One of the major issues in North America and European countries today is immigration. Politics and basic economics drive the debate, regardless of which side one supports. Perhaps it is worth considering – by all parties – for thousands of years, new arrivals brought talent, art, foodstuffs, and skills in navigation, or farming, or just hardiness. There were no aid agencies or politicians, and the adaptable survived. Across vast distances and different continents, it is no wonder that these were first undertaken by sailors, military men, and adventurers.
Long before I became a Sailor, I recall reading the adventure of Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian zoological researcher and explorer. It was then twenty-five years after an impressive 1947 voyage his team made across the Pacific Ocean. Compared to the modern warships in which I traversed the Pacific Ocean, Heyerdahl – and by experiment, pre-Inca natives, constructed a thirty-foot boat, of reed and balsa-wood. With a banana-leafed thatch cabin and a single-mast, six men departed South America. If modern man, in a post-war world might feel exposed – a hundred miles at sea, no sign of land and no birds in the sky, what were the first explorers possibly thinking. I thought this with experience of riding a ship 530 feet (161m) at the waterline, feeling the speck he was in comparison to the ocean.
Thor Heyerdahl’s point in the mid-Twentieth Century was to test that people might have settled Polynesia not from Asia, but from the east – South America – fifteen hundred years ago. A second settling might then have come from North America- British Columbia – by way of Hawaii, five hundred years later. Through radio-carbon dating, sweet potatoes which originate in Central and South America, were subsequently (1991) found by archaeologists in thousand-year old sites in Polynesia. (Since 2005, scholars debate which group came first – Polynesians to Hawaii or Hawaiians into Polynesia).
If you have not read Thor Heyerdahl’s account, Kon-Tiki, and you have a bit of the ocean-adventuring spirit, I suggest adding this to your list. I intend to revisit his story. Perhaps while eating a sweet potato.
Some of my closest shipmates, friends, and mentors are female Sailors, officer and enlisted. Many, like me, are no longer on Drilling Reserve nor on Active Duty. Some have retired after long and distinguished military careers. Some have continued to support fellow veterans with active engagement with organizations such as Honor Flight. Some I served with are successful attorneys, realtors, and teachers. Some are corporate executives, software engineers, and human resource managers. Relatives who formerly served in the Marine Corps and others beginning careers serving in submarines.
Many of my peers in the years since the Gulf War served in war zones. Thirty-seven thousand female military served in the Gulf War, where many served in roles that exposed them to Scud attack and IEDs. Five female soldiers were killed in enemy action and two were taken prisoner. Since then, nearly a thousand female military members have been injured (843) or killed by hostile action from the USS COLE bombing in Yemen, to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. [At the time of this writing, a female Chief Cryptologist, a linguist, was killed along with two other military members and one DOD civilian in a terrorist bombing in a Syrian town.] Women actually have been in combat, have come under fire, been injured and have been killed serving in the US military since the Revolutionary War. History documents that women disguised themselves as men in order to serve since the Revolution, in the Civil War, and until physical exams were instituted in the early 1900s. Nurses were recruited before the First World War.
Beginning in 1979, women graduated from the military academies. In 1994, female midshipmen augmented the male crew of a Spruance-class destroyer, the USS PETERSON, several summers while I was aboard. Since 9/11 I have known females serving year tours in Afghanistan and Iraq, providing intelligence, communications, logistics, and medical support. However, beginning in 1993, women began serving as combat pilots and flying sorties over Iraq. In 2013, Defense Secretary Panetta lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles. The impact of female veterans serving in increasing numbers and in more front-line occupations will increase the need for physical and mental health services, more VA female providers as well as gender-specific services. One statistic indicated that the number of female service members has quadrupled in the forty years since 1973. By the end of the first decade of the new Millennium, female veterans grew to 10 percent of the veteran population.
But the bureaucracy is slow to react. As recently as 2016, veterans seeking care at VA facilities reported being mistaken for caregivers, spouses, or questioned their veteran status. Additionally, in contrast with employer-provided health plans, the VFW survey reports respondents found the VA required co-pays for preventative-care prescriptions including contraceptives.
veterans helping veterans
In a recent program, “Returning the Favor”, Mike Rowe whom many may recognize from “Dirty Jobs” fame, featured a male Iraq War veteran who runs a gym in Austin Texas, and through Make a Vet Sweat helps fellow veterans overcome Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder through exercise. It was in the course of the show, one of the female veterans served discussed her career-ending injury resulting in her own PTSD. Since the Gulf War time, I have known that female servicemembers have been in combat, risking death and injury, from hostile fire, IEDs, and terrorist attacks just as their male servicemembers have. The availability of creative therapies for working through mental health issues helps each sufferer, whether it is animals, exercise, or outreach. And may help many veterans avoid prescription drug addictions.
