Before joining the United States Navy, I gathered with family and friends for a traditional Thanksgiving. For me, Thanksgiving was a time to reflect and be thankful, enjoy a hearty meal and the company of others. The following is a Sea Story about my first Thanksgiving in the Navy.
On November 26th in 1971, I reported to my first ship, the USS Tripoli LPH 10 – three days before Thanksgiving. There were approximately 700 Sailors and 1,200 Marine Corps personal onboard, and I didn’t know a single person. Our ship was in port at Subic Bay in the Philippines, and I had the duty on Thanksgiving, which meant no off-ship liberty. It indeed appeared there wouldn’t be much to celebrate my first Thanksgiving at sea.
However, God had a different plan that day. I would come to learn a new meaning of being part of a family, a military family. The Chaplain onboard the ship organized an early morning Thanksgiving day scripture reading, and the Navy and Marine Corps cooks prepared a feast including turkey, ham, hamburgers, and pizza. The senior Navy and Marine Corps officers and senior enlisted joined us on the mess decks to enjoy the feast. And later that day, we watched a holiday movie on the mess deck.
Despite having duty, being thousands of miles from home, and not knowing a soul, my first Thanksgiving onboard a Navy vessel turned out to be a wonderful and memorable experience. The memories of that day are as fresh this Thanksgiving as they were fifty-odd years ago.
May God bless our military personnel, both domestic and abroad.