In a Navy State of Mind

No, not the color, (though I’m often in a navy state of dress), but as in the United States Navy.

I’m writing as I watch College Game Day ahead of the Army-Navy game, with all of the inspiring spots and stories of integrity, grit, honor and duty. And this after a week of mourning but celebrating the life of naval aviator, 41st President and exemplary gentleman, George H.W. Bush.

But it’s also the day after Pearl Harbor Day, which calls to mind my grandfather, “Pop,” Eugene Simmons, a survivor of the bombing of the U.S.S. Arizona. It’s so long ago, and obviously our family is not unique in having a loved one be part of a seminal moment in history.

But the older I get and the more I understand, the more overwhelming it is to think of him in that battle.

When I was 23, I was lamenting having to be at work by 8:30 a.m. My grandfather, President Bush and millions of other young men had chosen a far more difficult path in service of their country.

That Sunday morning in 1941, Pop was running back onto the USS Arizona when the bomb dropped into the engine room, where he normally would have been stationed. He had gone to early Mass that morning, something that didn’t necessarily always happen when he was 23 and in the Navy! He was blown off the ship into the water, left in a coma and declared MIA for 3 weeks until they could identify him. Thankfully, he survived and while I’ll listen to your arguments that there was ever a better grandfather than my Pop, I won’t believe them.

Giving thanks to God today for Pop, and remembering the sacrifice of all those who served at Pearl Harbor and in the years of war to follow.

Anchors Aweigh!

Pop

Always by the sea: Jeannie and “Pop,” Ocean House Hotel at Bass Rocks, Gloucester, Mass., July 1998

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