veteran suicide has no gender
According to statistics compiled by the Veterans Administration, of veterans who attempt suicide, the numbers of female veterans were increasing from 14 per 100,000 in 2001 to 17 per 100,000 population by 2014. This may be due the increasing number of female service members since 2001. Studies report that suicide rate decreased between 2001 and 2014 for female veterans receiving mental health services. While in the overall population, male suicide is three times greater than female, men more often use firearms while females tend to poison or overdose. In a VA fact sheet published in August 2017, female veterans who reported military sexual trauma or harassment were more likely to commit suicide than other female veterans. And overall, female veterans are more likely to commit suicide than civilian women.
marriage and divorce
Compared to civilian women, female veterans were more likely to be married while in the service, and at younger ages than their counterparts. Thirty percent of female military members were likely to be married between ages of 17 and 24, while eight percent of civilian women were. And the same veteran age group was more likely to be divorced compared to civilian women. In 2015, a study found that female veterans of all ages were more likely to be divorced than civilians, but civilians were more likely to have been divorced more than once.
healthcare and homelessness
The VFW has considerable resources and political clout engaged in support of female veterans. They commissioned a survey, from December 2015 to January 2016, with 2000 validated Active Duty, Reservist, retiree and vet respondents, on issues and challenges for women veterans. The survey found that the Veterans Administration needs to hire female healthcare providers to treat female veterans unique concerns. Lacking the personnel, the majority of the female veterans reported they were not given an option to request the gender of their VA healthcare provider.
The survey also sought information on female veteran homelessness. Four percent (72) of the respondents reported being homeless, and of these, 46 percent reported living in another person’s home (‘couch surfing’). Seventy percent of the homeless veterans had children; a third of them reported having children impacted their ability to receive care at a VA facility.
education and employment
Since the end of the Second World War, female veterans, who made up less than 9 percent of all veterans, like their civilian counterparts, who had worked in the defense industries during the war, were less likely than male veterans to use the GI Bill, or did not pursue college education due to social pressure (women in the home instead of the workplace). Studies in 2015 on the educational level and employment of female veterans indicates that they obtain a Bachelors or higher degree later in life than civilian women, are more likely to work in management, professional and technical occupations (49 versus 41 percent), and more work for local, state or federal agencies than their civilian counterparts. Twenty-nine percent of veterans work in sales or office occupations compared to thirty percent of non-veteran women. [statistics from: report, National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics, February, 2017, see va.gov/vetdata]
To inform veterans of their benefits, aid them with specific needs affecting them, provide networking for employment and business opportunities, and lobby on their behalf with lawmakers, service-providers, and the public, there are several organizations. One of the largest organizations specifically focused on women veterans is the Women’s Veteran Alliance. This national organization holds regional employment workshops, networking ‘mix and mingles’, conferences, and opportunities for businesses looking to hire veterans. See their link for female veteran “allies” (referrals and local organizations) More information is available on their Facebook page.
Since 1970, the National Veterans Foundation, its founder “Shad” Meshad, a Vietnam veteran, has been meeting the needs of veterans with mental health counseling, with three hundred offices across the country. Staffed by veterans of all periods – Vietnam, Cold War, Iraq and Afghanistan, they provide counseling and referral. All of these are located away from VA hospitals. (The reputation of VA hospitals in the last couple decades particularly among Vietnam veterans has suffered negative exposure, “new management” and political promises to fix internal problems). NVF’s counseling programs particularly with Post Traumatic Stress, according to their information webpage, were called upon after the attack on the World Trade Center in New York after September 11, 2001.
States each have their own Department of Veteran Affairs. In California, CALVET has a resource page for female veterans, from housing assistance, advocacy to employment and health. CALVET also provides resources for groups and agencies to provide support to the veteran.
The Veterans Administration has a directory of female-veteran service organizations here
Reading some of my old letters my late mother kept in her scrapbook, I appreciate jogging memories of my initial service in the Navy forty years ago. At the time, I was stuck in limbo, waiting on orders, waiting on a medical evaluation, and bored. I had spent eighteen months training for a career as an electronics technician in San Diego, in Illinois, in Florida and again in San Diego. When I had received an opportunity to attend the Naval Academy, a medical evaluation accompanying the selection board was possibly going to prevent that. In the meantime, I was assigned to support a correctional unit on Naval Training Center San Diego, to guard and escort sailors confined and others pending transfer to the Naval Brig.
“January 13 1978
I was paid this morning and I have finally got some money in my pocket after being in the depths of poverty for the last week. I’ve been keeping a budget book to account for every penny. Setting aside a $120 to send to you to save for me, I spent most of my last paycheck on a stereo receiver and headphones. I got a great deal as the stereo store said it was a trade-in and not brand-new.
I have been chugging away at BE & E. My Learning Supervisor is better at getting the material across to me than reading the book. And I am frustrated at the computer based training – that I am taking remedial tests every time.
