Friday, April 27, 2007

Details on Denver VA Hospital Deal

Just a short update to get this information to you readers. For those curious about the highly questionable deal going down on the Denver Veterans Hospital, please visit this link. The report there is well done, and lays out the numbers in far greater detail than I have done.


This link has also been added to the sidebar under LINKS as "The Denver VA Hospital Blunder".

I won't tell you to enjoy it, because it is pretty revolting how the government can enrich some fat cat developer but can't seem to find the money to pay us Blue Water Sailors.

No hypocrisy there, eh? No, not much.

Please note that Secretary Nicholson just sent out an announcement recently bragging about how he worked hard to put this deal together.

We'll just bet he did.

Perhaps sending a link to the article to your Congressman might be in order.

VN Vets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Hypocrisy of Secretary Nicholson

In the header of a recent press release by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary of the department, Jim Nicholson is quoted as saying, Vets "Shouldn't Fight For Benefits Earned".

Does this mean he gets the point? Absolutely not. It simply shows how much of a hypocrite he is. Several posts back we wrote:

"It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."
We are going to discuss a couple of points here that may be crossing the line, but they need to be said, to get people thinking in the right direction.

Point number one
We believe there is a very strong possibility that the DVA has structured itself to maximize the avoidance of claim payments, and medical services. What does this mean? It means that we think there may be a deliberate policy to “delay, deny, and let them die”. The result of this policy is that many Veterans get discouraged and give up on their claims out of frustration with the complex, and ponderous path to claim completion. Or, they die while waiting the long months for the VA to decide [usually a denial] of their claim.

Nicholson is quoted in the press release as telling the National Press Club that,
"The federal government must be responsive and efficient in delivering our benefits and services to these heroes. They should not have to fight bureaucratic red tape for benefits earned by their courageous service."

Well, we agree. But that, unfortunately, is not the case. Backlogs in claim processing, which may also be manipulated to keep their number high, are horrendous, making most claims take a year or more to reach a decision that all too often is a denial because, in fact, the DVA employee that processes the claim does not go nearly far enough in assisting the Veteran with his claim, as the law requires. Most claim processors would gladly provide that extra service if their supervisors would not only allow them, but demand that they do so. Ergo, we think it is a silent policy which has drifted down from the top.

Soldiers with wounds, even amputations from the current War on Terror have been denied benefits, ostensibly because there is no service connection! How can this be? How inept can a system get that allows situations like that…even once!

The transition between Wounded Warrior [those still under military care] and the DVA for benefits and care is an ugly, demented, boggle because two cabinet departments cannot negotiate a commonality between their IT systems to facilitate an exchange of data. If such an exchange has not been mandated by Congress, with a deadline, it should have been over a decade ago. We got off casualty-cheap in Gulf War I because few wanted to fight for Saddam. In our current war, the determined enemy is not fighting for Saddam, they are fighting to kill, maim, and torture enough Allied troops to force the removal of our presence in the region. In the more than ten years between those two wars, such a transitional data exchange could have easily been achieved, and should have been.

Obviously, both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs had no desire to achieve a common solution to their data exchange shortcomings. Military medical records can easily be translated into another data format to fit the DVA’s IT requirements. It is not an insurmountable task. In fact, it is relatively easy since they already are both set up for the same data, just in different formats.

We believe such a shortcoming is intentional. We believe the DVA is attempting to delay and deny benefits to our Wounded Warriors that should be transitioned from military care to the care of Department of Veterans Affairs. In doing so, Wounded Warriors are instead going to private facilities for treatment, and in many cases, going without their much needed VA benefits.

We believe this to be deliberate and criminal, and ask that Congress, and the United States Attorney General investigate both departments for at worst, criminal negligence, and at best, major ethics violations. They may, if indeed Congress did ever mandate the exchange of data between the DoD and the DVA, be in contempt of Congress for non-compliance.

We believe the major actor in all of this to be the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Point number two
Recently, plans were announced for a new VA Hospital in the Denver Area. The plans involve a rather intricate deal involving the sale, by the Department of the Army, of the grounds on which Fitzsimmons Army Medical Center was located. The Army sold the land to a developer at a rock bottom price, knowing that the DVA was looking to build a new VA Hospital to service the Colorado area. And were sure the DVA knew of the Army’s plan to divest itself of the property.

Now, the VA will be constructing a $658 million facility on 31 acres of that site that it had to purchase from the developers who bought it from the Army. Don’t you wish you knew how much those developers made on the deal?

