Early Friday morning we traveled north of Sanford to Jacksonville, FL. The 2-1/2 hour drive north ended on Naval Station Mayport, which is just east of JAX, where the mouth of the St. Johns ends its lazy meander northward to the Atlantic. We were there to attend Anthony’s re-enlistment and promotion ceremony (to E-5). Said event, destined to take place on the quarterdeck of his frigate, the USS Underwood, being the culmination of the talk of the family for the last few weeks.
Re-enlisted is a proud moment. In a very real sense, Anthony’s character and sense of duty have been found worthy. His 8 years service gave the the US Navy the best opportunity to dispassionately judge the development of what was barely more than a boy when he first enlisted. Now a man, he’s a reflection of how his parents brought him up, the husband he became to my daughter Niki, plus his steadfastness and devotion to duty. It’s tough duty too because the engine room gets very hot when the turbines are used in anger. This is the very heart of the Underwood, and the delivery of power is essential for the mission. In short, the Navy took Anthony’s measure and liked what it saw.
The Navy’s investing further in his development wasn’t a cinch either because the services cull ruthlessly from an endless stream of hopefuls. In fact, only the best are asked to stay and thus, especially during a bad economy, for your scribe . . . Tony’s re-enlistment means my daughter’s evaluation of him as ‘the one’ has been confirmed by a premier maker of men. While I’ve grown to appreciate what she saw in him, like fathers the world over, I had precious little say in the matter and thus, it’s nice to get independent confirmation of his qualities.
Anyway, his 6-year re-enlistment will take him to 14 years, e.g. well on his way to an honorable career – perhaps one culminating in retirement at 30 years service, which is his goal. You see, Anthony loves the United States Navy. He’s quiet in his passion but somehow it’s all he talks about.
By 11 we were gathered on the open aft deck. This is where a pair of Seahawk helicopters land and take off while deployed. It was a glorious day to be alive in Florida because early March, before the sticky summer blast furnace, can be quite special. The sky was a glorious blue with a scattering of clouds and for a moment the quiet was surreal because other than the occasional screech of a sea gull, and the soft sussuration of the colors rustling from just enough breeze to occasionally stir the smell of the sea, everything awaited. Meanwhile, the Underwood barely moved in the gentle swells within the harbor. Indiscernible really because the bumpers, like 55-gallon drums on steroids, floated mostly free between the ship’s side and the barnacle encrusted concrete dock.
At a signal from Captain Mirasola, Anthony was first mustered out out of the Navy. Then began the re-enlistment ceremony, as an E-5 and hand raised, Anthony promised to defend the nation. I felt tears in my eyes, a quiet pride, and respect for a Naval heritage stretching down through more than two centuries of American seapower.
God Bless America.