Speaking of my husband, one of the navy ships he was on had a reunion here in Jacksonville last weekend. I did not know Al when he was in the navy but I have been to several navy-related events with him in the past several years. He is a life-time member of the Tin Can Sailors Association, an organization for anyone who ever served aboard a destroyer. Every year in February they have a regional bull session here in Jacksonville. They bring their memorabilia with them and relive their experiences. The wives are wonderful to be around! It is like a sisterhood; they welcome each other with open arms. We go to the Mayport Naval Base and tour one of the new destroyers. It is so much fun to see the WWII, Korean, and Viet Nam veterans interacting with the young men in today’s navy. The veterans say, “In the old days we had to check this out, and hook that up, and connect several parts to get something to work. Today you just push a button and computers do it all for you!” And the young men say, “It’s so great to meet you! You’re the Greatest Generation! You set the standard for us!” Mutual respect! And the captain of the ship sometimes invites us to go on a dependents’ cruise. Al and I have had the privilege of going on two of them. The ship goes out about ten miles in the ocean; they have a picnic on the fantail (sometimes referred to as the steel beach). Sometimes they fire off the big guns or have a helicopter come out and buzz us. The Greatest Generation, of course, refers to those who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s and/or fought in WWII.
This was the first time we were able to attend Al’s ship’s reunion. Al served aboard the USS McCaffery DD-860, which was built in 1945 and decommissioned in 1976. It was named for a brave marine who fought in WWII. And two nephews of the marine attended the reunion with their wives! One hundred and seventy-nine persons were there, veterans from all wars and their wives/relatives. I asked a WWII veteran if I could take my picture with him and told him that my father was an army WWII veteran. He wanted to know all about my dad’s service, where he was stationed and what his job entailed (Dad was in the railroad corp in Europe). There was great camaraderie and Al got to see his navy friends that he had not seen since 1965! They started talking and reminiscing as if they had just seen each other yesterday! Several activities were planned. Besides touring the navy base and St. Augustine, we visited Jacksonville’s Veteran’s Memorial Wall. This wall was erected in 1995 and has the names of all military from Jacksonville that died serving their country, listed by war and high school. There is extra space to add names of future fallen heroes, too.
Eighteen months ago, Al wrote to a place in St. Louis, Missouri that keeps all military records and asked what awards he was entitled to. As luck would have it, he finally heard back from them the first day of the reunion! And they sent him three medals, a bar of ribbons, and a star! Just in time for him to wear them to the banquet Sunday night! They looked so good on his white sports coat and he was so proud to have them. He kept asking where the admirals’ table was!
Pictures show Al and I at the Sunday night Banquet. He is wearing his new medals. The other pictures are of the Chief Petty Officers (CPO) Club on the Naval Base in Mayport. The ceiling tiles are decorated with insignias from different ships and signatures. There is a memorial to Pearl Harbor and the bell from the USS Stark. The USS Stark was attacked by the Iraqis in 1987. It was hit by two missiles and 37 men on the ship died. The Iraqis were at war with Iran and claimed they thought it was an Iranian ship.