Here is a link to a VA Watchdog article about this earlier this month:


http://vawatchdog.org/07/nf07/nfAPR07/nf040607-2.htm

It seems to us that sooner, rather than later, would be a marvelous time to send in the auditors and find out who made out with this deal. What adds an odorous aura of feces to it is the fact that Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs was a rather large Real Estate Developer in Colorado before coming to Washington [to oversee the destruction of the VA system].

It will be interesting to see what happens to Nicholson after he leaves government, as sometimes the return on a gift does not appear until later. Either way, Nicholson definitely needs to be the target of an ethics investigation.

We have called for Nicholson to step down before. We believe there is likely enough legitimate reason for him to do so now, and to be thoroughly investigated for criminal, civil, and ethical violations.

Write your Congressman and your Senator, and get them moving on this. It is time to retake the Department of Veterans Affairs and get it working efficiently for the Veterans of this nation, and not for the fat cats in DC or back home.

VN Vets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --
President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Obtaining and Using Documents to Support Your Claim [VA and SSA]

 COMMENTS ARE CLOSED FOR THIS POST.  THE INSTRUCTIONS BELOW ARE STILL IN EFFECT.

We are going to post a series of tips here to help Blue Water Veterans with their claims. The more information the Veteran can get for himself, the greater the control over his claim. That applies to those who are filing their own claims and to those using the services of a Veterans Service Officer.

It is important that all of your records be available to the Department of Veterans Affairs [DVA or VA], or the Social Security Administration [SSA] when you are filing a claim with either body. Even if you are working with a Veterans Service Officer, you should have copies of all the documents that are being submitted. Such documents include, but are not limited to:

  1. Your complete medical records
  2. Your complete service record
  3. Your ship’s deck logs
We will tell you where to obtain these records, and why they are important.

First, however, here are some steps to take in the process of obtaining official documents or copies of official documents. Please note that these steps are common sense steps to help you stay organized throughout the process of your claim, and to make things easier for whoever is processing your claim. You never know when someone is grateful for you making it easy for them may be the difference in how he approaches the decision making process. If your case is close, it might make the difference. Also note that some of these steps may cost you a few dollars at a time, some more so, but in the long run may be worth much more in return.

Whatever official documents or certified copies of such you obtain, the first thing you should do is arrange a safe, fireproof location to store them.

Stop in at your local Staples, or office supply store, and get a couple of self-inking stamps made up. One should have your name, and address. A second should have your Name and VA Claim number. A third one is for Social Security and it should have your Name and Social Security number. Maximum cost for this should be under $30.

Next, either make or have 2 sets of copies made of all the official documents and certified copies. If you own a multipurpose printer [printer, copier, scanner, fax], you are in very good shape. The price of these has come down and their quality has gone up. Even if you have only a regular printer you can save a lot of time and aggravation. Count the number of copies you need to have made. Count out an equal number of blank pages and run them through the printer, placing your Name, Address, and VA Claim Number in the center of the page. [For copies for Social Security, use your Social Security number rather than your VA Claim Number.] Also, place the following words near your personal information: “Page ____ of _____ pages.” When the copying is done, you should serially number all those pages to help you, and anyone else working with the set of documents keep them in order. It also helps if one gets mislaid. You would then know which one must be replaced and can send it to whoever lost it. That is why you need to keep a second, working copy of your documents. Create separate file folders for them.

On the front of those pages, after they are printed, use your self-inking stamps to mark your name and VA Claim Number [or name and Social Security Number for SSA Applications], somewhere on the page where it does not interfere with what is on the page. Usually there is room at the bottom for this info. Stamp it on each and every page.

To the documents:

1. Medical Records:
Make sure that all your physicians, specialists and other health care workers [including hospitals…tell them to send a copy of all your records from your hospitalization to your family physician] send copies of any and all lab reports, and records of your visits and treatment plans, plus any prescribing information to your family physician. If you do this studiously, and you should insist upon it, then all of your pertinent medical records will be in one place: in the office of your family physician. When it comes time to gather all your current medical records, you only need to go to one place to obtain copies. Most physicians, when told it is for the VA or the SSA will cut you a break and either not charge you, or reduce the charge for copying. Most specialist do send a letter to your family physician and include copies of all test results and x-rays.

Make sure if you change physicians, you get a copy of all your medical records from the physician you are leaving and take them to the new physician and allow them to copy for their records. That gives them the records, and you then have a copy for all your records up to that date.

