Category Archives: Sea Stories

I’ve Got This Watch

I apologize in advance for the ramble-yness of this post. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this, but they aren’t very well organized.

Today’s Memorial Day.

What does that mean?

I guess to most people, it means a three-day weekend, gathering with friends and family, grilled food, openings of pools and hanging out at beaches, and the start of summer. For me, until I joined the Navy, this was my predominant view of the holiday. And while celebrating this American way of life is good, and being with friends and family is important, it’s so much more than that.

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Memorial Day – the holiday itself – is for remembering those who died while serving the United States Armed Forces. I have two in particular which I remember:

Rene LaMourt: He went on his first deployment on the USS Eisenhower and was out at sea for more than six months. When he returned, he took some leave and was going to fly home to visit his family. On the way to the airport, the girl giving him a ride to the airport got a flat tire. She pulled off onto the shoulder of the freeway, and Rene started to change the tire. While he was getting the jack out of the trunk, another car hit him and he was pinned between the two cars. They had to amputate both his legs in the hospital and he died of shock that evening.

Rene wasn’t officially “on-duty” when the accident happened, but he never made it home. And he was serving. He was helping someone else out. Because that’s what military people are: Servicemen. We are broken down in boot camp and trained to give our lives for our country, for our brothers and sisters in the Armed Forces, and for any person who crosses our path who needs our assistance. We are trained to follow orders, to complete the mission, and to disregard ourselves in doing so. We disregard ourselves, but we know that the soldier standing next to us has our back and will give his life for mine. Just as I will give my life for his. So, we can be off-duty, or separated, or retired. But we are still on-duty. We are still military. We will still serve. Because it’s who we are now.

Chris: I’m leaving his last name off on purpose. He went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He came back home to his wife and children. A few months later he committed suicide.

PTSD is real. War is hard.

Sacrifice. We sacrifice a lot by being in the military. Some personal liberties. Comforts of home. Family. Friends. Safety, sometimes. Privacy. We also gain a lot: bonds that go far beyond friendship, opportunities to see places we’d never have seen on our own, opportunities for education, growth in strength and character, an understanding of what it takes to be a strong nation, exposure to other nations… Our families sacrifice, too. Military members’ salaries are not on par with people with equivalent jobs in the private sector. We do look after each other so that no one is without a home or their families are not fed, but it is often a very tight budget. That’s okay, we are resourceful, if nothing else. Our families have to be strong while we are deployed. They are without us. Relationships are strained. Some of us never make it home. On Memorial Day, we honor not only those of us who gave all, but also their families, who also gave all.

I was thinking about these things as I got ready for work today. I had to work today. Most of my friends have the day off and are spending it doing those Memorial Day weekend things. I’m seeing lots of posts on Facebook about grilling and being at the beach and the pool. I was invited to a barbecue at my best friend’s house that I had to decline. But I’m okay with it. Because we are remembering the fallen. And the fallen are my brothers and sisters. Because the military makes you family, even if you’ve never met. Even if you’re from a different branch. And if my brother or sister is not able to stand watch, you fill the gap and do the job to carry on the mission. It’s just what you do. You keep on keeping on, as they say. You live for them in a way. You take care of their families. You serve, because they can no longer serve.

I am happy to be serving today, in what little capacity I can.

Rest easy, brothers, I’ve got this watch.

Jennie on a Sub
Rob Dodson and Me

Jesse Greaves

I should probably start writing down my Navy stories before I forget them. I’ll start with this one, as it has come to mind this weekend due to recent events.

I met Jesse while I was on summer training for NROTC. This was just after my freshman year of college, and I was assigned to Norfolk, Virginia. We were assigned to the same squad.

Scene 1: Introductions

At some point, I was his squad leader; another week, he was mine. The first clear memory that I have was one day just before PT. We were all gathered in a field and were getting our flight suits for the next week’s training. I was happy to note that I had the smallest flight suit of all the girls. I like being little, what can I say?

Anyways, Jesse was talking to some of the others about how he had been in the Navy as an enlisted prior to being sent to college and ROTC. He had been a Corpsman and had attained the prestigious rank of E-2. I must have thought that he sounded rather arrogant or something, or maybe it’s just that punk streak in me, but I felt that I had to take him down a peg or two. Most of the other midshipmen there were straight from high school; there were very few mustangs like Jesse and I. So, I gleefully told him that not only was I *also* a fellow prior enlisted, but I had made E-4!

He wasn’t so happy to hear this — taking his thunder or whatever. He asked how I had gotten to E-4 so quickly, as apparently it’s much harder to make rate as a corpsman. I let him know that I was a Nuke, which is way awesome. I think he rolled his eyes in denial of my awesomeness and made some remark saying that I was a “push-button petty officer,” implying that I didn’t earn my rank, I just got it with the job. Sour grapes, my friend…. 🙂

A few minutes later, he takes the cap off one of those 32 oz. Gatorade bottles that he was using as a water bottle, presumably to take a sip. He comes up to me and, on purpose, splashes me with it, making some lame excuse like, “Oops. I tripped.” Right. Sure.