Next weekend I am thinking of the YMCA’s military special to Disneyland – everything including bus ride and ticket, for $14.75…. “
When I read these letters I recall that my focus was split between very difficult technical training, spending money slower than earning it, having a good time, and the things a sailor thinks about: cars, girls, staying out of trouble, and so on. And taking care of my mom.
“February 18, 1978
…it’s been a week since I was home for that short visit…. I’m expecting to finish BE and E School (Basic Electricity and Electronics) in seven working days and then ice and snow! (I was scheduled to transfer for further training at the Great Lakes NTC north of Chicago) I have been trying to spend money and save it at the same time….
I bought two books ” How to Buy Stocks” and “How to Build a Fortune Investing in Land””
“July 3 1978
Class 7825C, ET/A school Bldg 520, Great Lakes Training Center: Thunder and lightning this weekend. Thank you for the ever-increasing moral support. It helps this “screw-up” when I seem to be trying and trying over these multiple -choice tests and I miss the question because I don’t put down my first choice but over think them! Why can’t I learn! Some solace in that I got my PO3 raise today. A whole $10.
Congratulations on your new friend and you both seem to be on the same “astral plane”. And my little sister has a boyfriend! She is growing up fast. I ran into a friend who is very close to a bachelors degree having taking a lot of courses through the CLEP tests. He’s looking at Officer Candidate School and making some career-connections with several officers involved in the program. He’s shared with me several of the courses and tests to take should the Annapolis thing not get accepted. Studying electronics harder will give me a mental breakdown. I need some thing different.
I looked at that Naval Academy application. I think they want someone who is a cross between O.J. Simpson and Albert Einstein, not me!”
In the year between my initial training in San Diego, and returning back to San Diego, I had been undergoing technical training and screening for a government security clearance. Between the training, standing watches, and liberty in Chicago and Milwaukee, I was also trying to figure out if I could afford a TransAm like one in the movie Smokey and the Bandit. It was nearly eleven thousand dollars. I couldn’t. I did learn a lot about weather. Playing pool in the barracks. Guys who were playing some role-playing fantasy called Dungeons and Dragons. A summer music festival at the Navy Pier in Chicago. And working on cars. Being in the best physical shape of my life while in Pensacola, Florida. Running several miles a few times a week that started from a dare between roommates in the barracks while attending CT – school. A circuit of the base, inside the fence was about four miles. We would run it twice a night.
“Letter dated August 2 – 5, and 8, 1979
It’s the second day of August, and in one day following the
most insane twenty-four hours I have yet spent at TPU (ed: Transient Personnel Unit), I think I shall be ready for the funny
farm very soon.
Let me tell you some of the the goings-on at our “Hotel California”. Yesterday, we got a new boatload of lunies (sic) plus one who is trying to put one over on us that he’s nuts, and he is getting my goat.
Another case is my boss Chief Heller. His retiring soon and he continues to drop in
on Bldg 23 if only to holler and cuss everyone.
It is just as if he’s giving out a daily dose of castor oil.
Still another example was last night’s supposed-to-work-flawlessly relief of the day watch. A PO1(Petty Officer First Class) who knew he had duty never showed up, and despite all my efforts couldn’t be found anywhere on-base. No one knew who I was looking for- even though he was supposedly assigned to the same working area! So, as a result, an overworked PO2, a good friend of mine, was forced to stay all night as well as his morning workday.
In addition, I was forced to work late (a 13-hour day) which
it turns out shall be my regular working hours.
It was either that or work 10 hours plus have an extra watch in TPU
every three days.
Today was continued insanity when, in the early afternoon, one of our “mental” cases went berserk and smashed a wood-covered (barricaded) window with a chair. He demanded to go to the brig or he would do more damage! It’s a good thing I don’t sleep there- I don’t know if some night I might get my throat cut by one of these scumbags.
Tonight I went to the PO Club with two friends, George, who works in the NTC Police/Decal Office, and June who also works there. We all had a good time. But what occurred later is interesting. Well, June got very drunk, I was sober and George nearly so. June had to be talked into being escorted to her barracks. George (who went with her) in her car and I followed behind in mine. June wandered all over the road at speed and I sped up to catch her. And out of the dark an NTC (Naval Training Center) police vehicle pulled ME over. Luckily, he was a friend but since I was “rocketing along” at 20 or 30 MPH, he wouldn’t let me drive back to TPU. A quarter-mile walk later I was sober; June was the one all over the road – I’m sure the cop saw her. That will be the last of my “good Samaritan” gestures.
August 5, 1979
Yesterday I finally bought the 10-speed bicycle I was [going to get you] shopping two weeks. I’m sure you will love it, as a matter of fact I wanted to buy one for myself from the same people. Now I have only one detail to work out and that is how to get it home. Two possibilities are open to me, but I don’t know how much it will cost me to ship it, so if you don’t mind I am going to wait till I hand-deliver it.
