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'Happy birthday, shipmates!' Some love, and wisdom, from an old salt

Oct. 13, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  

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[Editor’s note: Senior staff writer Mark D. Faram wanted to share why the Navy birthday is important. Faram spent nearly 10 years on active duty as a photographer’s mate, serving first on the carrier John F. Kennedy, and then in diving billets as a second class diver. Send your own birthday message to navylet@navytimes.com or post them to facebook.com/navytimes.]

Today is the Navy’s 238th birthday, and I intend to celebrate.

It’s the 36th birthday since I raised my hand and recited the enlistment oath on Sept. 27, 1977, and my service still matters to me.

The Navy is constantly changing. It’s bringing in new ships and aircraft while others are becoming obsolete. The Navy of today doesn’t look at all like the Navy of 1775. And if we could see 238 years in the future, “our” Navy won’t look a thing like it does today, either.

But what hasn’t changed in all these years, and what will never change, are shipmates. My best friends on this planet to this day are those I served with while wearing Navy blue. Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Bill Gunther, and PH1 Harry Gerwien — I’m talking about you guys. You are my brothers from other mothers, but you were shipmates, first.

I like to consider the Navy birthday to be “Shipmate Day” — it’s about celebrating those you served with. What makes the Navy is the people: the white hats, the chiefs and yes, even the officers.

The same goes for those I’ve left behind across the years. I won’t forget you, ever.

There’s Master Chief Photographer’s Mate Mark Ball. We checked into A school together in 1978. We were very different people, but we were shipmates, and that bonded us together. I lost you over a decade ago, but I still carry your memory today, shipmate!

You, too, Senior Chief Thomas Pompillio. You died of bone cancer in 1982, but not until you left your stamp on my life and career. You believed in this wild, young sailor, even after a stint in the brig. You proved it by sending me on to C School just a couple months later. And you approved my request to become a Navy Diver and lived to see me win that pin, too. We buried you off our old ship, the aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy, but you’ve really never left me.

So I’ll leave you all with this. Love it or hate it. Whether you served or are serving a part of the Navy ... the Navy is a part of you.

It’s to you, my shipmates, who I raise a glass to today! Happy Birthday!

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