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Adrift uncertain, on a sea of sadness . . .

A small boat drifts on the massive swells of a broad expanse of ocean, without direction, moving aimlessly among groups of land masses, each island offering vistas of white beaches, grassy slopes and forested areas, each a mirrored image of the others, with nothing to distinguish between one island’s attractions and the attractions offered by any of the others.

The vessel is fitted with a small motor, adequate to move the boat and its occupant from water to land, but the engine is silent, the motor tilted up—nothing on any island appeals to the drifter, nothing that would cause him to lower the motor and aim for land.

Each island beckons equally, and although the lone occupant of that small vessel has no preference for any particular island, he longs to land on one or another, just to quell the aimless roaming and find some footing more substantial than that furnished by the unpredictable forces of wind and waves.

The previous three paragraphs are meant to introduce the author of this blog, the king of Texas, a king that embarked on a lonely voyage following the death of his wife late in November of last year. That king is now drifting aimlessly toward the end of the third month of his voyage into a void, a place that is completely foreign to him. For the past 58 years he was anchored firmly, albeit in many different locations, by the love he received and the love he gave to the young woman he married in 1952.


That anchor held firm through fair weather and foul, through gales and ice storms and tsunamis caused by volcanic upheavals generated and fostered by long separations. In one instance over the years the anchor broke loose from its bottom moorings but the chain held fast, and the anchor eventually found its former firm grip and returned the marriage vessel to a normal keel, and for that I thank the anchor, God and all the angels in heaven.

On Thursday, the eighteenth of November 2010 at precisely 9:15 in the evening my anchor—my wife—broke free from life’s anchor chain and returned to her Maker. Her earthly body is at peace—she lies in her casket in Section 71, Plot 47 in San Antonio’s Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, and her soul is free in heaven. Her faith in God and her love for me are voiced on her headstone:

Cry not for me—I wait for thee

Some viewers may find this posting, these thoughts and the thoughts that follow sacrilegious and perhaps doubt my sincerity, but if they could see the tears streaming down my cheeks as I write this, they perhaps might feel differently. Should anyone have doubts concerning my sincerity, I will state positively, unequivocally and irrevocably that on the night my wife died I found God—I felt God’s presence and I believe that I witnessed some of God’s handiwork, and I am now in search of Jesus to complete the Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. You can click here for the story of my finding God by witnessing His power.

As an aside to this post, I believe that I found Jesus yesterday on February 2, 2011 at 9:00 AM as I was driving on Loop 410 West in San Antonio, Texas. That belief will be the subject of a future posting—please stay tuned.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 3, 2011 in death, drivers, driving, freeways, funeral, Military

 

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A two-week boat ride to Japan . . .

In 1950 I traveled from San Francisco to Japan in 14 days, and back to San Francisco in another 14 days, with a considerable amount of time spent in Japan and South Korea between the trip to the Orient and the return to the United States, somewhere in the neighborhood of 22 months. Fifteen of those months were spent in bad neighborhoods—they were spent at Taegu in the south and Kimpo in the north, two of our US airfields in South Korea during the Korean War.

I refuse to call it a conflict. It was a war, one in which more than 40,000 members of our armed forces died during four years of fighting—that qualifies it to be called a war, not a conflict.

I traveled by bus from my mother’s home in Midland, Texas to Alpine, Texas, then by train to Los Angeles and up the Pacific coast to San Francisco. The month was April, and the trip up to San Francisco—a distance of almost 400 miles—with the blue Pacific Ocean on the left and the green mountain slopes on the right was memorable. In San Francisco I boarded a ferry and was taken to Camp Stoneman. I was quartered for a week or so before boarding another ferry to the Port of San Francisco where I boarded an army troop ship bound for Japan.

Camp Stoneman, located in the city of Pittsburgh some forty miles from San Francisco, was a staging facility for military personnel traveling to foreign destinations to the east from the Port of San Francisco. Arrivals from oversea assignments and those departing for such assignments traveled by ferry to and from the Port and Camp Stoneman. Opened in 1942, the camp was shut down in 1954. Click here for images of Camp Stoneman and its brief history.

