Service Reflection: Sights, smells of sinking ship remain with Navy veteran

Service Reflection: Sights, smells of sinking ship remain with Navy veteran

Navy Together We Served

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Editor’s note: The following Service Reflections is one of many recorded on TogetherWeServed.com, a secure online community with a membership of over 2 million active-duty and veteran members. This story may contain language which may not be suitable for young children.

AZ3 David Boose
Status: USNR Veteran
Service Years: 1967 - 1974

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Navy.

On my 18th birthday, I registered for the draft just as everyone else did in those days. My number was 89; they had only been taking the first 60 or 70 from Kansas; some felt good about my number. That was the year that President Johnson increased the draft to 200 from Kansas.

My grandfather and father were Ground Pounders in the Army WWI and WWII. They both told stories of sleeping, eating, and laying in mud and dust for days on end. Many times it was weeks before they could get a shower and really clean up. Most of the time in the field was spent shaving in cold water.

Then there was the father of my best friend who had been in the Navy during WWII. Vaughn said he never missed a meal and ate at a table for almost every meal. Sometimes the days were very long, but at the end of the day, he always had a dry bed to sleep in. While he spent his time on a Destroyer, he heard that the Airdales had it best on the large ships. So on the day, I was to report to Kansas City for the draft, I instead went to NAS Olathe to become an Airdale.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

On the day I showed up to join the Navy I was asked what were my choices for an NEC, my first choice was in electronics, the second choice was medical and the third choice was meteorology. After the test to determine my abilities, they informed me I have no mechanical abilities and that I did not have the skills needed to go into medicine. Due to the lack of science classes in high school, meteorology was out as well. The only jobs I had any abilities in was clerical, and that there was still an opening in Aviation Logs and Records.

What I didn't know at the time, the recruiters had quotas and had to fill so many in each NEC, and my abilities in electronics didn't fit in their quota. (After leaving the Navy, I became an Electronics Engineer. I made my living for 40 years). After being forced into an NEC, I didn't want I decided to make the best of it.

After boot camp, my first year was spent as an Aviation Boatswain's Mate, not one day in Aviation Logs and Records. After being turned down for any training as an AZ, I was sent to HC-3 at Imperial Beach, CA. After reporting to AZ1 and with his discovery that I have had no schools, he sent me to Base Laundry then to Base Housekeeping, then to the Galley, and still to HC-3 Housekeeping. I'm now an AZAN, so things should start looking better.

Out of 2 years, I spent less than three months in my NEC. When it came time to enlist again, I asked if someone could guarantee I would work in my NEC? They answered with, "No, that was not in their power." And as I was not going to clean any more toilets, so I left.

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?

On June 2, 1969, we met up with the HMS MELBOURNE and the USS KEARSARGE exchange plane guards sending the USS FRANK E EVAN DD-754 to be part of the HMS MELBOURNE Task Force. While the EVANS was running as forwarding guard for the MELBOURNE the EVANS was ordered aft to work as a plane guard for the aircraft launches soon to commence.

Due to one misunderstanding or another, the EVANS cut across in front of the MELBOURNE and was cut into. Within 5 minutes of contact 74 of the EVANS, the crew was dead to the bottom of the ocean. The sights and smells of that day are still locked in my head.

One year later this whole thing would be reinforced by my own collision event. After working an 18-hour shift I was dead asleep and could hear the Bong Bong of the abandoned ship alarm. As I had heard it a thousand times before as a test. The difference this time the sleeping birth had all the lights were, there was activity everywhere. It was then I heard the voice of the Boatswain in a very shaky voice say "go to abandon ship stations, THIS IS NOT A DRILL" Bong Bong again. Another Sailor punches me on the shoulder telling me to get the F--- out of here.

My abandon ship station and gear were on board one of the two helicopters. Because of my delay at getting awake, I missed the choppers taking off. All at once everything that I had seen and smelled a year ago was back.

This coupled with the fact that Nixon refused to allow the 74 to be added to the death toll of Vietnam. And later would be denied their rightful place on the Wall. All of these factors would form this activity in my mind forever.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?

