There are families and there are families. One family apart from my biological family that I think I treasure the most is my Navy family going back to when I was a Navy Brat and the friends of my parents who were in fact another family. These were people that my dad served with at various times, mostly though from our tour in the Philippines that remained lifelong friends through thick and thin now for close to 50 years. In my own life I have serve in the Army and the Navy. We have a couple that we have known since my first month on active duty that we stay in contact with and hope in the near future to see again. Marty and Sue are part of my Army family we served together in Germany and I expect that we will remain friends the rest of our lives. Then there is my Chapel family from Fort Indiantown Gap Pennsylvania many special people, some now with the Lord some of whom wrote letters of recommendation for me to transfer from the Army to the Navy.
I entered the Navy in February 1999 and there have been people that have been part of our lives since early in my Navy career. We will be seeing one of our best friend’s son’s graduate from high school next month, hard to believe how young that he was when we first met. Judy loves both of their boys and we have been fortunate to share many special occasions with them. I also have friends that I have known since coming in the Navy. Some are fellow Chaplains and though our careers have often taken divergent paths when we get together it is like yesterday. In an institution where denominational barriers and distrust sometimes disrupt relationships these are special relationships. Today during a training session aboard Camp LeJeune I was able to meet up with some old friends, many like me who have or are going through periods of great trial and pain. I was able to share a couple of beers with one dear from my old denomination who was here from out of town for the training. He was still shaking his head about how I had been tossed from the denomination and the subsequent events and scandal associated with the Bishop who had tossed me and the stories from others in the denomination who believed what the man had said about me. He told them that it couldn’t be true but many did not know me as well as he did and evidently believed the lie. Even so it was good to see Dean again and I hope that we are able to meet again sometime soon. Another friend that I saw is going walking with his wife through her terribly painful cancer treatments. These are friends that I know if I need that I can go to and be honest.
Some are former shipmates from the USS HUE CITY CG-66 and Marines from any of the number of Marine Corps units that I have served and my friends EOD Group Two and from the Navy Medicine Community at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth and Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune. I have baptized their babies, married them and been their when death took a spouse, counseled regarding personal, marital or spiritual issues many times long after we served together. I have been able to stay connected and I am happy to be their “Padre” or simply “Chaps.”
Yesterday I conducted the funeral of a retired Navy Master Chief and I talked about the Navy family and how important it was. There were many heads that nodded in agreement when I talked about this. I got an e-mail from the son of a man who was one of my parent’s closest friends in the Navy. I mentioned Frank yesterday during the funeral how he had been my dad’s Chief and sponsored us in the Philippines nearly 50 years ago. He sent my mom an e-mail about a chance to the ID card system yesterday, a Yeoman he never missed administrative messages. His son contacted me this evening on his e-mail account to tell me that he had passed away early this morning and asking me to contact my mother.
After I responded to the e-mail I called her and of course she was shocked and she wondered what would happen to Frank’s wife who has been chronically ill for many years. Frank took care of her. He had a heart attack about 10 days ago and when he got out of the hospital he was told to take it easy and even stay off the internet. He didn’t listen and he had to stay involved in the lives of his family as well as his Navy family. He has been an encouraging person to me in my ministry as a Priest though he was a conservative Roman Catholic. He prayed for me and cared and I am sure that he will keep praying for me now that he is with the Lord.
While this was going on a sailor from a previous command popped in on me on Facebook regarding a pressing family matter. Another friend from Marine Corps Command and Staff College and Iraq responded to a friend request and sent me a couple of messages and another friend from the past chimed in on a humorous post that I had placed on Facebook regarding Osama Bin Laden’s Facebook account. Another sailor who referred to me as the “Anti-Chaps” when I bought beer from him and some other sailors on a liberty call and stays in regular contact. What can I say? I do like the nickname.
What I find wonderful about my Navy family is that they have been there for me and my family over my entire life more so than most of my non-immediate biological family. Those that don’t know this because they have not served in the Navy or another military branch of service are missing so much. For most it isn’t politics, religion or even if they are Dodgers’ fans we share a common bond serving in war and peace that transcends everything else. They are my friends and I am their Chaplain or friend. It is a most wonderful fellowship far better than most churches will ever known.
It has been a long day there were other things that happened in caring for Sailors and Marines over the past couple of days, some things that I can assist and others that I can only pray for and offer some guidance.
I am also exhausted by some of the commentators on the David Wilkerson article in which I postulated that his death could be a suicide. It is amazing how nasty some people can be when you even suggest that their idol was a human being. Likewise I made the mistake of getting involved in a discussion with some pro-life activists who had to throw abortion into the death of Osama Bin Laden and been frustrated with how fellow Christians are wringing their hands about the killing of that perfidious bastard who killed so many of our people. The lack of moral clarity in these people who see the world in black and white dualistic terms and ignorant of philosophy, ethics and history as well as the nasty gray areas of life really pisses me off. Tomorrow I should get a good PT session in after physical therapy and play ball in the evening. Thanks be to God.
I’m now finish a big glass of Riesling and getting ready to prepare for tomorrow. Thankfully I have an appointment with my shrink in the afternoon.
Pray for me a sinner.