When I was younger, much younger, much much younger I had three good friends. We did a long of great things together. Some of which, due to my uncertainty regarding the statute of limitations, I will not publish. We were split up, by choice or by fate during our high school years. One was a Senior in High School, one was a Junior, I was a sophomore, and the other was a Freshman. As we each graduated, we went about our ways. Bob (I call him Bob because that’s his name) joined the Navy. He became a FBM Submarine Sailor. I, two years behind him and feeling the pressure of the possibility of being drafted to fight in Vietnam spent my Junior and Senior year thinking about how I was not going to fight in that so called war.
The Draft Lottery began the year before I turned 18. When the time came to draw the numbers for my draft year my number came out so high that there was no chance that I would ever be drafted. Due to circumstances in my life, that weren’t going as I expected I did just what I said I would never do. (Hint: Never say Never). I JOINED THE NAVY. What I didn’t know was that I would end up in the same Submarine Service as Bob. And not only that I would end up with the same job rating as him, and that he would get out of the Navy before I set foot on a Submarine.
I’m not sure how long Bob spent (years) in the Navy, but I spent 11.5 years in the FBM Submarine Force. Sometime around 2008-2009 I began to think about the Navy, my old home town, my life, my old friends and all the “things” we did together. And in 201o I wrote my father asking him if he knew the whereabouts of these guys. At the same time, as a result of some weird Internet thing called Face Book, Bob found me. And about a week later, after writing my dad, I got an email from him saying .. In reply to your question about the 4 of you, you’ll never guess what happened yesterday. Dave showed up at my door and we talked for a long time about you guys when you were kids. After almost 39 years after we last hung out together three of us had re-connect via email and face book. It tool another 6 months to find the 4th.
During an email exchange about some things and some medical aliments we had had during these years, BOB mentioned something about an aliment he had experienced. Then he made reference to “THE WORST HANGOVER HE EVER HAD” in which he stated it was when he was in the Navy and drank his Dolphins.
And not to be out done, I replied with the following (censored):
THE TALE OF TWO HANGOVERS
Somewhere early 2009 I got to thinking about the Navy Days. Started Looking things up on the internet about the Boats I served on and the Tender I spent my last 6 months on and found the Tender in the Ship Grave Yard, and SSBN 622 and SSBN 656 had been decommissioned and disassembled. I even found the exact grave yard where the Nuclear Reactors are buried. That caused me to think even more. Guess it was kinda of a “pass the time” escape from the crap that was going on in my family life at that time (a story for another day.) So I spent time looking on the internet for anything I could find about shipmates, Guided Missiles School, Sub School, RTC San Diego, Charleston, SC, Holy Loch Scotland, Rota Spain, Kings Bay Georgia, Coco Beach Florida, and more. Brought back a lot of memories that I didn’t even know I remembered.
Of the 11.5 years I spent in the Navy, I would say I probably enjoyed and I mean really enjoyed about 4 years of the time. And as comedian Steve Wright said in one of his joke punch lines – NOT ALL IN A ROW!
During the entire time I was in the Navy I refused to get a Tattoo. I didn’t want to have anything placed on my body that I could not remove. But, as time went on from 2009 to 2010 the Navy times kept coming back to me. It’s what they call Euphoric Recall. The really bad and depressing times during those 11.5 years seemed to disappear and all I could remember was the good times. And what made it easy is that I wasn’t in the Navy anymore, although I still have dreams about it. As the the saying goes, you can take the sailor out of the sea but you can’t take the sea out of the sailor. So I made the decision to have my Dolphins and Patrol Pin permanently tacked on.
Dolphins & Patrol Pin
(FBM SAILORS SEE DISCLAIMER AT THE END OF THIS POST)
And Now For Tale #1
Situation – Evening before the final exam, to be followed by Graduation, to be followed by Catching a flight on the wonder puddle jumping Pilgrim Airlines to JFK Airport and Flight to Back to Nebraska for 2 weeks leave.
Requirements for this to happen – HAD TO PASS THE FINAL OR ELSE BE HELD BACK A WEEK AND TRY AGAIN.
People involved – Myself and a shipmate who I went through Boot camp with in San Diego, who I flew from San Diego to JFK to Groton with on a red eye flight Directly, without passing GO, from Graduating from Boot Camp.