My first assignment was with a VP Squadron at North Island, CA. This was my first introduction to the flight crew. Learned how to do walk around and the joy and freedom of the skies. Then my last duty was with a Helicopter Combat Supply Squadron, HC-3 at Imperial Beach, CA. We learned how to survive a plane crash in the water. To survive on land if we crash there and how to survive captivity if we went down in enemy hands. In the process of training, I got both eyes torn with a stick and learned how to get along blind for several months.

I Spent many months TDY to one department or another supposedly filling the requirements of the Squadron. For my time while on base, it wasn't too bad in the Kitchen, Housing, Laundry Head Duty. While onboard the ship these duties would prove a challenge. In the 60's it was easier to befriend a Marine than for an Airdale to befriend a Black shoe. In the Kitchen, a Black shoe PO1 would have me thrown in a hot oven and then write me up for getting burned. In housing, a PO1 would make me clean the underside of the sink,s and many times, he would piss in the sink I was cleaning. Head Duty when I got things clean, they would come in and piss on the floors and walls. PO1 if not the XO, would write me up because I failed/refused to do a good job.

I understand the harassment concept, but the extreme Physical and Mental abuse were so far out of alignment to many others that they had to see some of it for themselves before they would believe me. It was later I learned that it was my darker skin than most as well as for some reason, I got the tag as being gay. Mostly because I refused to take on prostitutes. I am not, nor have I ever been gay, but if the word gets thrown at you it will never leave. I find nothing wrong with the tag; it's the mistreatment that goes with it that is wrong.

While it was a difficult time, it made me stronger because of it. Would I do it again, no? Do I regret my time in the Navy? No, I don't.

From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.

Having my friend and roommate who had died in a chopper crash and helping his family immortalize him has left a profound mark on my soul. The chance to see half of the world I was was a chance of a lifetime. It would have been better to have experienced all these places without the constant idea and memories of war. However, having the chance to see and visit with the people of war and the people in the backwoods of other cultures. This gave me the chance to see how little we differ and how different we all are.

I got the chance to find out how precious and delicate life is. I found out that if you take the time to see into their lives and respect their way of living they will take the time to understand your ways and have equal respect for you and your ways. But if you come in and make them do as you wish there will never be respect for you or your way of life. They will do what is needed to survive, they will show respect without respecting and care without caring.

What professional and achievements are you most proud of from your military career?

To answer many of these questions it is required to boast on what has oftentimes pumped up heroics. Most of the time what we consider a heroic act is merely a will to survive. The real heroes of wars or actions to the awards are not able to answer these questions. Most of my greatest achievements in life didn't pay a mark of an award pasted to my chest but are now left to memory and in many cases will die with me.

Yes, I could talk about awards of valor, achievements to mankind and presidential citations, but they have little meaning without those who shared the adventures up to these moments with you.

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?

Those that are most valuable to me are the people behind any moment in time. I have gotten to the age where trying to find someone that shared the memories with you is nearly impossible.

Many times it's not the blood and guts of a time past, but the humanity shared around the blood and guts. Many want to hear about the heroics of one or the other thing. Not the stories like Hostetler (Hoss) a towering man that stood 6'6" and close to 300 pounds. He picked my brother and me up by the back of the shirt and held us in the air like rag dolls.

Or JJ Hood who found me unconscious and got me to air and sickbay, where sickbay was to busy playing cards to be bothered, "go away". Or Russell a little man of about 5', or whatever the very minimum height at the time to get into the Marines.

He stood no shorter and no taller, but the spit of a tiger and a pair bigger and tougher than that famous brass monkey. We had some great times flaunting the fact of a Marine and Sailor chumming around. Then there was Walski who loved the Gold Figurine Girl, was killed just outside Yankee Station by a plane returning from a run in Vietnam. Just another sailor that died for the war but listed a non-war casualty. Or an airman was blown overboard by a jet blast in the rush to send air support in-country again not listed as a war casualty.

