Call it serendipity, coincidence, or just divine intervention. While crossing the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to Mt. Pleasant, SC, we saw an old NAVY ship in the distance. My husband pointed out that it was an old carrier. I was perplexed, because it literally looked like 1/3 the size of today’s modern carrier. My father, a Navy veteran, explained from the backseat that he used to be stationed on a carrier just like that one, the U.S.S. Yorktown. He further started talking about how carriers were smaller in the past, before jets, etc. When we got to the end of the bridge, we approached the tourist sign to visit the old carrier we had scene. In clear bold letters it said “U.S.S. Yorktown”. We all were shocked and started laughing at the same time. We knew we had to take a visit. My dad’s former carrier was right in front of our eyes.
My dad was stationed on the U.S.S. Yorktown in 1966 when he and my mother were stationed in Long Beach, VA. I don’t believe there is a base there anymore. This was his first duty station after he served in the Vietnam War. When we made the turn in the road and the full view of the carrier came to our sight, my dad said “I think I’m going to cry.”
The carrier was now set us as a museum with 5 self-guided tours. He immediately recognized the carrier from the outside. When we entered, not so much. He pointed out that most of the time, he was working in disbursing towards the belly of the ship and rarely went to other parts. I could tell me dad was eager to step into the self-guided tours that went into various routes throughout the ship. He is 76 years old, has had quin-bypass surgery, and diabetic. The ship was really hot with only fans in certain areas trying to keep air circulating. However, he was determined to take a look and see if he could remember anything. We took the first tour which showed us berthing areas, bathrooms, kitchens, torpedo rooms. He said it probably wasn’t exactly where he used to sleep, but it looked identical. On a separate tour he showed us rooms that looked very similar to the offices he worked in when he disbursed checks and worked in payroll. He said that where his actually office was located was probably several decks lower than what the tours allowed. However, the room he absolutely knew he had stepped foot into was the ward room. This is where the officers would dine. Was my dad an officer? No. He was an enlisted filipino. However, since he worked in payroll, he was responsible for helping disburse officer pay. Ever payday, they would go to the ward room, have lines set up for the officers, and then pay them…with cold hard cash. If you don’t know much about filipino-american history, it was rare for filipinos at that time to be doing anything else other than be stewards or the cooks of the ship. My dad however, passed the test and was allowed to handle money for the American soldiers. He even had his own safe. I’m so proud of him.
Lesson Learned: You’ve got to take a look at your past to understand how far you’ve come.