I was on the USS Missouri in 1991 during the first Gulf War. Do you remember the "war" that was over after only a few weeks? I was there, man.
1. I remember listening to an English language radio broadcast on my walkman one evening as we cruised somewhere off the coast of India. They were reporting on parliamentary elections in India.
2. I remember going to general quarters (battle stations) as we entered the Persian Gulf through the Straits of Hormuz. We came upon a cargo ship that had a fire on board. We sent a small crew over to assist.
3. I remember having liberty in Manama, Bahrain and thinking it was the most exotic place I had ever visited. Even liberal Islamic countries are very different.
4. I remember standing watch while the ship was anchored in the harbor. I was a roving deck patrol armed only with an unloaded .45. It was a war-zone.
5. I remember going to general quarters the night of January 17, 1991. We were all wearing our chemical suits and gas masks as the ship launched Tomahawk missles at targets in Kuwait and Iraq.
6. I remember sitting in my 5" gun mount as we were launching more Tomahawks. One missile, from the launcher directly above our mount, did not release. It burned out the solid rocket booster inside the launcher. I was scared as we waited for the missile to detonate. It didn't.
7. I remember moving from a starboard side gun mount to a port side mount while the ship was conducting night-time gun fire support. It was pitch black as we hurried across the deck to get inside before the next salvo from the 16 inch guns.
8. I remember going up on deck to dump trash after spending a week inside. We were only a mile or two off the Kuwaiti shore. I could feel air pressure in my ears from the far-off explosions of the air campaign.
9. I remember hearing a call of "Missile in-bound, port side. All hands brace for shock" come over the ship's intercom and wondering if the next few moments would be my last.
10. I remember hearing a garbled message come over the intercom early one morning while we were at general quarters. Hours later we found out the Iraqis had actually fired a missile at us. The missile came within 500 yards of the ship before it was shot down by a Royal Navy ship, the HMS Gloucester.
11. I remember visiting Perth, Australia where, for the first time, I went drinking with my buddies. I was accused of having a hang-over the next day. I swear I didn't, I was just tired.
12. I remember visiting Hobart, Tasmania where, for the last time, I went drinking with my buddies. I was fortunate to have friends who weren't drinkers.
13. I remember the looks on my family's faces when we pulled into port in Long Beach, CA six months after leaving.
14. I remember the people who sent me many letters and gifts while I was away. Their letters and prayers helped me get through the boredom, loneliness, and fear of the cruise.
I have been out of the Navy for 17 years. Many things have happened since then. I went to college, found Tabitha, got married, started one short-lived career, started my current career, became a home-owner, and had two beautiful children. I didn't like the rules, loneliness, and sacrifices of the Navy when I was in, but I now appreciate the experience.