Dave Henderson was his name. About my height, about a 100 lbs heavier (all muscle) and hailed from Alabama. And there was no doubt by his accent that he was a Red Neck shit kicking SOB.
During the 4 weeks of Sub school, and because I no other clothes than Navy Uniforms and that was because [DELETED] [DELETED] my recruiter and sold everything I owned. I had no transportation to go off base so I spent my days attending class and my nights at the Enlisted Club with Henderson.
So, since this particular night was our last night in Groton and we had a final exam, we decided that we would take a cab to New London and find a quite place to cram for the Exam. And so we did … Sort of.
We ended somewhere in New London in a Bar (bet you didn’t know that was coming). Ordered a beer, sat in a booth and commenced studying, another beer, more study, another beer, studying. another beer..slurring
By this time the place had filled up, music was playing, and wouldn’t you know it (or I should have figured it out myself) it was a redneck country western shit kicking bar.
Henderson started talking to everyone, and it seems anyone with an accent from Alabama in a Red Neck Bar can either get along with anyone or get into a fight with anyone.
By this time I was beyond feeling any pain. I went up to the bar to order another beer and sat next to some guy. He was drinking what looked like a Bloody Mary. So dumb ass me looked at him and his drink but said nothing.
He turned to me and made me a bet that I could not refuse (or at least was unable to at that time). He said – BET YOU CAN”T DRINK ONE OF THESE! I said, what’s the bet. He said, if you can’t drink it you have to buy me two.
Well shit, I was a sailor … I could drink anything! And I did! And it wasn’t a bloody Mary. I think it was about 2 shots of vodka and the rest was Tabasco sauce. And I downed it like a sailor. And this meant he lost and he was out of a drink.
And then IT HAPPENED! He was out of drink and wanted revenge. And I remember the words that spewed out of his mouth. Words that changed the rest of the night.
HE SAID – “I BET YOU CAN”T DRINK FIVE OF THESE!”
I replied – “BRING ‘EM ON!”
I recall downing drink #5. And the next think I remember is waking up in my bunk in the barrack with about 5 minutes to Shit, Shower, and Shave before I had to be in class to take the Final Exam.
As I was hurrying to accomplish the feat of just getting there on time I passed no less than 10 people, each of whom had to stop and explain what part they played in getting me from the front gate of the base to the bottom of the huge stairway that passed the school building, those that helped me up half the way up the stair case, those that helped my up the second half, those that helped me up the stairs to the second floor of the barrack and those that helped me on the top bunk. To this day I have no idea how I got back to the base, but was told it was by cab, and I have no idea if I or someone else paid the fare.
I didn’t have a hangover when I took that test because I was pretty much still sloshed. And the good lord must have been looking over me, because I passed the test. And I recall, when taking it, I could not even comprehend what the question was asking.
My hangover didn’t kick in until I was on the 20 passenger, airplane with non retractable wheel, flying over the water toward JFK Airport in a wind so strong that in order for the plane to fly South West it had to fly due south to compensate.
But alas I made it to JFK to Catch my flight to Nebraska and I cured that hangover at the bar with some red colored vodka drink, and made to back to Lincoln, with the plane landing hours before I descended.
(or how the Chief Radiomen Lost His Hardbacks)’
Place: Newport News Ship Yard and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, VA
Date: Oct 1977
Qualified Submarines in the Ship Yard. Was presented my Dolphins by the CO during a ceremony at morning muster on top of a barge next to the pier. Knowing of the rituals that follow this, one of which is tacking on your dolphins, which means all those who are qualified Submarines get to congratulate you by hitting you in the chest. Well not the chest, but get to punch your brand new shiny dolphins, while you are wearing them. I have seen people being punched so hard that the dolphins bent to a point where the dolphin’s tails actually touched each other. And the proud recipient of this congratulatory event had bruises on his chest that remained for weeks. Me, being the smart low-key 2nd class Petty officer that i was and known to be highly allergic to pain, had devised a plan of total avoidance of this tradition. Since I was not the only one to be given my dolphins that day, I was able to avoid the tacking on situation by casually leaving after muster with my jacket zipped up and headed back to the ship to take the watch in the Combination Locked Secure Navigation Center.
And it worked.
