, Jim described his "best day" in the Navy. He was Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of a group of seven helicopters flying supplies out of Northern Africa to the Bonhomme Richard, a large amphibious ship. During the many hops they made from shore to the ship, as they were communicating and coordinating by radio, Jim found out that all six of the other Navy and Marine pilots were former students of his. He had taught his whole ad-hoc squadron how to fly.

When the ceremony ended, Jim saluted the Commodore, and asked: "Permission to go ashore, sir." The Commodore appeared to be a bit choked up, and quietly said: "Permission granted." Jim was piped off to the announcement: "Departing, James -------, Commander, United States Navy, Retired."

As he walked down the gangway, the Fleet Forces Band struck up Anchors Away.

Of course, since I am relatively unemotional, and never cry at weddings, or anything like that, it didn't affect me at all . . .

Yeah. Right.
The joy of moving . . .

. . . not!

We spent the last five days moving out of our house in preparation for our move to Italy. The schedule:

Monday - Packing all the "stuff" to be stored for three years.
Tuesday - Loading all the "stuff" to be stored for three years.
Wednesday - Packing all the "stuff" to be shipped overseas.
Thursday - Loading all of the "stuff" to be shipped overseas.
Thursday - Move to a hotel. Why? Because all of our "stuff" is gone.
Friday - Packing and loading all of the "stuff" to be shipped overseas by air.

Seems like a complicated process, eh?

That's because I'm a Department of Defense employee, and that's the way the Yew Ess Ay Gummint does it.

In an idle moment I counted our moves. This will be number fourteen.

One to go - about three years from now. That will be the last.

I hope . . .



When we moved from Omaha to Kansas City, we left one of our children there. Relax. She wasn't abandoned. We didn't sneak out in the middle of the night and leave no forwarding address. That had become her home.

When we moved from Kansas City to Virginia Beach, we left another child there. Same story. Same reasons.

The third child? After he saw us dropping off kids by the handful, he got the hint, and took off on his own.

Candidly, it's been a bit trying being 1,100 miles from all the children and grandchildren. Being 5,000+ miles away will be a challenge.

But what adventure doesn't involve some challenges?