2. Your complete Personnel Record:
Most of the time, the VA and the SSA deal only with your DD-214 [Page 4 of the Navy Personnel File]. This usually has all the pertinent information, unless you served in more than one duty station or aboard more than one ship. It generally will only have your last duty station or ship and whatever personnel information to be recorded that was generated during that stay. This is important to understand especially if you were a Reservist, as well. Some reservists had several ActDuTra [active duty for training] periods before going on active duty, and may have had more after they came home from their two, three, or four year hitch on Active Duty. In such cases, this information may not show up on your DD-214.

Additionally, if you were TAD anywhere, having the rest of your personnel file should prove that, and that might be exactly the proof you need to prove “feet on the ground”, or a specific exposure.

To request your records, you should go to the following website:

http://www.archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs/index.html
This site will allow you to go to the National Archives and Records Administration [NARA] application for Military Personnel Records. Follow the directions carefully. This process in the past has taken over a year before the records arrived, so start now and be patient.

3. Your ship’s Deck Log:
If your personnel record does not show proof of you being “foot on the ground” or in a place where you were exposed to Agent Orange, your ship’s Deck Log might very well be able to do so. Also, it would be additional documentary evidence in support of your claim as your Personnel Record will show you stationed aboard during a period the Deck Log makes reference to a working party ashore, or some such.

For most Blue Water Vietnam Veterans, ships Deck Logs are to be found at the Modern Military Branch of the National Archives, located just off the Washington Beltway in College Park, Maryland. It is a fascinating facility to visit, and you are encouraged to do so. If you do, go early and get your request in as soon as you get there, as it takes a while to pull the physical records from the archives. Logs from 1941 through those that are 30 years old or older are in the Modern Military Branch, National Archives, 8601 Adelphi Road, College Park MD 20740-6001 [telephone (301) 837-3510]. Be prepared for heavy security, and when you sign in you must answer some questions on a computer, sign some pledges dealing with the handling of documents, and get a photo ID good for one year. Repeat visits are somewhat easier to accomplish.

These are the smooth copied Deck Logs hand written by a revolving set of Officers on board the ship, copied weekly from the rough daily log. They are official documents and are signed by the ship’s Captain and countersigned by the XO.

You may not need an entire period, but just certain dates. If you have a Cruise Book, that can sometimes help you pin point the dates.

The cheapest route to take is to just get copies made of specific dates. These are on oversized [10x15 inch] paper [the Navy went to 8 ½ x 11 log books after we all got out!], so special copiers are set up to deal with the size. But the copiers are sometimes balky.

We copied one month’s worth of log entries, about 50 over-sized pages as most entries ran over onto the back of the page. Because we had waited so long for the box to come up with the log entries, and then the copier we were using was constantly changing the settings, we decided to contract the NARA staff to copy and ship me the rest. It came to about $230 for an additional eight months.

Here is what is contained in the deck logs according to Navy Regulations:

  • Absentees
  • Accidents [material]
  • Accidents/Injuries [personnel]
  • Actions [combat]
  • Appearances of Sea/Atmosphere/Unusual Objects
  • Arrests/Suspensions
  • Arrival/Departure of Commanding Officer
  • Bearings [navigational]
  • Cable/Anchor Chain Strain
  • Collisions/Groundings
  • Courts-Martial/Captain's Masts
  • Deaths
  • Honors/Ceremonies/Visits
  • Incidents at Sea
  • Inspections
  • Meteorological Phenomena
  • Movement Orders
  • Movements [getting underway; course, speed changes; mooring, anchoring]
  • Passengers
  • Prisoners [crew members captured by hostile forces]
  • Propulsion Plant Status changes
  • Receipts and Transfers [of Crew Members]
  • Ship's Behavior [under different weather/sea conditions]
  • Sightings [other ships; landfall; dangers to navigation]
  • Soundings [depth of water]
  • Speed Changes
  • Tactical Formation
  • Time of Evolutions/Exercises/Other Services Performed
This information can prove invaluable in supporting your claim. If you cannot go to this incredible facility you can probably call and get a researcher to collect the data for you, but that might be more expensive.

The facility is on its own campus, has good parking, and beautiful grounds. Inside in addition to the records and archives are a small book-gift shop, a small snack shop, and a large, well appointed cafeteria. Security is very tight, and you are not allowed to take anything onto the floors with you. There are rental lockers in the basement for handbags, coats, pens, pads, and other research tools. There is plenty of scratch paper and pencils around on the research floors. The check-in process takes about 40-60 minutes before you even get to the research floor.

