Once I Was A Navy Man

--By Ed Hughes--


I like the Navy. I like standing on deck on a long voyage with the sea in my face and ocean winds whipping in from everywhere-the feel of the giant steel ship beneath me, it's engine driving against the sea. I like the Navy.

I like the clang of steel , the ringing of the bell, the foghorn and strong laughter of Navy men at work. I like the ships of the Navy-nervous darting destroyers, sleek cruisers, majestic battleships and steady solid carriers.

I like the names of the Navy ships: Midway, Hornet, Enterprise, Hancock, Iwo Jima, Wasp, Shangri-La, and Constitution-majestic ships of the line.

I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty Whites" and the spice scent of a foreign port. I like shipmates I've sailed with, the kid from the Iowa cornfield, a pal from New York's east side, an Irishman from Boston, the boogie boarders of California, and of course a drawling friendly Texan.

From all parts of the land they came-farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England- from the cities, the mountains and the prairies. All Americans, All are comrades in arms. All are men of the sea.

I like the adventure in my heart when the ship puts out to sea, and I like the electric thrill of sailing home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting on shore. The work is hard, the going rough at times, but there's the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the devil-may-care philosophy of the sea.

And after a day of hard duty, there is serenity of the sea at dusk, as white caps dance on the ocean waves. The sea at night is mysterious. I like the lights of the Navy in darkness-the masthead lights, and red / green sidelights and stern lights, the Saint Elmo's fire dancing fore and aft. They cut through the night and look like a million of stars in darkness.

There are quiet nights and the quiet of the mid-watch when the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world stand with you. And there is the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.

I like the legends of the Navy and the men who made them. I like the proud names of Navy Heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in the Navy-comrades in arms, pride in a country. A man can find himself.

In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still remember with fondness the ocean spray on his face when the sea is angry. There will still come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty laughter of the seafaring men who once were close companions. Locked on land, he will grow wistful of his Navy days, when the seas belonged to him and a new port of call was always over the horizon.

Remembering this, he will stand taller and say, "ONCE I WAS A NAVY MAN"


OLD SAILORS

Old sailors sit
And chew the fat
About things that used to be,
Of the things they've seen,
The places they've been,
When they ventured out to sea.

They remembered friends
From long ago,
The times they had back then.
The money they spent,
The beer they drank,
In their days as sailing men.

Their lives are lived
In days gone by,
With thoughts that forever last.
Of bell bottom blues,
Winged white hats,
And good times in their past.

They recall long nights
With a moon so bright
Far out on a lonely sea.
The thoughts they had
As youthful lads,
When their lives were wild and free.

They know so well
How their hearts would swell
When Old Glory fluttered proud and free.
The underway pennant
Such a beautiful sight
As they plowed through an angry sea.

They talked of the chow
'Ol Cookie would make
And the shrill of the Bosun's pipe
How salt spray would fall
Like sparks from Hell
When a storm struck in the night.

They remember old shipmates
Already gone
Who forever hold a spot in their heart,
When sailors were bold,
And friendships would hold,
Until death ripped them apart.

Their sailing days
Are gone away,
Never again will they cross the brow.
They have no regrets,
They know they are blessed,
For honoring a sacred vow.

The numbers grow less
With each passing day
As the final muster begins,
There's nothing to lose,
All have paid dues,
And they'll sail with shipmates again.

I've heard them say
Before getting underway
That there's still some sailing to do,
They'll say with a grin
That their ship has come in
And the Lord is commanding their crew.

--Author Unknown--