In other news I have been heartened by a lot of mail, especially yours and from Nana, but I’m going through a lot of ups and downs. I’m almost at the end of my rope as far as this Restriction/ CC (Correctional Custody) “babysitter” job goes. Today I got yelled at for these a@#$@#$ goofing off even as I have been trying to imitate Attila the Hun with them .
I’m starting another entry in the ‘journal’ after putting the
pen down for two days. I am just putting down thoughts as they come to mind. My
mind is awfully screwed being run ragged.
I think I will drop this topic in favor of other topics to ramble on
Tomorrow I’ll begin packing a few things for the trip to San Francisco and I’m going to hopefully make a weekend out of it. What is your reaction to the earthquake this week? It think it is about time for the city to fall into the sea?
It’s all a bit tedious. I’ll hopefully be home sooner or later. “
These letters bring back some of the missing names – and the memory -recalling the faces of those Chiefs at TPU. These memories seem as fresh as having occurred yesterday. The more I recall of those months in school, in training, and time at the transient barracks, I am amused by the complaining, angst, self-righteousness, stubbornness, and shock of having to work long hours. In this particular letter, the reference to “Hotel California” my mother probably would have missed – her musical taste was stuck in the early 1960s and she never heard of the Eagles. But I was fortunate that my mother, who pursued a second career as a college English teacher around that time, and worked a full-time nursing job, never pointed out my ‘overworked’ complaints. As I look back after forty years of military and civilian jobs – on my youngest co-workers and their peers – their complaints about fairness, working conditions, and emotional safe-spaces are more their age than something “we” never did.
Becoming an expert in any specialty in the military takes time. The nature of military assignments is such that individuals transfer and often take that expertise with them! This is particularly aggravating in the specialties that relate to service members career and health administration. Because the military is a large bureaucracy, with volumes of policies, regulations and procedures for virtually everything, obtaining answers to specific situations is very difficult.
military service and service-connected disabilities
If you are on Active Duty getting close to your EAOS, a veteran with health issues possibly connected to your military service, or transitioning or enlisting in the Reserve as a veteran of Active Duty, you may find the following example from actual experience helpful. This example is from a family member, a former soldier, who in the last year and a half of his Active Duty enlistment was plagued with shin splints, and an injury that incurred during training in a military culture that treats infirmity as a lack of physical and mental toughness. In most respects an excellent soldier, medical complications and the command climate influenced him to not consider re-enlisting.
From the author’s experience, the process of post-enlistment transition is much improved since the 1990s. The Army referred the soldier for transitional job training, and recommended him for a re-enlistment eligible discharge at his End of Active Obligated Service (EAOS). But there is some ambiguity in that transition. Whether assumptions made or questions went unasked, the service member knew that an initial enlistment contract in the military was a commitment to eight years of total service. Three, four or six years of an Active Duty service and the balance served in the Active or Inactive component of the Reserve. But it is apparent that the soldier was not aware that inactive or IRR service was the default to serve out the balance of the contract. In an inactive status, the service member does not drill nor receive compensation, but annually is only required to inform the military of any changes in status or address.
evaluation by the VA for disabilities
However, as part of the soldier’s transitional assistance he was recommended to go to the Veterans Administration off-post to be evaluated for the medical conditions resulting from, or aggravated by, military service. Once processed out of the Army and possessing a DD214, the official record of military service for veterans, the Veterans Administration determines he has a service-connected disability. Further, the severity of the disability finding is such that the veteran receives a 100 percent rating and compensation for injuries and illness sustained while in the military service.
Can a disabled veteran still serve?
There are different categories of service-connected disability, and either the service branch or the Veterans Administration may determine a disability exists. Unless the member or his command requests a Medical Review Board prior to the service member’s discharge, and the service branch makes a determination, the veteran can go to the Veterans Administration for a medical evaluation. Either may result in a finding of service-connected disability which may be eligible for compensation.
the DD214 is key to benefits and reenlistment
There is no prohibition on its face, for a veteran receiving compensation from the VA for a disability to reenlist in the Reserve component. For the military branch, the re-enlistment code on the DD214 is the clearest indicator of eligibility. Getting a clear answer from the military service representative is difficult. As any veteran can attest, expertise is a rare commodity. Rumor, half-answers and lack of knowledge dominates. The individual affected or a specialist, like a service-organization (VFW, DAV, or AL) representative, may find the answers more readily.
Unless a veteran is in receipt of a classification of 100 percent disability / unemployable, a veteran receiving compensation for 100 percent disability, may serve in the Active Reserve, unless the Reserve determines that the member needs to be medically evaluated and screened for enlistment. This apparently can become, unintentionally, bureaucratically cumbersome, where the member cannot receive military pay and a VA compensation. Suspending ones compensation, or a finding by the military branch that the members disability rating is less than what the VA has determined, can be confusing at best.
