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The Dining Out

Tonight was a lot of fun.  I went to our 2009 Naval Medical Center Intern Class Dining Out. Now for those that do not know what a dining out is I must take some time to in the words of Ricky Riccardo, to “‘splain it to you.”

Dining outs, and their counter part the Dining in go back to the times of the Roman Legions, when the officers of the Legion would get together to honor to honor individuals or units.  In these events they would recall campaigns and battles, shared hardships and parade the booty from their campaigns.   Transplanted to Northern Europe the Viking and later the people of Britain. The Viking War Lords gave a new shape to these feasts.  Of course the Vikings, like the Klingons were quite the people for a hearty celebration of victory.  They ensured that the feast was something special. “These celebrations saw all clan members present with the exception of the lookout, or watch. Feats of strength and skill were performed to entertain the members and guests. The leader took his place at the head of the board, with all others to his right and left in descending order of rank.”  Transplanted to England the tradition further developed with the various councils of knights such as the Knights of the Round Table and the lesser known Knights of the somewhat Oblong Table with One Short Leg.

For those who are clergy and somewhat put off by such displays, we too have a hand in this.  The monastics of Europe had these types of events.  The clergy of course, being the learned educators of the day spread the custom to universities.  Professional British officers who graduated from these universities carried the tradition to their units where they became more developed.   Thus to all the officers who find these functions a waste of time or money, you can blame your chaplain.  He or she may not have any idea about this, but hey, you can call them out.

The tradition grew in Royal Navy and Royal Marines and was transplanted to the American Colonists.  These traditions continued to grow and prosper until Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, a strict prohibitionist who definitely could not spell or even comprehend the concept of martial camaraderie and fun banned alcohol from US Navy ships in 1914.  The following World War, Great Depression and the Second World War contributed to its dormancy in the Navy.  The Marines kept the tradition of the Mess Night alive and by the 1950’s the tradition also began to return to the Navy.  The Air Force adopted the Tradition from the Royal Air Force while the Army had such events from the beginnings of their Service in the Continental Army.

The Dining In is something shared among the members of the Mess themselves.  The Dining Out can include spouses or other civilian and military guests from outside the Mess.  The two are very similar in most regards including an opening invocation by the unit chaplain, in our case tonight yours truly.  It is followed by other events such as the National Anthem, the parading of the beef, the testing of the beef by “Mr Vice,” the formal dinner, toasts and remarks of the guest speaker.  During the event there are certain infractions that can cause a member of the Mess to be fined or to have to partake of “the Grog.”  The Grog, depending on where you have a Mess Night can be quite an experience.  The Grog has its roots in the mixture of watered down rum and added citrus (to fight scurvy) aboard ships of the Royal Navy.  The daily ration of rum, or Grog was perhaps one of the few pleasurable moments for sailors and Marines on warships of the 18th and 19th centuries.   When I came in the Army in the early 1980s the grog was quite the witches brew, usually a nearly undrinkable concoction of whatever alcoholic beverages Mr Vice might decide to mix together.  I do think the grog has become a bit tamer over the years, but it still can have a good effect on the violator of one of the rules of the Mess.

Tonight’s event was as I said the Dining Out for our Intern Class.  They will be graduating in about two months, some will remain with us for residencies or go elsewhere in the Navy for their residency, or go for three years to be a Flight Surgeon, Diving Medical Officer, or General Medical Officer in the Fleet or with the Marines.  I have gotten to know a lot of these young men and women through my contact with them on the ICU or Pediatric ICU during good times and bad times.  I love being around them. They work hard.  Interns at our medical center spend about 79.5 hours a week in house, I’m sure some do more because they need to do research and study all the time they are there.  Some will end up in Iraq or Afghanistan in the next few months, they all are to be commended on their work in this year.

Tonight was a really good night.  I even missed a home game at Harbor Park to be at this event, but it was worth it. Unfortunately the Tides dropped their first game at home this year after 9 consecutive wins, losing 4-1 to Durham. Norfolk left 7 runners in scoring position.

Now my day in trying to get ready for the Dining Out got sporty as far as my uniform went.  In fact things reached Ludicrous Speed this afternoon as I tried to get ready for the event.  As a Lieutenant Commander I have to wear the Mess Dress Uniform.  A formal, black tie uniform complete with cummerbund, miniature medals, bow tie and jacket. It is a very sharp looking uniform, but it has a lot of moving parts.  I had to re-do my medals as I have picked up a few since the last time I wore the uniform before I went to Iraq.  I now do this myself and discovered during the process that I was missing a medal and a couple of devices to affix to a medal as well as some hardware to put things together.  After two trips to the uniform shop at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek I thought I was ready.  I was wrong.  I mounted my medals and got them on my uniform.  So far so good.  Then I discovered with under two hours until showtime that I was missing the gold, studs to my formal white shirt.  They were in my office sitting on my desk.  I had a choice to make.  Do I go to my office at the medical center and take my chances with the traffic and the bridge tunnel, which oh by the way is closed east bound for re-paving, or do I make a third trip to Little Creek?  I opted for the latter figuring that I could get dressed in the dressing room of the uniform shop after I got the studs.  The ladies at the store, who now had become used to me showing up every other hour were gracious.  I bought the studs and started to get dressed.  Then I discovered that I did not have shirt stays to keep my shirt from riding up. Putting on my cargo shorts and Birkenstocks which did not go well with the black socks which I had just put on, I wore my formal pleated shirt with the aforementioned items and bought the shirt stays.  I was now absolutely sure that this would be it.  I got my uniform on and put on my jacket.  To my astonishment and disbelief I noticed that my button and chain set which are used to fasten the jacket were missing.  Yet another trip to into the store and to the cash register before I could safely pack my stuff and race across the town to get to the Spirit of Norfolk on which the Dining Out was to be held. I felt like an idiot, something that I am not in the habit of feeling as I made each trip to the cash register at the Uniform Shop, I’m sure that the ladies got a kick out of my antics.  I could almost see such a thing happening to George Costanza on Seinfeld.  Serenity Now!

Peace, Steve+

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