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Sea Stories: The Color Guard


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Sea Stories:  The Color Guard

 Once in a while, major career events occur.  In 1988, I was proud to organize the retirement ceremony for a remarkable shipmate.   He was our ship’s Command Master Chief, and also its First Lieutenant (Deck Division officer).  This gentleman was a Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate, a World War II, Korea and Vietnam era veteran, and a former Navy Master Diver.  He had spent a lifetime at sea on or under the water.   (If you haven’t seen it, the movie Men of Honor with Cuba Gooding, Jr. portrays what life as a Navy diver was like in the early days.  It is worth watching.)  He had served in many capacities, including as Command Master Chief of a huge amphibious assault ship with a crew of 900, plus 1700 Marines embarked for operations.  At the twilight of his career, he had accepted orders to sea duty once more, on my comparatively small Guided Missile Frigate.

I wanted to send this incredible professional off right, honoring his many decades of service and at the same time recognizing his close association with the USMC.  It’s sad to say, but USN color guards can rarely compete for polish and precision with USMC color guards.  And I wanted the best.  So I called over to the USMC Recruit Depot (MCRD) in San Diego, and asked to speak with the officer-in-charge of the Base color guard.  In time I was connected to a Marine 1st Lieutenant. 

I explained what I was asking for.  The Lieutenant then asked why the Naval Station San Diego color guard or a color guard formed by ship’s company could not perform the task.  I explained that I wanted “the best” – a USMC color guard.  He paused, and then rather haughtily explained that “his Marines were not usually in the habit of supporting Navy ceremonies.”

I replied: “Lieutenant, the Master Chief Boatswain’s Mate I’m retiring is a World War II veteran.  He took part in FIVE amphibious invasions in that war, with several of those as an assault craft coxswain.  He’s certainly done his part supporting the Marine Corps.”  (This was absolutely true.)

After a brief pause, The Devil Dog replied “Sir, what time and where would you like us to report?”

And the Master Chief was piped over the side after a beautiful retirement ceremony featuring a razor-sharp USMC color guard.

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