This was the time when of Naval History where a sailor was expected to work hard and play hard. And submarines had a reputation of playing harder than surface pukes —- I mean sailors.
The gate we used to enter the Ship Yard was Gate 3. There was row of restaurants that line the street leading to Gate 3. Well let’s say a row of bars that made the Main Drag of Friend Nebraska look like the shiny glamorous main drag of Las Vegas. One bar in particular, was a bar owned by a Vietnamese family or families. A family would immigrate to this country, buy the bar from the family that owned it. Run the place for a few years, then sell it to the next incoming family. And they Named it GATE 4. And the USS JAMES MONROE SSBN 622 supported this place by it’s donation which in appreciate for that donation they gave us beers.
So that night, like all nights, when you didn’t have duty, you went out Gate 3 to Gate 4 and spent the evening drinking beer, playing pool, screwing with the jute box, chasing sailors for the other subs out and enjoy the free Deep Fried Chicken Gizzards and Liver Hors Devours. And I, assuming the congratulatory statute of limitations had not worn out, made it to the bar, in civilian clothes with no dolphins on, thinking that would detour those who wanted to tack them on.
Couple of pitchers of beer, a few games of 8 ball, and bunch of Hor Devours and having a good time! UNTIL THE CHIEF OF THE BOAT ARRIVED!
After he had few under his belt, the Master Chief Machinist Mate announce the festivities were to begin. The Old Ritual of Drinking your Dolphins Of course and I, who was not feeling any pain at that time and was not in fear of physical pain, was all game for this part of the celebration of qualifying submarines.
It was my turn to drink my dolphins. Except I didn’t have them on or with me. So the COB (Chief of the Boat) ask if anyone would donate theirs for the cause. No one volunteered so the COB volunteered the Chief Radiomen.
The tradition was that should you drink your dolphins successfully, you keep them. Drinking the dolphins successfully means you drink all the contents of the picture of beer and catch the dolphins in your teeth
The Chief Radiomen Donated his. However his Dolphins were Hardbacks. The coveted type Dolphins that were not the cheap hollow back shiny tin ones that they gave out then, but the ones the had in the 50’s and 60’s that were solid and no longer made.
So they prepared the Pitcher. Filled it to the top with beer, added a good healthy half a bottle of ketchup, half a container of Mustard, some steak sauce, some Tabasco sauce, some pepper and other ingredients I did not see, and topped it off with some salt that made it foam. Then the Chief Radiomen took off his dolphins and as he dropped them into the picture said “I want these back and I’ll give you another pair of hollow backs to replace them”. As I stood up on the Bar in front of everyone, and just before I started to drink my potion I said in a voice that everyone in the bar could hear … “You want these back after I drink them? NOT A SNOWBALLS CHANCE IN HELL!” And I did it! Drank it all down, and caught them in my teeth. Put them in my pocket and I still have them today.
What I omitted was, that prior to doing this the Chief corpsmen (DOC) made me promise him that after drinking the Dolphins I would got directly to the Head and PUKE. Funny thing was, after drinking that crap, I didn’t feel like puking. He followed me to the head, I shut the door and made some puking sound, and came back out and Partied on.
I must have one hell of a liver, because the full force of the amount I drank combined with the other ingredients didn’t hit me until about an hour later on the way back to the boat. I managed to make it almost to my rack before I had to divert to the Head and – put things in their proper place. After that was done,I still didn’t feel to bad, UNTIL I WOKE UP 6 a.m. I was sea sick the entire day, and the ship was in dry dock!
I spent the next few days avoiding the Chief Radiomen. He’d gotten pretty sloshed that night and I finally convinced him that I had given them back to him and he must have lost them.
And he was the only one on the ship that didn’t know that that was a SEA STORY!
And that’s the way it was …. Oh for those you that don’t know what a Sea Story is, well it’s like this. A fairy tale starts with “ONCE UPON A TIME”, and a Sea Story starts with “THIS AIN”T NO SHIT!” What follows after that is essentially the same!
(Disclaimer: There is an error on the Patrol Pin Pictured. I failed to pay full attention to the graphic I submitted for this Tattoo. The Tattoo shown indicates that I made 23 patrols. I made 3 patrols, 2 shipyard overhauls and a DASO. The Silver Stars shown should be round holes. So if no one noticed, Disregard this Disclaimer!)