Monday, November 07, 2005

The Past Should Be

I had the opportunity awhile back to visit a part of my past. I was on the Mackinaw for nearly three years. It was during my tour of duty, back in 1979, that I accepted Christ, right onboard the ship. My life changed dramatically that day, and God has blessed me more abundantly than I have had any right to expect.
It reminds me of the difference between Grace and Mercy: Grace is God’s giving is the good things we do not deserve, Mercy is His not giving us the bad that we Do deserve. Both are evidence of His love for us.
The Mackinaw will be decommissioned next year, so when it opened for tours near here, my Dad and I made a quick trip to see it. I have mixed feelings about the experience, which is why it’s taken me a while to write this.
It was great to see the boat again, the scars and repairs welded in, all covered with red, white and spar paint. Spar is the brownish yellow color found on the smokestack. The tour was only of the outer areas and the bridge; I pointed things out to my dad, spoke with the crew directing tourists, took pictures and generally it was a nice experience.
What was unsettling for me was talking to the crew; there was an air of desperation and cynicism
that I remembered very well from my days in the Coast Guard. A young Coastie guiding tours, wearing a jacket not just because he was cold, but to cover up the fact that he was missing a few ribbons on his dress uniform. That would have been me in 1979. On the day in 1980 when I was supposed to appear in full dress uniform for the ceremony where I was awarded my “crow”-(see the cynicism?) where I was to be awarded my 3rd Class Petty Officers chevron (with an eagle, not a crow)-I was called from the galley in the middle of preparing lunch, wearing no insignia at all, and my ‘ceremony’ lasted about 10 seconds, long enough for the OOD to hand me my chevron, shake my hand, and then I went back to finish the meal.
During my recent visit I flagged down a cook who was passing by and introduced myself. She was doing my old job, in the galley where I had worked so many, many hours. She seemed bitter and stressed, and she had no good words for the school she had recently returned from, which I had gone through in 1978. What was unsettling was talking with someone going through the same routine, working the same job, having the same stresses and problems that I left behind over 20 years ago. I am now so far removed from military life that I hardly remembered what it was like. My visit reminded me of how happy I was to leave the Service. I am proud of having served, but am very grateful to God for setting me on a different path.

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