On Being a Sailor


July 6, 2003; Miami Beach

Are you kidding me?! I’d get to wear that uniform? The one that hundreds of thousands of Sailors have worn proudly, and have died in, and died for? I’d just have to undergo a little hazing, ‘er, some stress management training — to see if I’d maintain my composure in combat, my bearing in battle, and you’ll take me? And all I’d have to do is raise my hand and swear to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States — the oldest, longest-living constitution on the planet, that which makes America the greatest country in the world? Count me in!

Yes, sir, I understand that I’ll have to spend weeks, months, and years away from family, friends, and loved ones. Yes, I’m willing to live at sea, far from land in foul weather, in a small cubicle with a narrow bunk, limited personal space, in a common area shared by up to forty shipmates, and which often smells like fuel, if not socks, dirty laundry, and breathed air. Yes, I’ve heard the food’s not that great, fresh vegetables are scarce, and you work 12 to 18 hours-a-day — or until the mission’s complete, every day, seven days a week, including birthdays, holy days, and holidays. Two-minute showers don’t bother me, and I can handle my drinking water often tasting like metal pipes, because it masks the taste of the JP-5 jet fuel that somehow slips in. What, my rack will be under the flight deck, and a hot steam catapult goes right through my room, and planes take off and land above my head? That’s alright. I want to be a Sailor! I don’t care if we only get mail every couple of weeks at sea, if I have duty in port, and have to alternate day and night watches every four days. I want to uphold the tradition, camaraderie, esprit des corps, pride and professionalism that make ours the finest Navy in the world. Yes, I understand that I might have to fix a busted steam pipe at the cost of my life, or send a Sailor to plug a leak which may cost him his life, to save the ship. I know we’ll be going into harm’s way, to keep sea lines of communication open, show the flag, and project power abroad, all in the name of liberty. I’m ready for that. I want to live up to the valorous reputation of John Paul Jones, Father of the Navy, who retorted “I have not yet begun to fight!“, as his ship was sinking versus the mighty British Navy. His core values of honor, courage, and commitment still inspire me today.

I want to live up to the exhortations of my Uncle Vincy, who told me, demanded of me, beseeched me, at 92 years of age, “Glenn, your uniform,” starting to sob, “don’t ever fail it!” Wanting to say more, he couldn’t, as he, one of the hardest men I ever knew, and at that point completely blind, broke down and cried, probably thinking about the days when he was sixteen years old during World War One, and lied about his age to enter the Navy — committing one small wrong in order to do right on a much larger scale, a global scale, to fight for freedom, for what he believed in, for his country, for his World, so that I could wear the same uniform someday, and preserve and protect the same ideals and freedom he fought for.

By wearing the uniform, I carry the torch proudly, and humbly — both at the same time, full of mixed emotions each and every day I don the uniform, ready for what challenges might come my way. I’m a Sailor in the World’s finest Navy, with perhaps the most important mission in the country, to protect the Constitution which makes America what it is, what we are, and whatever we want our children to be, in the name of liberty, and justice for all.

You’re darn right I want to wear that uniform(!). Pardon me while I press it now.

Written by Glenn Yeck | Comments Off on On Being a Sailor