We departed for Japan on the USS Daniel L. Sultan, a U.S. Army vessel named for an army general, a ship that on this voyage would be loaded with 5,000 troops, 500 dependents and an indefinite number of cats and dogs, pets of the dependent members. When we pulled away from San Francisco, we headed north instead of west to pick up the dependents and their pets in Seattle, Washington.

My brother Larry, an army Warrant Officer, was stationed at the Yakima Training Facility and I obtained permission to debark in Seattle—yes, debarking, that’s what they called it—in order to make a phone call to him. No, I did not have a cell phone—they had not yet been invented. Our conversation was brief, limited to expressions of how are you, how have you been, how is everyone else, where are you going, and good luck.

On my return to the ship I ran afoul of the Officer of the Day, the worthy that stands on deck by the gangplank to greet boarders, to inquire as to their reason for boarding and to ascertain whether contraband is involved in their boarding. I had no problem answering the questions, but I committed a serious breach of military protocol.

As any sailor knows, when one boards or debarks a military vessel, courtesy must be given by saluting the United States flag flown by the vessel. I had been briefed on that courtesy and I saluted accordingly, but I was chastised—chewed out—by the Officer of the Day. It seems that I saluted the prow of the vessel instead of the stern. I had been below decks ever since boarding the ship and had no idea which end was which, so I took a guess—I guessed wrong.

Other than that, the two-week voyage was uneventful. I was seasick for the first two days and spent a lot of time hanging over the rail, and I learned to gauge the wind—one had to watch one’s output closely because one’s output had a bad habit of almost reaching the waves and then riding the wind all the way back up, often to its origin. I learned early to heave and then quickly step back from the railing. Some others weren’t that lucky. There’s an old joke that goes like this: The admiral asks a young sailor if he has a weak stomach, and the sailor says, No, sir, I am throwing it just as far as the others are.

Every GI on the ship had a daily detail. Some worked in the galley, some in the heads, some did laundry and various make-work tasks, but I was one of the very privileged—I was assigned to the poop deck detail. No, not that poop deck, not that flat-roofed cabin that is erected at the stern of old-time ships for storage and to serve as an observation point. The word poop is derived from a French word poupe, meaning stern, the back part of the ship.

No, my detail involved poop, the real McCoy. People with pets were required to exercise them every day on the rearmost part of the top deck, and the poop naturally followed. Every morning the call came over the intercom—first a series of shrill whistles, then came the words, Now hear this, now hear this—sweepers, man your brooms, clean sweep down fore and aft.

I never knew what was swept down at the fore, but I learned over two weeks about sweep down aft. It wasn’t that bad, though. There was always a strong breeze, if for no other reason than the forward motion of the ship. We used high-pressure hoses to wash down the deck, and we used the brooms to loosen poop reluctant to go into the Pacific Ocean.

I was quartered on Deck 4C, four levels below the top deck and three compartments aft of the head, or latrine. My bunk was second from the floor in a tier of four canvas bunks stacked from the floor to the ceiling. I was lucky because the fellow in the bunk above me was slightly built. The unlucky ones were those with a heavyweight sleeping in the bunk above them. In some cases, it was difficult for them to turn over without bumping into the weight hanging above. Bummer!

Speaking of the head—it’s at the extreme front end of the ship, but it would have been far better situated for use had it been located amidships. The bow of a vessel rises and falls with every wave, and one that is urinating must be ready to stop and restart the stream as the bow rises and falls. If not, one will be hitting one’s shoes as the bow rises, and splattering the wall as the bow falls.

If you have traveled on a ship you’ll understand what I mean, and if you have not, just ask any seasoned sailor how the system works. In the event of heavy seas, one would be advised to perform the act in a seated position—not very manly, but much safer and much easier on one’s shoes—and the wall.

We arrived at the Port of Yokohama, Japan two weeks later and docked in a harbor festooned with jellyfish. Just form a vision of Monet’s ponds covered with lily pads, then multiple it by thousands, perhaps millions, and you’ll have a vision of the Yokohama harbor.

A short time later—oops, let me rephrase that. The words short time have a very different meaning in military lingo, so I’ll say that a bit later a dozen or so of us were on a GI bus headed for Yokota Air Base, near Tokyo in Northern Japan. The bus ride, Yokota Air Base, Fussa and Tachikawa merit a separate posting—stay tuned!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2010 in Military, Travel, wartime

 

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