Then there are the 74 of the Evans who will never be listed as Casualties of War as they should. They were doing their jobs for the War 10,000 miles from home. These are my medals pinned to my soul, my awards posted on the walls and my chest. And the most meaningful times as far as shaping the person, good or bad, that I am.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

MCPO Smith, for pushing me until I learned that what I think is my best is only the real beginning point.

PO1 Cooney for learning if you never give up, your goals can be met. While there are many that have had one kind of influence on me in a positive manner, these men stand out as having achieved the most change in a boy to becoming a man.

Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?

Russel, Hoss, my Brother (Don), and I were on liberty and returning to the ship before the Midnight Bell. We were all plastered. Don kept going the wrong way Hoss grabs him about the waist and hoists him up like a sack of potatoes to the ship we go.

A couple of things happened while we were making merriment, the tide came in, making the plank steep, and the Officer of the Watch was a stickler for boarding the ship under your own power. We stop short and help Don practice walk the plank and say and do all those magic things that get you on the ship and not written up. This had to be a hilarious all by its self, two soused sailors, and one marine trying to teach another soused sailor to walk.

Finally, we think he is good enough for the challenge, so away we go. Don in the lead, Hoss behind him with the marine and I bringing up the rear. With two steps forward and one back, Don makes it to the top, and he is still on his feet with his cover in place, in uniform probably not. He makes what we will call a salute to the flag, with two steps forward and one step back he turns and again with what we will call a salute he says "Sir request permission to sleep on your f--king ship, Sir." We all were thinking holy shit he's done for, but to our surprise, he says, "I think that would be a good idea, Sailor." Looking at the rest of us, he pulls a salute and says, "I think it would be a good idea if you all slept on my f--king ship." I only wish I could remember who the Officer was, but time has taken that too.

What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? If you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?

After leaving the Navy I became the Electronics Engineer I had always wanted to be. I had aspirations of becoming a Doctor but money and life sent me in a different direction. I am now retired after a life full of adventures.

Besides an engineer, I became a Volunteer Firefighter, Volunteer Emergency Medical Technician, and volunteered for three different fire companies. Retired from Fire and Rescue after 35 years and proudly never received one penny over that time. There was a $5 a run fee for a while, but it all went to the Fireman's Fund to help a Firefighter and or their family. Help 7 mothers birth their children. Held a child in my had that her feet to the top of her head were my first to the tip of my great finger. And proud to say she has children of her own.

Now I have time to rest and play with my Grandchildren and rest and rest and play again.

What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

I am a member of DAV, American Legion, VA, with some research help from VFW, Together We Served, Military.Com, National Archives, Library of Congress. I receive research assistance from them all at one level or another.

I receive a disability from the VA and discounts at different places with my DAV and VA cards.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?

I must say that before the military anyone that wanted to could walk over me with little resistance from me. Since then I take very little crap from anyone. I learned that with hard work and perseverance you can achieve almost anything. I learned just because you failed doesn't mean you're a failure, you're a failure if you didn't learn from it and endeavor to do better next time.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Navy?

Acceptance of others and their ways is easy; letting it happen and going along for the experience is hard. I've had a chance to meet people of all colors, faiths, religions, and backgrounds; the common thread of all is their perception of what is not understood is wrong and or scary. I have learned that if you take the time to truly understand something, you don't understand, you find out that there really isn't much difference.

All people love their families; all people love their way of doing things. If we learn their ways, all people want to learn our ways if only because we took the time to learn theirs. Forced change brings wars, learned change brings peace and understanding. Like all things, there is a bad one here and there, don't focus on the bad but focus on the good and you will find more good around you than bad.

In what ways has TogetherWeServed.com helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

I have not been able to connect with anyone I served with, for most have reported to Davy Jones Locker. While I remember them, they may have no reason to remember me.

The partly due to my age in that we are becoming fewer numbers every day. I do, however, enjoy reading about others and their adventures. Otherwise, I only write like this and read with little if any return.

Togetherweserved.com

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