Note: any Deck logs that are less than 30 years of age are in the custody of the Ships History Deck Logs Section, Naval Historical Center, Building 57, 805 Kidder Breese Street SE, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5060. All inquiries concerning research access to logs that are less than 30 years old should be sent to the Ships History Deck Logs Section.


Logs that are less than 30 years old are held in either paper or microfiche form, stored in the Washington National Records Center, 4205 Suitland Road, Suitland MD 20746. Logs from 1979 through February 1993 are on microfiche in the Ships History Deck Logs Section. Logs from 1990 through 1993 are partly on microfiche in the Deck Logs Section, partly on paper at the Records Center. All logs from March 1993 are on paper and stored at the Records Center. The logs that are classified must be sent to the proper authorities for declassification review before they can be researched or copied.

One other thing: If for some reason the above does not contain specific enough information to satisfy either the VA, or SSA, or both, and your claim involves combat action, you may need one other resource: The Navy Historical Society mentioned above also stores all ships’/units’ action reports, which were required after every engagement. That might be another source for validation of your claim, as it is usually more specific than the deck logs.

There you have it. IF you are doing your own claim [probably online] via VONAPP or on the Social Security website, you will be required to provide verification of your claim. The above documents are, in most cases, all you will need. We packed ours up into several small boxes [about a ream of paper in each] and shipped them to the VA with our claim number on the outside of the boxes. We also shipped them return receipt requested. That proved they got to where they were intended, and showed us the date when they arrived.

If you are ill and can no longer work, you should apply for Social Security Disability in addition to your VA claim. It too can be a long and ugly process, but in the end, if you go to a hearing, things will work out. You must have an attorney for the appeal to Social Security and the attorney is paid from your lump sum if you win, up to a maximum of $5,400. Our appeal took almost 18 months from initial rejection to the hearing. Nevertheless, when that lump sum comes in, it is a huge load off your mind, as is the monthly income.

VA claims, at least to date, are not permitted to use attorneys to argue the claim before the Board. So there should be no fee for any VA claim, though Congress may change that at any moment.

The SSA almost automatically denies about ¾ of all claims up front [ours was denied before we even finished submitting our paperwork!] forcing the engagement of an attorney and the paying of a fee out of your lump sum. If you lose your appeal with Social Security, there is nothing owed to the attorney. In other words, the SSA is using private attorneys that you must hire to cut down on fraudulent claims, and forcing the claimant to pay for it. Something is very wrong with that.


Good luck, endure, and keep the faith. 

COMMENTS ARE CLOSED FOR THIS POST.  THE INSTRUCTIONS ABOVE ARE STILL IN EFFECT.

VN Vets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Setting the record straight on Starbucks

The other day a good friend sent an email that has been circulating around the internet since the start of the War in Iraq, and perhaps as far back as the first Gulf War. It tells the story of a Marine Sergeant who asked the Starbucks Coffee Company to send some coffee to their unit. Apparently Starbucks said no, and said they did not support the war nor anyone in it.

After checking this again at an Urban Legends/Snopes.com page I got this information about the story:

Comments: It's unclear whether Starbucks ever actually refused to donate coffee to U.S. Marines in Iraq who requested it, but if they did, it wasn't because, as the above email claims, "they don't support the war and anyone in it."

Marine Sgt. Howard C. Wright, who authored the email in May 2004, subsequently issued a mea culpa (currently being distributed by Starbucks in answer to queries) in which he said:

Almost 5 months ago I sent an email to you my faithful friends. I did a wrong thing that needs to be cleared up. I heard by word of mouth about how Starbucks said they didn't support the war and all. I was having enough of that kind of talk and didn't do my research properly like I should have. This is not true. Starbucks supports men and women in uniform. They have personally contacted me and I have been sent many copies of their company's policy on this issue. So I apologize for this quick and wrong letter that I sent out to you.
In its own response to the email rumor, Starbucks explains that while the company has "the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military personnel," corporate policy prohibits direct donations to U.S. troops because the military doesn't fall under the strict definition of a public charity. Individual employees are free to donate their weekly pounds of take-home coffee, however, and according to Starbucks' statement many have done so.

http://urbanlegends.about.com/library/bl_starbucks_marines.htm

At this point, we wish to point out what one gets from reading between the lines. When Starbucks states, “…corporate policy prohibits direct donations to U.S. troops because the military doesn't fall under the strict definition of a public charity. Individual employees are free to donate their weekly pounds of take-home coffee, however, and according to Starbucks' statement many have done so.”

