Saturday, August 15, 2009

America's newest sailors

GREAT LAKES, ILL -- Graduation from navy boot camp is a big deal. Anyone who attempts to negotiate the roads leading to Naval Station Great Lakes on Friday mornings would know that first hand. Just getting there is half the deal.

And we had it easy, or so we thought. Normally 15 divisions -- between 70 and 80 soldiers per division -- graduate each week before heading out to specialized training schools around the country. Friday only 10 divisions were involved in the ceremony. Zachary James Smith is one of the Navy's newest 731 sailors.

We also had a courtesy van driver who knew what he was doing. With traffic backed up nearly two miles on Green Bay Road, he took an alternative route that got us from the hotel to the base in 20 minutes.

Left to my own devices, I'm not sure what music I would have chosen to play along the way. Maybe some John Phillip Sousa marches to get in the mood? Our driver was playing an FM station that offered (besides some really loud commericals) these songs:

Revolution, The Beatles
One Way or Another, Blondie
That's All, Genesis
Rock of Ages, Def Leppard

And somehow those seemed appropriate.

The ceremony itself lasts only an hour, with much patriotic pomp, circumstance and genuine emotion. And the music, including a stirring rendition of the Navy Hymn, will put you in the spirit of the moment.

Eternal Father strong to save
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!

It's a pretty special event seeing your kid for the first time after eight weeks of basic. But the time was too short -- shorter than his new haircut. After we visited with him briefly a second time at Midway Airport, he was off to Pensacola to really learn the knots of this Navy thing.

Anchors aweigh, my boy.


  1. Congrats to you and Zach.

    FWIW, my father, who joined the Navy the day he turned 17 in 1948, loves Sousa marches. Would have been an excellent choice.

  2. That playlist sounds about like what I heard from a Bulgarian cover band last night in one of Abu Dhabi's several "Irish" pubs.
    Everything from Country Roads to Hit Me With Your Best Shot ...
    Tell Zach we are all pruod of him. And if he's ever on a ship in the Persian Gulf, I'll be sure to givehim a wave from shore!

  3. my dad was in the Navy. Always liked those guys.