ENTRY 14 | December
Box Car Willie sang "The winds of yesterday," I recall my
first Christmas overseas.
was on my first ship, the USS Boone FFG-28,on a six-month deployment
in the Persian Gulf. It was hot and it did not feel like any holiday.
When you are at sea, you can go into holiday mode, but the work still
must be done. The food still has to be made. The engines and all the
ships functions still have to be monitored and we still have to maintain
our readiness afloat.
About a month before Christmas, the helos started bringing in big
bags of mail, more than I have seen ever come in for a ship of 250
people. Our storeroom for paper products was being taken over by the
XO (executive officer).
It seems most of the mail was going in there. As I was working 12
hours on and 12 off as the night baker on the ship, I really didn't
worry too much about it all; after my shift I just wanted to get a
shower and hit my rack.
was baking on Christmas eve night when all of a sudden the XO showed
up at O-Dark-Thirty. He took all of my people assigned to KP duty
(or, as they were known then on the ship, Mess Cranks) and took them
all to the store room. On the mess decks (dining area), they put up
a tree and decorated it. Here the entire storeroom was full of presents
that family members had mailed to all the sailors onboard. It was
great! Even my shipmates who did not have family had a gift under
Family members back in Jacksonville, Fla., our home port of call,
made sure everyone onboard was to receive a gift and the XO made sure
that wish was carried out, even having some extra gifts sent to the
ship, just in case; everyone was covered. Christmas morning came.
I was to get off shift as soon as breakfast was over. The Crew came
down for chow and saw all the gifts. Everyone was chomping at the
bit to see what was there. They were trying to look at the gifts to
see who they were for.
something was not right! The gifts did not have names to indicate
who they were for, nor who they were from! Crazy, right? The XO assigned
each member of the ship a number, then the cards and gifts were assigned
a number. Then the XO let each member bid on their gift, like an auction.
It was not set in dollars, but coins. He called out who it was from
and then the bidding started. It was great!
we all got our gifts and paid maybe 25 cents or so for our gifts,
we got the card. Then from that you took your number on the card and
found your gift under the tree. The money that was collected all went
to a children's charity.
gift was from my Mom and Dad. It was great. All these wooden puzzles
that, once apart, it took forever to put back in the proper shape.
After I figured each one out, I put the puzzles in our break room
in a small box. Everyone who came in for a break sat and worked on
these crazy things. They made their way all through the ship.
then we did not have Internet, cell phones, or other gadgets. The
TV supplied any movies we got. The same movie played on all TV's.
It was set by those geeks who took care of the computers. So you always
had to be nice to them if you wanted something special to play.
all of my Christmases past, even with me so far from home, this seems
to be the best Christmas I can ever recall; a gift that kept on giving
hours of entertainment for an entire ship so far from home.
shared what they could. Everyone shared the letters from the cards.
Maybe we were so far from home, but home and Christmas came to us!
if the winds of yesterday blow through our minds and our hearts this
holiday season. This breeze still warms me somewhere that no way no
how can be blocked.
Christmas to everyone!