U.S. military veterans of past conflicts have the same opportunity to receive care and compensation for disabilities incurred or aggravated by military service. While some medical and service records have been damaged or lost from a several decades-old fire (1973) at the national archive when records were stored on paper, most veterans have access to records that assist them when requesting benefits. Current policies evaluate a list of symptoms, dates and locations stationed with compensation – or medical-treatment- eligible illnesses.
Even a finding by the Veterans’ Administration of a Service-Connected Disability, rated at 0 (Zero) Percent, allows the veteran to obtain benefits for herself or her family. It can be reviewed and re-evaluated based on additional evidence, including civilian medical records documenting conditions a physician attests to military service. Many times, a veteran has received benefits that retroactively are granted back to the period of the veteran’s discharge.
If there is one piece of advice that any service member or veteran should heed, it is to get evaluated. Physical and emotional ailments can be treated before they cause further disabilities. Suicide among veterans, homelessness, PTSD, and drug addiction are among the most severe problems affecting men and women who
no substitute for becoming informed
Visiting or becoming a member of a veterans’ service organization is the best source for information to support a veteran of the armed forces. (Spouses can also become auxiliary members of these organizations.) The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) are the most well-known. Vietnam veterans and Iraq-Afghanistan veterans have service organizations as well. They have expertise, first-hand experience and the resources to assist veterans with claims to the VA and benefits the veteran may be unaware of. And personally becoming educated is no less important. The following links are reference material to support obtaining a medical discharge, supporting a veteran’s request to change military status and official records (DD214), and understanding the policies and options for a veteran. The veteran in this example is still working through the bureaucracy, though VA compensation has continued uninterrupted.
No method of procedure has ever been devised by which liberty could be divorced from local self-government. No plan of centralization has ever been adopted which did not result in bureaucracy, tyranny, inflexibility, reaction, and decline. Of all forms of government, those administered by bureaus are about the least satisfactory to an enlightened and progressive people. ….. –Calvin Coolidge
According to information I gleaned from a thorough scrub of several websites, a Reservist who has retired from military service under the normal circumstances (not a disability retirement) has to request payment of retirement pay beginning at age 60.
For someone who has a current DOD identification card, this may be less of an exercise than I have encountered to date. But for a “gray-area Reservist”, a member who received retirement orders pending receipt of pay after age sixty, this posed questions I thought best to get answered before I made some errors and had to resubmit.
You may never have dealt with a bureaucracy the size of the Department of Defense or the Veterans Administration. But if you have ever dealt with a local planning board or other agency, you may have some idea. Prior experience online directed me to look at the official Bureau of Naval Personnel (BUPERS). When I found the proper sub-department for Reserve retirees it directed me to another website. And a third. I used the telephone at last and actually reached a live person quickly. While the representative was able to locate my record, she could not tell me other than what I already knew. When I did find a couple forms online, editions more than sixteen years old, it seemed this information was what they already had on file.
The BUPERS website directed me to solicit assistance with retirement questions from the local military support office; I drove over to the military office that had served me while in the Navy Reserve nine years earlier. After a lovely chat with a senior enlisted personnel clerk, I spoke with a career counselor for a “package” that would include material needed for retirement pay requests. After waiting in a line, I found that all “retired” reservists like myself had to go through, yes, BUPERS, for these retirement pay questions.
I did catch one tidbit of information. The Department of the Navy is about a month late in a reported ten-month window prior to the member’s sixtieth birthday, sending a package of everything the bureaucracy needs before making payment. I will make another call to BUPERS this week to find out whether this “package” has been mailed. I probably will go back to the VA for a disability re-assessment. When dealing with a Government bureaucracy, blood pressure, headaches, dizziness, and muscle fatigue are common. That’s gotta be worth something?
For me, if I have done my duty, the continued approbation of Congress and the Marine Committee will make me rich indeed, and far more than reward me for a life of service devoted from principles of philanthropy, to support the dignity of human nature. John Paul Jones
when you tire of the b#@@s&!t
In recent months I have been thinking of retiring – again. A few of my civilian friends do not want to retire because they associate it with an early demise. A few of my industry peers cannot retire because they have expenses that they cannot afford without working. But other friends, military retirees, private sector employees, businessmen and other with thirty years or more years in the state or federal system, decided they were financially, and mentally, ready to retire and did so. Of course, an important consideration for retiring, besides financial security, is having interests that keep a retiree involved. While a boat sounds tempting to while away time in my old age, I think I will prefer buying a ticket to go cruising rather than paying for maintenance and dock fees.
