A friend of mine has a sign in his house: “I live in the past. It’s cheaper there.” I don’t live there, but I like to visit a couple times a day. Especially I like the Connie website. When I go there, it cues up memories of my favorite radio show growing up—note, this was before Al Gore invented TV. There was always an announcer preamble that ended with, “Let us return now to those glory days of yesteryear.” And then we’d get a Lone Ranger story. The glory days of yesteryear. All my days on Connie were not of the glory kind, but the most enduring memories are of that very type.
During my time in the Nav, I served at a number of duty stations. At each of them, I encountered good people doing good work. Tours aboard tin cans. During Nam, a Washington tour, and a NATO tour. But my two tours aboard Connie, with the airwing, and then with ship’s company, well, I just have to say, I figure the Seabees have their “can do,” but Connie sailors cranked it up a notch above that. First in ‘84/’85 working the first Navy F-18s in to battle group ops, and then in ’88, when a few of us set her afire, and all of us, men and women, had to bust our guts to get the fire out. We got the fire out and returned to port, and I had to go explain myself to AIRPAC. Driving to his HQ, I thought I’d get fired. I was thinking, Well, Zerr. You’ve gone a lot farther than you had any right to expect. Everything since third class PO has been gravy, you know.
I got to his office, and the admiral asked, “Do you know how miserable my life is going to be if Connie doesn’t deploy on time?” Do you know how many ships’ schedules will be disrupted, how many sailors and their families will have their lives jumbled up?”
To which I replied, “Uh.”
He said, “I need you to deploy on time. Can you do it?”
I said, “It’s a little early to make that a promise, Admiral, but if anyone can do it, it’s the crew on Connie. They are already working to put her back together again.” And boatloads of you were, and had been since midnight, when we finally got the fire out.
A lot of people did not think we could do it, make our deployment date. At times, it seemed like the only ones who thought we could were the admiral at AIRPAC and you and me. But we did.
1 December. “Underway! Shift Colors.”
For Connie sailors, really tough jobs can take all day. Impossible ones, sometimes those take a week. “Okay, sir, you explained the job. Now you mind standing back so I can get to work?”
Thank you, God, and BUPERS for putting that crew together and letting me be part of it.
The picture is of a poster hanging on the bulkhead of the office I use for writing. You can see mainly the flight deck and a few of the Shirts working there, but when I look at it, I see you all. Skivvy waver to bilge rat. Some people look back and see “The Good Old Days,” but I see the glory days we had in yesteryear. How many people get to have something like that in their box of memories in the attic?