Fleet Week, 2010

Three more weeks to my favorite week of the year — Fleet Week.  Yay!  Up until a few years ago, Fleet Week was fun.  Now, thanks to the Navy League, Fleet Week stands out as a time when I get to visit a world that is not only completely different from mind, but is also one that I admire a great deal.

I’ve touted the Navy League at this blog before, and I’ll do it again right now.  It is an exemplary organization that, in its own words, is “dedicated to nonpartisan, enhanced public understanding of the missions and challenges facing today’s Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marine, as well as advocating for the well-being of the men and women of each service.”  In a time of war, this mission cannot be emphasized enough.  Americans at every level, whether in a Marin County living room or a Washington, D.C., Senate office, should have an “enhanced . . . understanding of the missions and challenges” our sea faring forces face.

I want to tell you all a nice Navy story.  Many, many years ago, when I was in middle school, I had a friend.  A very nice friend.  At an age when kids are often abrasive and unkind, he was sweet.  He also belonged at that time to a youth group that had an outstanding reputation.  That’s what I always remembered about him:  nice and that youth group membership.

Although we went to the same high school, the school was big enough that we actually lost touch with each other.  We’d see each other in the halls, of course, but our contact stopped with a friendly “hello” in passing.  I was so disconnected from him that I didn’t realize that, when he graduated, he went on to Annapolis.  That was a long, long time ago.

Fast forward to last month, when I’m having dinner with another high school friend who has enjoyed a long and successful military career.  As part of our “where are they now” discussion, he told me that my nice youth group friend was now an Admiral.  Wow!  I immediately looked the Admiral up on facebook.  He remembered me and we reconnected in a distant, facebook kind of way.

Did I mention that my son is part of that same youth group with the outstanding reputation?  The problem is that my son is not happy in the youth group — something that saddens me.  You see, it’s the type of organization that teaches unique skills and offers unique opportunities.  Drop out now, and there’s no going back.  The skills and opportunities are gone forever.  My husband and I tried reasoning with the boy and cajoling, but he was adamant — he was going to quit.

I had a brain storm:  “Would it make a difference to you if an Admiral told you the organization was a worthwhile experience?”  “Yes, it might.”

So I contacted the Admiral.  Despite not having seen him in more than thirty years, despite having “friended” him only a few weeks before, I had the chutzpah to ask the Admiral for an email telling my son to stay with his youth group.

The Admiral exceeded my expectations.  He wrote my son an email; he telephoned my son and spoke to him for a half hour; and he followed that up with a handwritten note, on official letterhead, and included his own coin in the letter.  My son was deeply impressed.  I was too.

My friend was always a nice person, but I have to believe that the training and discipline he got in the Navy enhanced those qualities — so much so that, for the child of a friend he hadn’t seen in 30+ years, he was willing to make this effort, and take that time, to help out.

Join the Navy League.  Help support good people.  And if you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, have a wonderful Fleet Week experience.

And just for fun, Irving Berlin’s “How About A Cheer for the Navy,” from WWII:

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  • Gringo

    That was very kind of the Admiral. Your son will remember that for the rest of his life [As if you didn’t realize that already.:)] I am reminded of what happened to one of my brother’s elementary school classmates. At the time, Lady Bird Johnson was advocating highway beautification. My brother’s classmate wrote a letter to Lady Bird about highway beautification. One day my brother’s classmate got a summons to go to the principal’s  office. The White House was on the line! Lady Bird was a very busy person. She was under no obligation to call an elementary school kid. He would have been just as thrilled by a letter that her secretary had written and signed.

    That Lady Bird Johnson took the time to call my brother’s classmate spoke very highly of her, as what the Admiral did for your son spoke very highly of him. People in high positions are often good people.

  • jj

    Good for you, good for your son.  Despite that you mostly see and engage only when they’re at maximum outreach, you’ve made some progress into seeing into a world very, very different from yours.  No outsider can ever really understand the drives of the armed services,any more than he/she can comprehend those of a dedicated monastic priest.  (I speak of the professionals, here – not those who are in for a hitch with an ulterior motive like money for education, nor those you see testifying on the tube who tend to be politicians much more than combat leaders – but the true professionals for whom it’s a career and a way of life.)
    The primary function of both the Point and Annapolis, after all, is to turn out leaders who can win wars for their country.  They weren’t intended to turn out philosophers or artists.  They’re professional institutions for professionals.
    But it is a very different world, and the life your old friend leads would probably astound you!

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  • esurio

    Wonderful story! I often feel sorry for those who haven’t experienced or don’t know someone in the military. It was easy for my son to join the Navy because he knows military life, his dad is retired A.F.. Perhaps your son would benefit from adopting a soldier through Soldier’s Angels – http://soldiersangels.org/  He could make his own friend and hear first hand what life is like in the military.
    “Soldiers’ Angels is a volunteer-led 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and their families. Founded by the mother of two American soldiers, its hundreds of thousands of Angel volunteers assist veterans, wounded and deployed personnel and their families in a variety of unique and effective ways.”

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    My son has donated once to Soldier’s Angels, although he didn’t “adopt” a soldier. I found it very satisfying but I think he, at age 10, simply regretted that he didn’t get the money himself. I think we’ll try again this holiday season, though.