This isn't a typical blog post, but it just sort of seems to fit me. It's not so much about writing though... :)
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my time in the Navy. Something you’ll notice is most people that were in the military are very proud of their service. It doesn’t matter what happened during their time, they're proud. Whether they're proud of their brothers/sisters in arms, their awards, or the places they’ve been to, doesn’t matter. You see these as experiences that we cherish. Me personally, well, I even cherish the bad times.
Not many people know this, but Veteran’s Day is my favorite time of year. It’s the day that I celebrate being alive. Sure, I love holidays, any holiday, but Veteran’s Day is special. I take that day off every year to do something special. I give back. It’s the one holiday that’s so amazingly special that I want to share it with everyone. It’s not just my day though. Some years, I volunteer at a food pantry; others, I build birdhouses with kids, and some, I find a deserving someone that I don’t know that well, and give them something special. A gift that they’ll never forget.
I’m extremely proud of my time in the Navy; however, I lost numerous friends. People that I cared about were just gone… Sometimes, it was through a transfer (orders), sometimes, it was from Separation (meaning their time was done), and others… I miss those the most. When you’re in the military you try not to think about that third option. It’s too much to bear at such a young age. In fact, I enlisted at 17. However, it’s something that’s always in the back of your mind.
When I was still just a babe, there was a funeral aboard our ship. I was on an aircraft carrier, which is basically its own city. We have a ship’s store, two mess decks (cafeterias), gyms, etc. There’s no pool though, despite the joke played on newbies. No McDonald’s either. Anyways, I remember it like it was yesterday… Standing there listening to the bells. A burial at sea is a very special occasion. This one was an elderly gentleman and his family was there. Their sadness was overwhelming. This mainstay in their life was gone. They had loved him for so long…
A burial at sea is full of tradition and ceremony. It involves full dress uniform, flags, etc. A prayer was read and tears were shed by both Sailors and his family. Sailors have our very own prayer. We also have our own creed. To lose one of our own is heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter how old they are. The bells though, they were what broke me.
On the ship we had this old fashioned bell, exactly like the ones on wooden ships. It’s about three feet high with its stand. The bell is shiny, many man-hours went into giving it that shine too. The sound it makes… that sound never leaves your soul. It digs deep and refuses to shake free. Even close to ten years later, I freeze at it’s sound. The same thing with Colors (the lowering of the flag), which signals that the day is done. It’s played at funerals too.
When that bell sounded I decided then and there that I would live my life the best I could. Before that I had never considered what I wanted when I got out of the Navy. It’s amazing the things that change our lives. For me it was the sound of a bell at a burial at sea. It gave me the strength to survive overwhelming odds and make something of myself. At the same time, it reminded me that life was important. Life was meant to be celebrated. Life was meant to be cherished… I picked Veteran’s Day to celebrate life. It was fitting for me I suppose.
Hopefully, as Halloween comes upon us you will know that life is meant to be celebrated and will celebrate it to the best of your ability. For me those celebrations come in helping others. For you, it might be spending time with family. Each person has their own bell…