What it appears they are saying is that because there is no tax deduction for donating to the Marines, they will not donate. They could give a fig what their employees do, but they will not donate. Now, let’s be clear here. This is a company that has realized the American Dream with phenomenal growth by selling overpriced coffee and associated products. That is THE American Dream, folks, the one guaranteed by our Constitution and protected by our government, and paid for over and over again by the United States Military.

There are, indeed, several options for Starbucks: they could change their policy; they could double the weekly allocation to their employees so they could then donate to the military, or they could simply allocate advertising money and send it over that way. There are likely other solutions, too, but these are simply obvious ones. It is a wonder then that if they are that obvious, why were they not obvious to the executives at Starbucks?

Perhaps the initial response […Starbucks replied, telling the Marines thank you for their Support of their business, but that Starbucks does not support the war,Nor anyone in it, and that they would not send the troops their brand of Coffee…] which still has yet to be explained, is accurate after all. Perhaps this is another “company policy”. It certainly would appear to be the case after Starbucks failed to come through on a simple request by a man overseas defending Starbucks’ right to make a profit.

Frankly, it would be a major public relations coup if Starbucks would offer to the Defense Department to send a force of people to Iraq and Afghanistan for Easter weekend, with lots of coffee, and lots of coffee and espresso makers, and serve it to the troops with their Easter meal. That is the kind of advertising that cannot be bought. It is the kind that inspires lasting brand loyalty. But apparently Starbucks can afford to do without the business of those who defend their right to exist.

Perhaps they are waiting for the Marines to win their victory in Iraq, and the Afghan forces to defeat the Taliban once and for all, so Starbucks can move in to both countries and sell their coffee products to the locals there. I guess they are a better class of customers.

We must admit we never felt the allure of Starbucks, never felt their coffee was better than the brand we buy at the grocery store, and in fact, were somewhat wary of the chain because of its meteoric rise.

Now we believe that our initial mistrust of Starbucks is probably warranted, and will continue to not patronize the company.

VN Vets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Pipe Them Over the Side

We respectfully ask that all hands come to attention. Hand salute. Two.

Veteran Navy Yeoman (F) Charlotte Louise Berry Winters crossed the bar on March 27, and was laid to rest in Frederick, Maryland. She was 109.

Yeoman (F) Winters enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1917 after Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels established acceptance into the Naval service for women. She was the last of 11,000 women enlisted into the Naval service for duty in clerical positions, mainly in Washington, D.C. Another 1,713 became Navy Nurses, and 269 women served in the Marine Corps in clerical billets. No other women were enlisted into the U.S. military during that time. The above mentioned Sailors and Marines were the only women eligible to receive the Veterans Bonus voted by Congress in 1924 (to be paid in 1945, but that was changed after the Bonus Army fiascos in Washington and Florida from 1932-1935 so it was paid in 1936.) The above described women were, until WW II, the only women eligible to join the American Legion.

Yeoman (F) Winters was discharged from the Navy in 1919 and went back to her service work as a civilian employee of the Navy, working in the Washington Navy Yard. She remained in that work until her retirement in 1953.

The great work of Yeoman (F) Winters and her shipmates led to the enlistment of tens of thousands of women into the Navy’s WAVES during WW II, and ultimately to the permanent establishment of the WAVES in 1948.

Thursday, March 29, Lloyd Brown crossed over the bar. Brown was 105.
Brown enlisted in the Navy in 1918 at the age of sixteen, and served as a gunner on board the battleship USS New Hampshire. Released from the service in 1919, he later rejoined and served as a musician on board USS Seattle.

Brown left the Navy in 1925 and began a career as a Washington D.C. fireman.

Charlotte Winters and Lloyd Brown were the last U.S. Navy Veterans of WW I. Their deaths left three Army veterans, one of whom passed away since.

We honor Winters and Brown as good shipmates who did their duty in wartime and in peace.

Unto almighty God we commend the souls of our departed shipmates.

Hand Salute!

Bo’s’n, pipe them over the side.

Two!

VN Vets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

"Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." --President George Washington

Copyright © 2007: VNVets Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I Was a Sailor Once!

We received this in an email this morning and it immediately struck our "nostalgic nerve".

Without further ado, enjoy:
----------------------------------------------------

sent by an old shipmate
SAM - the old GEEZER from WEEZER

I Was a Sailor Once!

Sharing a glimpse of the life I so dearly loved...

