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: