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I like the Navy. I like the sound of taps over the ships announcing system, the ringing of the ships bell, the
foghorns and strong laughter of Navy men at work. I like the ships of the Navy - nervous darting destroyers,
sleek proud cruisers, majestic battle ships, steady solid carriers and silent hidden submarines. I like the
workhorse tugboats with their proud Indian names: Iroquois, Apache, Kiawah and Sioux - each stealthy
powerful tug safely guiding the warships to safe deep waters from all harbors.
I like the historic names of other proud Navy Ships: Midway, Hornet, Princeton, Sea Wolf and Saratoga. The
Ozark, Hunley, Constitution, Missouri, Wichita, Arizona, Iowa and Manchester, as well as The Sullivan's,
Enterprise, Tecumseh, Cole and Nautilus - all majestic ships of the line. Each ship commanding the respect of
all Navymen that have known Her, or were privileged to be a part of Her crew.
I like the bounce of Navy music and the tempo of a Navy Band, "Liberty Whites", "13 Button Blues", the rare
72 hour liberty and the spice scent of a foreign port. I like shipmates I've sailed with, worked with, served
with or have known: The Gunners Mate from the Iowa cornfields; a Sonarman from the Colorado mountain
country; a pal from Cairo, Alabama; an Italian from near Boston; some boogie boarders of California; and of
course a drawling friendly Oklahoma lad that hailed from Muskogee; and a very congenial Engineman from
the Tennessee hills.
From all parts of the land they came - farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England - the red clay area
and small towns of the South - the mountain and high prairie towns of the West - the beachfront towns of the
Atlantic, the Pacific and the Gulf - All are American; all are comrades in arms - All are men of the sea and all
are men of honor.
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 extended time at sea
drags; the going is rough on occasion. But there's the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the devil-may-
care philosophy of the sea. This helps the Navyman - The remembrances of past shipmates fill the mind and
restore the memory with images of other ships, other ports, and other voyages long past. Some memories are
good, some are not so good but all are etched in the mind of the Navyman - and most will be there forever.
After a day of work, there is the serenity of the sea at dusk. As white caps dance on the ocean waves, the
sunset creates flaming clouds that float in folds over the horizon - as if painted there by a master. The darkness
follows soon and is mysterious. The ship's wake in darkness has a hypnotic effect, with foamy white froth and
luminescence that forms never ending patterns in the turbulent waters. I like the lights of the ship in darkness -
the masthead lights, the red and green sidelights and stern lights. They cut through the night and appear as a
mirror of stars in darkness. There are rough stormy nights, and calm, quiet, still nights where the quiet of the
mid-watch allows the ghosts of all the Sailors of the world to stand with you. They are abundant and
unreachable, but ever apparent - And there is always the aroma of fresh coffee from the galley.
I like the legends of the Navy and the Navymen that created those legends. I like the proud names of Navy
Heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John McCain, Rickover and John Paul Jones. A man can find much in
the Navy - comrades in arms, pride in his country - A man can find himself and can revel in this experience.
In years to come, when the Sailor is home from the sea, he will still recall with fondness the ocean spray on his
face when the sea is angry - There will come a faint aroma of fresh paint in his nostrils, the echo of hearty
laughter of the seafaring men who once were close companions - Now landlocked, he will grow wistful of his
Navy days, when the seas were the largest part of him and a new port of call was always just over the horizon.
Recalling those days and times, he will stand taller and say: "ONCE I WAS A NAVYMAN!"
About the author. After completing a tour of duty, Master Chief Hughes was attending Denver University and wrote "Once I Was A Navyman" as a course requirement for English 102, more than 40 years ago. Several versions have appeared on the internet. I have deleted the version I had displayed here in favor of the current version provided to me by its author. Although we have never met in person, communicating with Ed makes me feel like I have known him forever. That's the way Navy friendships are. An undescribable comradery that exists no whereelse. If you have never been aboard a Navy ship, you really have missed something. The luminance and sunsets of the Pacific he refers to, are truly spectacular. If you have enjoyed this writing as I have, please send Master Chief Hughes (Hughes235@aol.com) a little note, I am certain he will be happy to hear from you. Walt