making good choices
I am rather fortunate in that I have a portion of my retirement plan based on a twenty-six year career in the Navy. While a little more than half was spent on Active Duty, the remainder – and in fact, on the date I retired, I was a Selected Reservist. For the twenty years that have preceded my turning sixty and eligibility for retirement pay, I have been working in the private sector, accumulating 401K investments and paying down a home in California. Much of this has been supported and augmented by my spouse having a well-paying career. And putting off “keeping up with the Joneses” that so many others have fallen into. From studying and application from numerous financial educators, advisers, and both good and poor examples in your ‘circle’, almost everyone who plans carefully from their earliest working years – or with arduous self-denial and fiscal obsessiveness in later, higher-salaried years can retire with some degree of security.
war, sea duty and broken service
I applied to go back on Active Duty, in the same rating I had originally entered the service in the late 1970s. For the next thirteen years, I had traveled the world, but the bureaucracy and politics regarding advancement opportunities and changing personal goals inspired a change. I left the service at the end of my enlistment in 2000. But a few months later, I enlisted (again) in the Navy Reserve! To sum it up, I retired with almost 26 years of service as a Senior Chief Cryptologic Maintenance Technician,. But as a Reservist, the retirement system is calculated not to pay the retiree until he or she turns 60 years of age.
Second, the retiree must file for her retirement stipend on or after age sixty. The unique feature of Reserve retirement, is that the service member who is eligible for and requests retirement after 20 good years – the Navy sends a statement to each member when they have qualified – can transfer to the Retired Reserve without pay until age 60. Retirement is calculated as though the member continues to remain on the service rolls. The retirement calculator uses the Active Duty member’s base pay – in effect for their final paygrade – at the time one starts drawing payment. One other caveat determining the pay calculation is whether the service member entered military service initially prior to September 1, 1980. Those retired Reserve members like me, will receive their pay calculation based on the paygrade held at the time of retirement. All enlistees after September, 1980 retire have their pay calculated from the last three years of service regardless of their final pay grade, divided by 36 months.
Additionally, when a service member retires, it is worth all the bureaucratic tape, to file for review by the Veterans’ Administration for any potential Service-Connected Disability rating. Even a finding of a connection, but a rating of zero – the condition is not posing debilitation in health at the present time – is able to help those members through other benefits. In California, children of a service-connected disability -veteran or retiree, are eligible to attend a UC or CSU university-system school tuition-free.
For more information
DOD Military Reserve retirement compensation information
Navy Department website for Reserve Retirement. (Each service branch has similar sites.)
Application for retirement pay upon reaching age 60, DD Form 108
There’s kind of a Zen aspect to bowling. The pins are either staying up or down before you even throw your arm back. It’s kind of a mind-set. You want to be in this perfect mind-set before you released the ball. – Jeff Bridges
My church has started an outreach and special support ministry for Active and former military veterans and their families. Supporting the deployed Sailors and Marines, serving their families in the area, and sharing the Word of God with others is a privilege. Cutting up at the bowling alley on the Naval Base is just pure family fun.
There are things I thought about when we first talked about going bowling as a first “activity” for our growing group. An odd cult movie I watched twenty years ago, “the Big Lebowski”, which starred Jeff Bridges and among many inappropriate themes in that film was a lot of bowling. Just thinking about it, I have to repent again!
But bowling or pool or darts were a few of the activities that I could join and never get overly concerned about my lack of skill and just enjoy the friendship. Probably a couple dozen times over forty years I’ve been to bowling alleys, half of the time while in the Navy and the other half, as a teen, or as a post-forty year old adult family man with other families in our church fellowship. However, this was the first time we gathered to bowl as part of a “military ministry”.
Most, well all, of us absolutely stunk as bowlers. But we know from scripture, where two or more followers of Jesus are gathered, He is with us. So I have some hope that Jesus will help us with our game. Whether knocking down pins or gaining new friends and saving a few souls in the process.
The United States Navy turns 243 on October 13th. And one of the nation’s most cherished – and still active – icons of naval heritage, the frigate USS CONSTITUTION is a little more than 220 years old.
To mark this occasion, as well as the other services on their annual birthday, my employer honors veterans in our workforce. This year, as a result of some unexpected events, I was offered the role of the “emcee” for the after-work celebration. Cake, some “refreshments”, sea stories, and naval lore and trivia for employees in attendance who had not served in the Navy.
And I entertained our friends with a little monologue and trivia.
Important dates in history
OCT 13 1775 Continental Congress authorizes construction of a Naval force.
April 1798 creation of the Department of the Navy
1797 USS Constitution launched
1803 -1805 Barbary war
1812 -1815 War of 1812 “Old Ironsides” defeated 3 British warships
Nautical and Naval lore
Which of the following are true?
The ditty bag used to be called a “ditto bag” because there were two of everything in it.
The flaps on crackerjacks were designed to keep hair grease off the back of the uniform.
Navy logs are named for the timber from which the paper was created.
Boatswain’s Pipes originated in ancient galleys. One whistle meant “row.”
“Chits” are named after Hindu slips of paper used in lieu of silver and gold.
