A young sailor aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima was roused from his rack during the early morning hours of April 9 and told to report to the “Goat Locker,” the gathering hub for esteemed members of the chiefs mess.
Weary and confused, Electrician’s Mate Fireman Alex Morton staggered into the center of the room, where he was instructed to sit in a chair surrounded by unfavorable-looking chief petty officers.
“Do you know why we brought you in here?” one master chief asked.
Morton, slightly apprehensive, insisted he had no idea.
“What do you know about some hazmat being thrown over the side last night?” another chief questioned.
“I don’t know anything about that, master chief,” Morton replied.
“Well, somebody saw you do it,” said yet another chief, “and he’s in this room. Take a look around.”
Scanning the room, Morton soon picked out the familiar face of a command master chief from among the disapproving glares of the others.
As the young Morton’s eyes met his, CMDCM Jon Morton, Alex’s father, stepped forward to embrace his son, and the previously grave confines of the Goat Locker erupted into jovial celebration.
The senior Morton, who serves as the command master chief of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, flew out to the ship to surprise his son while the junior Morton caught up on rest after working the previous night shift, a Navy release said.
“It’s a great experience for me to be able to see him,” the CMC said. “I’m obviously very proud of him.”
Despite the initial interrogation, the now-exuberant Morton said he suspected it was a possibility after being called to the chiefs mess.
“I threw my coveralls on, and I was like, ‘why would I be called to the Chiefs Mess?’” he said. “But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. ... Having my dad on the ship was amazing.”
After a memorable, albeit brief, reunion, the father and son posed for a photo before it was time for the CMC to depart the Iwo Jima and return to Djibouti.
As the elder Morton walked up the ramp to the flight deck, he reflected on the significance of the rendezvous.
“This is my last deployment and his first,” the senior Morton said. “So it’s very cool to be able to do this. It’s like that one-percent shot in the dark. It doesn’t happen very often.”
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.