Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Friends Birthday....

A friend of mine has a birthday coming up. She’s a good friend and is lady enough that it would be rude of me to write down her age. Suffice it to say that I have known her for close to 3 decades. She is one of those strong American women that managed to raise a fine family in spite of hard times like going through a divorce while fending for herself and providing for her kids. I have always admired her because she has a strong moral character, a sharp, dry wit and a rare streak of pure honesty. She has never been afraid to say or do what she feels is right and, although she has the ability to be tolerant and diplomatic, she doesn’t hesitate to cut through the nonsense to make a point. Friends come in all shapes and sizes. We all have good friends, close friends, casual friends, fair weather friends and acquaintances. I’ve known thousands of people and been able to call hundreds of them friends, but only a few are truly close friends. There are very few people who are willing to listen to your problems, even though their own may be far greater at any given moment. She is one of those people. She is special.

I first met her In the Naval Sea Cadet Corps. I was commanding officer of a Sea Cadet Squadron at Alameda Naval Air Station in California, the Hancock Squadron (VT -19). Her son was one of our cadets and she joined the squadron as an Administrative Officer. In those days the Sea Cadet Corps was jointly sponsored by the Naval Reserve and the Navy League and there were very few regulations to guide us. We had a small number of parents and service members who volunteered their time working with the cadets. We were responsible for teaching the cadets the basic military requirements (pay grades E–1 through E–3), and arranging to send them on various training ‘cruises’. We also had to find ways to outfit them in uniforms (everything from Dress Blues to working dungarees) because federal law prohibits the Navy from providing these things to the cadets. On top of that, we had almost no direct financial support (the year I took command our annual operating budget allotment was $300 which wasn’t even enough to pay for the phone and coffee). It was a crazy time and we were a real maverick kind of outfit. As Administrative Officer her job was to keep track of all the paperwork, files, inventory and records. In those early days, there were just enough regulations to tell her what needed to be done but not a word about how to do it. When I took over the squadron it was down to 12 cadets and the records were almost nonexistent. There was almost no classroom training and the cadets were lucky to get a little close order drill in the afternoons. Morale was terrible and our Navy League sponsoring council was even talking about disbanding the squadron. Most people coming into those conditions would scream, turn and run away as fast as their legs would carry them. She was not most people. She was great. She rolled up her sleeves and set to work. We put in many, many long hours and gave up almost every weekend without pay (and without much thanks). The squadron officers all worked hard and then got together at the “O” Club or at my apartment afterward for swapping stories and plotting ways to get more things done. Nine months later we had tripled the number cadets, had a really good classroom training program. We even managed to secure uniforms for everyone. They gave us awards for being the best and most improved sea cadet unit in the 12th Naval District! It was a lot of hard work but we had a great time and because we had to get ‘creative’ to get some things accomplished, they still tell stories about some of our more colorful exploits.

I left the squadron in 1980 and moved away from the bay area, losing track of just about everyone in the process. 15 years later I was working as a marketing manager for a company in Southern California when I got an e-mail from her son wanting to know if I was “the guy who had commanded the Hancock Squadron” all those years before. Shortly after that I drove up to the bay area and we had a small reunion. Ever since then I’ve spoken to her on the phone almost daily. She has been a true and consistent friend. She is always there with a cheerful voice laughing at my stories and always ready with good advice. Her friendship is something I treasure and will always be grateful for.

As for her son, the one who had been one of our cadets, he went on to have a very impressive career in the Navy and retired recently (which makes me feel very old for some reason). He is married and has a good life (living not far from his mother). He is one of those nice people you just enjoy being around. She has good reason to be very proud of him.

So, I just wanted to take a moment to say “Thanks” and - Here’s to “M”, “The Lady of the Lake” – May you have a great and happy birthday followed by many, many happy returns!

1 comment:

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Ugh, mushiness!

Mom says, "Sounds like a eulogy..."

She is touched that you thought of her so kindly. We had a laugh, this afternoon and for a moment, we went back in time.

Have a happy christmas and joyful festivus.

DC Cat