Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Week In Waterloo

In case you haven’t noticed (or read my last post), I’ve been gone for a few days.   Judy and I were in Waterloo, IA, for my ship’s reunion.  Now don’t be a putts like I was and make jokes about Waterloo being the vacation capital of the continental U.S.  The place was great.  The people are the friendliest and most helpful group of citizens I have ever met.  We were interviewed by the newspapers and will be holding an on-air interview tomorrow with an area radio station.  Some of you may know that Waterloo was the home of the five Sullivan brothers killed during WWII when their ship, USS Juno, was sunk.  So they considered us ‘like-minded’ family.

   (Bob and Mrs Bob - My Pals From The North)

Judy and I went in a day early so that we could meet up with my pal, Bob and his awesome wife, Mrs. Bob.  We had dinner and went back to the hotel lounge for a beer or fifteen.  Not really…not with them anyway.  They are responsible citizens who had to work the next day.  However, after they left, I had the rest, or as close to the 15 as I could get with the time remaining with the crew.  In fact, my shipmates and I closed down the bar every night.  And every night there after.

(Above, Reporter Jeff, Yours Truly - Tom Sellick, Tom Anthony (one of the 10 survivors off the front half), Nick Nichols, a  Korean War vet and the founder of the association, Ron Baker - retired Radioman Chief Petty Officer from the Australian Navy who was on board the HMAS Melbourne that fateful night and one of the heroes who helped our guys, Jack Whimsett, the last man off the front half that night, Steve Kraus, a survivor off the front who was on top of the bride as a signalman, and Pete Peters, a survivor from the forward engine room who had to fight rapidly rising water and steam burns to get to the main deck.)

On Wednesday we had our board meeting and the afternoon was spent with some of the survivors answering questions from Jeff who published an article about our association.  It was kinda rough on a couple of them.  But after a few jokes and a couple of beers they were alright…for now.  PTSD is an ugly animal.

Also on Wednesday I stayed in the lobby to ‘meet and greet’ other members as they signed in.  And met said members in the bar for dinner and some more beer later on.  And laughter!  Much laughter!  And war stories!  Many war stories!   And lies! I think there was one or two of them told, too.  I don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling…


I did meet Judy, who was on a tour, for lunch at a restaurant that is painted, floor to ceiling back to floor like the Sistine Chapel.  And it was painted with spray cans.  The owner’s son was the artist.  The family is refugees of Bosnia during the war and are working on becoming citizens.  The food was great, too.

The whole restaurant is like this and all done by one man and several hundred cans of spray paint.

Then on Thursday we laid a memorial stone in the park alongside the Cedar River.  The stone is one of many the association is placing throughout the country in honor of the Lost 74.  Though none of the 74 was from Iowa, some of the crew was.  So this is a memorial to all that served aboard the USS Frank E. Evans DD754.

See the black cloth on the bottom right side of Statue of Liberty?  That is where the stone will be placed.  But I had to wonder if the trash can under the statue is a statement of where the country is headed lately.

This is a temporary plaque because the manufacture had some problems.  The real one will arrive in a couple of weeks and will be back marble with the pictures of the ship and the logos.

That is the memorial, across the walkway from the stone, paced for the Desert Storm Vets.  

On Friday night we were entertained by a great group of ladies performing acapella songs.   

As part of the program, they had some of the guys come up and pose for the calendar.  I DID NOT volunteer.  I was volunteered…

They sang Neil Sadaks's Calender Girl and we were the months.

I was Miss August (it doesn’t show it, but I was the only one who pulled his pant legs up to make it more realistic.)


But half way through the song, my poster was falling and I had to hold it up using the only handles available.  You expected less???

During the introduction of the board during one of the meetings, I introuced myself (because everyone knows me) as Tom Selleck from Hollywood.  Most believed me...

Down the street from the hotel is the Sullivan Brothers Museum.  This is my pal, Quatermaster Chuck, in front of the statue of the guys.

We also had a one woman performance by Hanna Ackerman who put on her show she wrote about Alleta Sullivan, the mother of the Sullivan's.  She portrayed the incident through the thoughts and emotions of the Alleta.  She is 16 years old and has performed the play over 30 times.  She is as sweet and vibrant as she was as she lovingly portrayed the mother.

See the pea-coat and hat on back of the chair?  She ended her performance by grabbing the coat and hat and sitting in the chair hugging them in grief.  Hanna was great.

Then on Saturday night we had our formal night and goodbyes till next year.  It's always an emotional time!   Here is Judy and me getting ready for the occasion.  Ain't she cute?

This is Chuck Huber, Harlan Dell and me in front of the banner with of the 74 and behind the model of the ship in the Korean War configuration.  We served together on the 63'-64' WesPac Cruise.  Chuck was a quartermaster (in charge of the maps and charts and navigation), Harlan was a Yeoman, clerical type, and I was a Fuckoff - first class all the way.

The boys of the 60's - some are survivors.

I wish y’all could meet these dudes and their families.  I am so proud they let me be part of their lives.

So, that’s about it.  A long post, I know, but how can I tell you about it without being a little long.  You should hear the long version…

Now I have to take some time to catch up on seven days of postings from y’all, too.  Gonna take some time but I will get it done, though I may not comment as I have a lot of reading to do.  We’ll see!


Jamie said...

It sounds like a great, emotional time for all involved. I am so impressed with all you do to keep the group together, keep the love alive. Impressed, but not surprised. After all, you are the macho-ist, most kind, in touch with your feelings kind of guy I know. I am happy that Iowa treated you right. We don't have alot for excitement around here, but we do have good people.

Have a wonderful week, Coffey. :)

Paxford said...

Sounds like you had a great reunion :)

We missed you too!


Ed said...

Looks like an awesome get-together with a great groups of guys.

That restaurant was pretty cool too.

Coffeypot said...

Oh Lord, Jamie, I am no where near what you described, but thank you anyway. As for the people, I prefer a small town to the big city. Life is easier there. And they could not do enough to make our visit better.

Thanks, Pax. Ron Baker is from down your way, too. Outside Queensland.

Ed, you should check into any get-to-gathers from your Navy days. It is good to see the guys every year.

Sandra said...

Great pic of you and Judy...love the backdrop! haha!
As for being Miss August, I think you pull off the look :)
And here in the Canadian military, we call it being "voluntold!"...well, my ex-military husband does anyway.

Beau's Mom said...

If you had one more thing on your plate, you'd need a tray, and why does Judy look mad at you in the bathroom? I'm sure it has nothing to do with you walking in behind her with a camera in your hand....

Anonymous said...

The young woman Hanna (aka Mrs Sullivan). Is my niece and I couldn't be more proud of her. She has performed this unselfishly and has spread the word to soooooo many people on what a sacrafice that was given not only by the sullivan brothers and the.entire crew, but the families left with empty hearts. The.commitee was very grracious and gave her a very big welcome. Bright.future for Hanna.