I liked standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe. I liked the sounds of the Navy - the piercing trill of the boatswain's pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship's bell on the quarterdeck, harsh, and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work. I liked Navy vessels -- plodding fleet auxiliaries and amphibs, sleek submarines and steady solid aircraft carriers.

I liked the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea, Antietam, Valley Forge - - memorials of great battles won and tribulations overcome.

I liked the lean angular names of Navy "tin-cans" and escorts, mementos of heroes who went before us.

And the others - - San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, St. Paul, Chicago, Oklahoma City, named for our cities.

I liked the tempo of a Navy band.

I liked liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port.

I even liked the never ending paperwork and all hands working parties as my ship filled herself with the multitude of supplies, both mundane and to cut ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there was water to float her.

I liked sailors, officers and enlisted men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the big cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trusted and depended on them as they trusted and depended on me -- for professional competence, for comradeship, for strength and courage. In a word, they were "shipmates"; then and forever.

I liked the surge of adventure in my heart, when the word was passed: ''Now Hear This'' "Now station the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters for leaving port," and I liked the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pier side. The work was hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the "all for one and one for all" philosophy of the sea was ever present.

I liked the fierce and dangerous activity on the flight deck of aircraft carriers, earlier named for battles won but sadly now named for politicians. Enterprise, Independence, Boxer, Princeton and oh so many more, some lost in battle, and sadly many scrapped.

I liked the names of the aircraft and helicopters; Skyraider, Intruder, Sea King, Phantom, Skyhawk, Demon, Skywarrior, Corsair, and many more that bring to mind offensive and defensive orders of battle.

I liked the excitement of an alongside replenishment as my ship slid in alongside the oilier and the cry of "Standby to receive shot lines" prefaced the hard work of rigging span wires and fuel hoses echoed across the narrow gap of water between the ships. And welcomed the mail and fresh milk, fruit and vegetables that sometimes accompanied the fuel.

I liked the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as flying fish flitted across the wave tops and sunset gave way to night.

I liked the feel of the Navy in darkness - the masthead and range lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters - they cut through the dusk and joined with the mirror of stars overhead. And I liked drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that told me that my ship was alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch would keep me safe.

I liked quiet mid-watches with the aroma of strong coffee -- the lifeblood of the Navy permeating everywhere.

And I liked hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed kept all hands on a razor edge of alertness.

I liked the sudden electricity of "General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations," followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transformed herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war -- ready for anything.

And I liked the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.

I liked the traditions of the Navy and the men and now women who made them. I liked the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones and Burke.

A sailor could find much in the Navy: comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman's trade. An adolescent could find adulthood.

In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, we still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods - the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow. And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and mess decks.

Gone ashore for good we grow humble about our Navy days, when the seas were a part of us and a new port of call was ever over the horizon.

Remembering this, WE stand taller and say, I WAS A SAILOR ONCE."




















Why I quit being a sailor!


Clint Joyce

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Thank you Clint, for writing this and thank you Sam [the old GEEZER from WEEZER] for passing it along.

My only addition would be those sterling moments Clint alluded to when he wrote, "...the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as flying fish flitted across the wave tops and sunset gave way to night...".

We remember with great fondness the way men would collect on the fantail after evening chow, not in groups, not to talk, usually with a coffee mug in hand, and filled with steaming java, perhaps with a smoke. Some would sit on the bitts, or some handy equipment, the rest would stand. Some would stare at the foaming wake, others off to either side. But they were alone with the sea. It is a special relationship, found nowhere else but at sea. Each man used it for whatever suited his purpose there, be it introspection, prayer, contemplation, or whatever, but it was a very special time. After 5 to 20 minutes, we would wander off, one by one, to resume our routines of life on board a Naval ship at sea.

This may have been an unwritten tradition passed down at least from the British sailing Navy, maybe from farther back. Some of the better fiction writers about the Napoleonic era of the Royal Navy (Patrick O'Brien, Julian Stockwin, etc.) make small reference to the evening gathering on the foredeck/fo'c's'le, at first quietly, then later for entertainment, such as singing and dancing to sea chanties, and the telling of sea stories. Because the quarterdeck on a sailing ship was aft, and was the sole province of the Captain, and officers and crew on watch stations there, the men went forward. Now, with the quarterdeck having new meaning, and the fantail not having significance to the conning of the ship, the traditional gathering has moved aft.

We miss that now that we are ashore.

VN Vets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." -- President Abraham Lincoln

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