Uniform stars have “two points up”, instead of one (like you see in the flag) to symbolize the Navy’s defense of both coasts.
Broadside is a large sheet of paper.
“Cup of Joe” (coffee) comes from “the cup of Jonas.”
A tattoo of a pig on one leg of a sailor and a rooster on the other is a charm against drowning.
The term “sick bay” originated in ancient times, when hospital ships (called “immunes”) would accompany Caeser’s legions and were kept far from battle, normally in the calm waters of a bay.
The only time 12 bells is sounded is at midnight on the Navy’s Birthday and on New Year’s Eve.
S.O.S. stands for “Save Our Ship.”
The P in P-Coat stands for Pilot.
False (the custom has no known origin)
False (named after Josephus Daniels – he’s the Secretary of the Navy who abolished alcohol on Navy ships in 1913.)
False (early hospital ships were called “immunes”, but the term “bay” comes from the round shape of ship sterns, resembling a bay.)
False (only on New Year’s Eve)
False (it doesn’t stand for anything)
True (Pilot cloth or P-cloth was the fabric from which they were made.)
This was compiled from the NavyTimes Broadsides blog (Jeff Bacon), from The Goat Locker, the Naval Historical Center, GlobalSecurity.org, and Wikipedia.
Fun facts: (USO.org)
David Farragut, was the first admiral in the United States Navy. He coined, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”
Bravo Zulu means “well done”
Through World War II, sailors who did well were told “Tare Victor George,” which was code for “well done.” After the war, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed and it standardized communications. NATO created a system of B-flags for administrative communication. The last B-flag was BZ. The Allied Naval Signal Book created the phonetics for each letter and BZ became Bravo Zulu.
The Chief Petty Officer rank was established on 1 APRIL 1893
Depiction of fouled anchors, in decoration, in the Chief Petty Officer insignia and in body art:
If an anchor is fouled, it means the line or chain is wrapped around the shank and fluke arms. This indicates the anchor is no longer suitable for use. These retired anchors are usually displayed for decorative purposes on base or in Navy communities. The symbol is also part of the Chief Petty Officer rank insignia. When used in body art, the fouled anchor represents a tour across the Atlantic Ocean.
Before everyone today under the age of fifty started getting tattoos, the history of tattoos and the symbolism had a long nautical tradition. An article describes significant tattoos, along with what each item means.
Swallows:Home (each denotes 5,000 miles at sea)
Compass/Nautical Star:Never losing one’s way (each denotes 10,000 miles at sea)
Rose:A significant other left at home
Twin screws or props on one’s backside:Propels one forward through life
Dolphin:Wards off sharks
Polar bear:Sailed the Arctic Circle
Dragon:Sailed the Pacific
Fouled anchor:Sailed the Atlantic
Turtle:Crossed the equator
Gold dragon:Crossed the International Dateline
Gold turtle:Crossed the International Dateline and the Equator where they intersect
Emerald fouled anchor:Crossed the Prime Meridian
Emerald turtle:Crossed the Prime Meridian and the Equator where they intersect
Full-rigged ship:Sailed around Cape Horn
Pin-up girls:Company at sea/port call
Hula girls:Sailed to or ported in Hawaii
Dagger through a swallow:Signifies a lost comrade
Pig and chicken:Superstition to keep from drowning
The words “HOLD FAST”:Signifies a deckhand’s tight grip on the lines
A long time ago I was a young sailor. On a couple of occasions I recall seeing a Chief Petty Officer wearing his Dress Blues, and the hash marks (service stripes) on his sleeve ran from cuff to his elbow. One time I saw a Second Class Petty Officer in his dress blues who I joked crewed with Noah, by the years represented on his uniform. More often than not I would see “red” instead of the “gold”. For those who are unfamiliar with hash marks, or Navy uniforms, these once represented four-year periods of service (now they represent 3-years). After twelve years of “good conduct” – we earned a “Good Conduct” medal/ ribbon for each four-year period – we had the right to wear gold-threaded rating badges and hash marks on our service blues – either the “Cracker Jacks” for junior Sailors, or the Chief’s Dress Blues.
The Chief pictured here, and in particular, the Master Chief (the rating badge with two stars, red stripes, and hash marks to his elbow) seems to be a shipmate of mine from the days of Sail. However, he screwed up somewhere. Probably chewing out a junior officer over one of the Sailors – or stupidity that the Officer committed. And he didn’t get punished badly. He just didn’t earn a “Good Conduct” ribbon somewhere in the previous twelve years!
But you do not become a Master Chief Petty Officer by being a screw up. Or a “politician”. We could use a few more of these “Salty Sailors”, particularly in our universities and halls of Government. But then they would never earn gold hash marks. Too much stupidity. Too many opportunities to cuss out kids, professors and politicians for unprofessional conduct.
