“Now hear this, now hear this.”
The 1MC crackled to life and soon the familiar voice of the Captain of the USS Okinawa LPH-3 was heard addressing his crew. “Men,” he said, “We've come a long way, but we've got a long way to go.” This was his favorite expression in congratulating the crew of the warship, but quickly putting us each in our place by stating we had a long way to go.
We trusted, honored and respected our Skipper. We would do and go anywhere for him and with him.
He congratulated us on a job well done as we performed our duty through our deployment of eight months. Soon we would be back in San Diego. However, he added, that after a couple of weeks we would sail up to Long Beach where we go into dry dock for about six months. That was it. He concluded his briefing by saying, “That is all.”
New to the naval life, I asked of the more “salty” sailors, what is dry dock? They informed me that our ship would be taken out of the water. This was accomplished by piloting the ship into a specially constructed narrow area flooded with sea water. Once the ship was securely moored within the confines of this area, the water is pumped out which allows the keel of the ship to rest within and on the specifically designed constructed area.
The purpose of dry dock, it was explained, was to allow for inspection and cleaning of the hull, assessment of areas such as the rudder, propulsion system, the performing of any needed repairs, etc.
We were going to be treated cosmetically, as well as inspected to ensure that we remained healthy and fix that which was not healthy, so that we could maintain our readiness and seaworthiness.
Along with our valiant “gray lady” we were going into dry dock for repair, rest, and renewal.
Dry dock! What an appropriate imagery to convey when talking about those veterans who have served so valiantly and yet are scarred, banged up and in disrepair in areas within them that are “submerged” and can only be seen and repaired when brought into dry dock.
Such a veteran, in need of dry dock, was the young vibrant veteran who came bounding into the front lobby of the transitional living center. Before his arrival that day, the atmosphere of the facility could best be defined as slow-paced, sort of like living on autopilot. But he then walked—or rather, in burst Armando.
He could be best described as a refreshing wind blowing in on a hot summer day, with everyone in his path revitalized by his presence. His persona was overwhelming to the point where you wondered, “Who is this guy?”
He greeted everyone in the lobby energetically. Someone was daring enough to ask, “Hey, Armando! How are you doing?” To which he quickly and sincerely replied without hesitation, “I'm blessed, man. I'm blessed.” I have my year-and-a-half sobriety coin in my pocket, and my newborn son is beautiful.”
I asked, “What is your son’s name?” To which he replied his name and further added that he was named after his brother who had recently died in a car crash.
Unable to get this brief encounter with the young man out of my mind, I asked of myself, “What is this veteran's story?” I know that he has a huge personality, he is a recovering addict, but has been sober for a year and a half, loves his son, and experienced tragedy through the loss of his brother fairly recently. All that in a twenty-second interaction.
This young man’s life was an open book, and apparently his dry dock experience was working.
Such are the stories of those who sail into the dry dock located at the corner of 9th and B. They are veterans who have served their country and, for some, their service has created hardships for them and their families physically, emotionally, and psychologically.
These veterans, like so many others, have just been battered as they have been tossed around by the waves of life.
They are in need of the dry dock experience.
This experience gives them the opportunity to be taken from the “sea” and placed in a nonthreatening environment, so that assessments, inspections and treatments can be accomplished. Ultimately, they can become seaworthy once more and set sail out towards the open sea.
In Mark 6:31, we read of the invitation of Jesus, in that He invites his disciples to come away, “And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.”
In other words, it is important that we come apart, before we come apart.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Brian Aird emigrated with his parents to Chicago, Illinois and eventually enjoyed the small town life of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Upon graduation from high school and one year of study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a 10-year commitment of service in the United States Navy was afforded which included many opportunities of education, life experience and travel.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, he attended The Salvation Army School for Officer’s Training and was commissioned as an officer in The Salvation Army where he served in various communities throughout the western United States for a period of 12 years.
Following this life changing experience, the American Red Cross became a new arena of service for 10 years. Currently, his vocation is once again with The Salvation Army where he serves in Northern California as the business coordinator. Four lovely children and eight darling grandchildren decorate the lives of he and his wife.
He is an avid Green Bay Packers fan, enjoys the game of hockey and loves to write.
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