25 years ago…
This post is not about fishing, though there were some times when I engaged in it from my beloved ship, USS Stark (FFG-31). I remember one sailor trolling a line off the fantail shortly after we got underway. He ended up hooking a big bluefish, and suddenly found himself with a real problem as the ship cruised along at 16 knots, with no intention to stop and interrupt operations. Somehow the sailor landed it.
And then there were times in the Persian Gulf when I was standing watch as Officer of the Deck, as our Captain, an avid angler, trolled off the fantail and passed steering orders up to the bridge via the aft lookout. Patrolling the calm waters of the Gulf, we tried our best to swing his lure over breaking schools of tuna.
On warm humid evenings in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, huge tarpon would school under the waterline security lights of our ship at dock, and Chief Peebles and I took turns hooking the beasts just to feel their raw speed and brute power before they broke us off on the hull. These great gamefish would take cheese on a large treble hook, probably because the scullery discharge set up a chum slick of sorts.
No, this post, like one before it, is about men I knew who died in the tragic attack on the ship 25 years ago: May 17, 1987. It’s about the feeling so eloquently expressed in one episode of the film, Band of Brothers, when a German general speaks to his men:
Men, it’s been a long war, it’s been a tough war. You’ve fought bravely, proudly for your country. You’re a special group. You’ve found in one another a bond that exists only in combat, among brothers. You’ve shared foxholes, held each other in dire moments. You’ve seen death and suffered together. I’m proud to have served with each and every one of you. You all deserve long and happy lives in peace.
I have known men, fished with them, witnessed the beauty of nature with them on great rivers, but never have I known them as deeply as I have when I served aboard the USS Stark.
It will be a tough day tomorrow…