The practice of medicine is a thinker’s art the practice of surgery a plumber’s. Martin H. Fischer
There’s not too much concern in my neighborhood with the dangers at sea. No real danger from collisions ( unless a Cessna on approach to the airfield makes an improbably short landing). There is no danger of grounding. Likewise, the chance of sinking is very slight at a few hundred feet above sealevel. And until I attempted tonight to replace the fill valve in my toilet, I never considered flooding.
As a homeowner, and a technically proficient electronics engineering technician, I tackle most maintenance myself. Unless my wife is at home, in which case, I will opt to call someone to do maintenance. Some tasks are a little complicated in an old house whether replacing a dishwater fill line or tinkering with the gas water heater. With my wife on travel visiting the kids, I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to replace an annoying toilet fill valve. For a “water-saving” device, the last valve I installed has required two or three flushes routinely, and sometimes a manual intervention to the tank.
Tonight, my famous last words were “it’ll only take five minutes”. I studied the new valve. I even consulted YouTube. Simple job. But the line into the tank – at the bottom continued to drip onto the floor even as I tightened the nut. I gave in and removed the valve with more water going on the floor, needing to grab several towels, and getting sprayed from the line as I did not shut the valve from the main all the way. The job called for and resulted in a few choice “Sailor” expletives after assembly and the tank still had a small leak.
The man who has experienced shipwreck shudders even at a calm sea. Ovid
I was about to resort to calling my neighbor when I noticed one small failure. I had installed the rubber seal under, not inside, the inner (tank) seat of the fill valve! And in my zeal, I had nicked the plastic nut which would cause leaking as well. Fortunately, the old unit had a pristine nut that I was able to reuse. The Damage Controlman and the Hull Technician can stand down. Flooding in the compartment has been cleaned up. General Quarters is secured. All hands can get back to their Saturday evening.
I was planning to start preparing to paint the living room this week to surprise my spouse. It would not take that long as I have all the tools, tape and drop cloths. I have a couple days to call in some “expert” help before my wife returns. On second thought, I shall postpone this Intermediate Maintenance Availability for another time. I will not set a watch, but I think it prudent to check the compartment for flooding in the morning.
In naval terminology, and in many other workplaces, the twenty-four hour clock is used. The first hours of the new day are called “zero” as in “zero-thirty” or 1230 AM, or “zero -three hundred” for 3 AM. Sailors have a particular term for the mid-watch, between midnight and 4 AM, the “balls to four” watch.
Personally, I prefer the ‘balls to four’ than the ‘zero-four to eight’ watch. Because I was often working till late into the night aboard ship, and then getting a little rest, only to be wakened at 0315 to relieve the off-going watch by 0345. And as you get older you appreciate sleep more – I stood most of these watches in my early Thirties. I was just into that deep, wonderful place, seeming moments before someone roused me for my watch.
This morning, Tuesday, is one of those mornings! For the briefest of moments around 3 AM, I was in my sweet spot. And then my wife, who is boarding a flight today at “zero six” to visit the grandchild (and his parents) stirred me. For the briefest “Inception” (the movie) -like moments, I was in my rack with some Sailor shining his flashlight telling me it was time to relieve the watch. ARRRGH!
My wife is mostly a light-sleeper. I am one not by choice nor biology. I was on standby to drive her to the airport should our son (the one who does not work the nursing Third Shift) fail to arrive at “oh-dark-thirty” to pick Mom up for the airport drop-off.
Well, the son did make it. Mom’s got her mother and son time this morning. I’ve had two cups of coffee and been blogging for an hour. What the hell? It is going to be okay. I will get at least seven nights of solid sleep before I pick her up coming back.
Two retired Chief Petty Officers meeting over cigars one evening were only casually known to one another. Two other veterans and two others, a high school wrestling coach and an auto mechanic were all enjoying the late afternoon absently watching a baseball game on the television. As the cigar burned to a nub, the two salt- and barnacle-encrusted old seafarers became fast friends. It is the shared experience of Navy life. Deployments, wartime, and good and lousy beer five thousand miles away from home. Sharing stories of Red light districts and Shore Patrol. Looking out for our shipmates who may have enjoyed liberty a bit much.
When did you serve?
Went to bootcamp, in San Diego, in ’77.
Oh, I went through RTC in Orlando in ’78. I retired in ’99.
Shellback ? Oh yeah, I remember those @#$# shelaylee (shillelagh)
Went through 3 times. Wog first deployment and then Shellback for the next two crossings.
They used GREASE! Took forever to get it out of my hair. @#@#$@#!
Did away with it ten years ago. Sailors just aren’t tough anymore.
What about Chief’s initiation? They are bringing it back? Great.
It was a great life.
Yeah. It was a great life!
Gotta be moving on. CINCHOUSE is expecting me.
Underway. Shift colors.
Our other pals looked quietly confused; all they heard was gibberish.