Soon after, we were told that we were going to be playing Ultimate Frisbee, and that we should take our flight suits back to our barracks. Half of us were to change into white shirts (instead of the brown shirts that went with the camo pants we were wearing). Both Jesse and I were on the white shirt team.

I had fun playing Ultimate Frisbee. After it was over, and most people left the field, I saw that Jesse was in the middle of the field doing some more PT. I think he wanted to be a Navy SEAL or something. Me being the sweet thing that I am, walked up to him — water bottle in hand — and promptly dumped the entire contents on him, saying something like, “Oops. I tripped.”

He jumped up and wrestled me to the ground for a bit. We both ended up — in our thin, government-issued white T-shirts — all wet and muddy and thoroughly disreputable-looking. 🙂 Then, we both had to head back to the barracks to change. Because the barracks were built with the doors of the rooms emptying out to a wrap-around balcony, pretty much everyone was outside on a balcony watching the two of us return, and noting our appearance. Ha!

Scene 2: A Marine Outing

It was still Marines week. All week long, they had us pushing fluids so that we wouldn’t become dehydrated. Periodically, we were told to drink half a canteen or a full canteen. Each of us was issued 2 canteens to keep on our belt. Unfortunately, I only got one. So, I only consumed half the water as everyone else.

At the end of the week, we had a field exercise where we simulated taking a beach, doing night rounds, and then the final push in the morning. I think this happened the first morning. I know it was earlier, like 8 am or so and we were getting ready to go out on one of the amphibious vehicles. I started feeling awful. I was dizzy and lightheaded and I think I started crying for no reason. They took me over to the corpsman on duty, where it was found that I was pretty dehydrated.

The corpsman’s name who took care of me was Livesay. I know that I’m a bad stick, and when I’m dehydrated, I’m *really* bad. After many unsuccessful attempts, Livesay told me, “I have never not gotten a stick. If you do not cooperate this next try, I’m going to put this needle in your neck!” He wasn’t joking.

The needle went in.

I got some ridiculous amount of IV fluid pushed into me. Then, I had to go to the bathroom. Like, NOW. Gotta say, when you are in the hospital, you got it good. You have your IV bag hooked up to the little pole on wheels. When you are in the military, you have to do your business with a guy holding your IV bag, while you try to be discrete and pretend he isn’t 3 feet away, hearing everything.

After a while, I was deemed hydrated enough and allowed to return to my squad in the early afternoon. I don’t remember if they were eating lunch, or had just finished eating lunch. I don’t think I ate anything. Next, we took a ride in an amphibious vehicle. We went up and down some sand dunes, then out to sea in the waves, in a circle. There was a turret with some sort of gun on it, and we took turns so that each midshipman would get a chance to sit up there. I was in the back and would be one of the last people to go. The way the vehicle was, there was seating in two rows inside, and the top of the vehicle had an opening lengthwise. Most of us were standing on the seats, so that we could peek our heads out and look. I was too short to see anything, but I did stand up and hang on as we were bouncing around.

Now, I have to mention what we were wearing: camo pants, jungle boots, T-shirt, heavier camo shirt, flak jacket and a helmet. It was warm and humid out. I get seasick. I was just treated for dehydration. We were going up and down, up and down, up and down — in addition to being generally rattled around by trying to hang on while standing on seats in a moving vehicle. Needless to say, I was starting to feel very nauseated.

Finally, I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to get off this vehicle or yak. I told one of the guys (who was part of the vehicle crew), and he started to signal to the driver to stop to let me off. Jesse was standing near me, but didn’t hear what I had said (it was very noisy). He must have thought that I was having issues from the heat or something because he started to take off my clothes. He had unzipped my flak jacket and was in the process of unbuttoning my camo shirt when I said something like, “I’m okay! I’m just nauseated!”

Poor boy turned beet red. And stopped undressing me.

Embarrassing, maybe. But he was only trying to take care of me. 🙂

Come to think of it now, being cooler probably would have helped with the nausea. Getting off the vehicle was still a way better treatment plan.

Scene 3: The Goodbye

It was one of the final days at Norfolk and I was heading back from the Navy Exchange. At one point, I passed by Jesse (I don’t recall who he was standing around with). As I passed, he called out, “What? You’re not going to say goodbye?!” I was a little surprised, as I didn’t think that Jesse had given me very much thought after the Marine week. I think I turned around and gave him a hug goodbye.

Scene 4: The Picture

This is probably out of order with the Goodbye scene, but I don’t remember precisely where it fits in. It was one of the last days and we had a picnic where we played some flag football or something like that. After, as we were resting in the picnic area, I tried to get pictures of everyone. When I got to Jesse, he was smiling, but the moment I went to snap the photo, he made this stoic, Terminator face. I think to show how tough he was. So, this is what I got. Jesse’s the guy on the right:

Blair and Jesse Greaves (U of Rochester) after the game