Hello again, folks. My unit has moved from San Diego to Fort Dix, New Jersey. We arrived at 0530 Sunday and were greet by some of the stickiest conditions I have felt since attending an August funeral in Houston some years ago. So much has happened in those four days that it feels as though we have been here a month; more on that later.
For now, at the risk of sounding too much like a mindless Bush crony who supports all things military all the time, I want to share a another story with you. It moved me in such a way that I am unsure I can replicate on paper. For the entire week in San Diego, we went through a long, tedious and seemingly endless evolution of processing. It is handled by Navy Mobilization Processing Service (NMPS) – San Diego. The staff at this place, made up of officers and enlisted personnel, perform this procedure every week with little if any in the way of positive recognition. It is a vital but thankless job. This staff just keeps pushing ahead. When sailors, weary from the mounds of paperwork, inoculations and endless waiting become terse, they remain respectful. After an often tense and exhausting week (and remember, Friday was the 4th of July), they personally arrived on Saturday afternoon in full uniform to see that we made it from Naval Station San Diego at 32nd Street to the military air terminal at Coronado. Busses and a cargo truck had been previously arranged and we were certainly capable of making the short trip without their help. And yet, there they were; going that extra mile for many who had lashed out at them this past week in rash moments.
We left on the busses at 1700 and arrived at Coronado about three hours before the scheduled departure. Once again, the staff of NMPS followed us in vans and waited the entire three hours with us at the very Spartan air terminal. Finally, before boarding our aircraft at 2030, they asked us to form a single file line. Then, the Commanding Officer of NMPS, followed by her Executive Officer and two Chief Petty Officers went down the line and greeted each of the 111 members of our unit individually. They stopped. They shook our hands. They thanked us for our service. They told us to be safe. Finally, they told us they expected to see each one of us a year from now and promised that we would enjoy the experience much more the second time through. I could feel the sincerity in their handshakes and the genuine concern in their voices. The whole thing choked me up a bit. I appreciated the fact that fellow sailors recognized and respected our commitment and our service.
We boarded the plane and I took a seat near the aft starboard side in an aisle. After about 25 minutes of waiting to take off, the shipmate to my right pointed through the window. There, off about 200 yards in the distance, was the entire staff of NMPS standing in the opening of a hanger bay door, in formation and at attention, facing our plane. They had been standing there since we boarded the aircraft. If I wasn’t choked up before, I certainly was now. As we at last began to taxi, we turned a full 180 degrees. I made a point of looking across to the port windows, trying to catch another glimpse of the NMPS staff. As we passed by their position, they snapped up a salute and held it as they passed from my sight. Now I was struggling to hold back a tear. I am fairly certain that only two of us on the plane even saw this event. They rendered the highest of respect to their fellow shipmates as we began our deployment, keeping themselves deep in the background all the while. I don’t believe I have ever been more proud than at that moment to serve my country. It is because of people like that that I have continued in the Reserves all these years after my active duty tour. They aren’t doing what they do for money or recognition; they are simply serving a cause bigger than themselves and are doing it with grace and honor.
I contemplated these thoughts at 41,000 feet as me and 110 other sailors crossed the entire country in the middle of the night. These husbands, wives, mothers and fathers are all putting their personal lives on hold, heading into the unknown and serving something greater than themselves. I love this country and I love these people.