My Speech Upon Retiring from
the United States Navy, August, 1994.
Captain Bebee, family and distinguished guests:
The story goes, that when you die and go to heaven, you will be surrounded by angels. The other part of the story is that when you die and go to the other place you will be surrounded by ... you know ... devils. So, depending on your opinion of the Navy Chaplains I am surrounded by, you what the rest of my life will be like!
Before I get started, let me do what all good job hunters do. Let me take this opportunity to tell each and every one of you ... I AM LOOKING FOR A JOB! I am available September 1st. If you know of anything, call!
Thanks to every one of you for taking time out of your life, and coming here today. You have come for your own reasons but whatever they are, I choose to believe that you came to honor me.
I AM not proud of my 22 years with the Navy. I AM not proud that I graduated 1st in my class in flight training, nor am I proud of being assigned to the then-new F-14A Tomcat. I am not proud of three and one half years aboard the U.S.S. Nimitz and being part of the movie Final Countdown. (Kirk Douglas and James Farentino also starred.) I AM not proud of being on a ten-month cruise, that included the hostage rescue attempt in Iran in May, 1980. I AM not proud of being hand-picked to teach leadership to over 600 Naval Officers and Chief Petty Officers. I AM not proud of having been the Director of the Family Service Center at Naval Air Station Oceana, just a few miles from here. I AM not proud of going on a UNITAS cruise around South America, as the Officer-In-Charge of a detachment given a never-before-attempted, five-month long mission, which was completely successfully. I AM not proud of being a part of rebuilding of the world's most famous warship, the USS Enterprise (CVN-65, not NCC-1701). I AM not proud of these last 12 months, being assigned to the biggest (and best) CREDO center in the world. I AM not proud of these mementos I received today, nor of those that reflect my 22 years with the Navy on those tables over there. I AM not proud that so many of you came to be a part of this special time with me.
I AM not proud for any of those things, because I fear that old proverb that states that "pride comes before the fall". In modern terms you might read that "pride takes credit for what will soon be gone". Pride is short-lived and unfulfilling, at least it has been for me in my life. My pride has also always been very self-centered. Instead, very sincerely, I AM grateful for all those things listed earlier. I AM grateful for my experiences while wearing the Navy Uniform, including this one, today. I AM grateful for the people I have met along the way. I AM grateful to God, for what God has allowed me to share in and experience. The process has been difficult, yet I AM grateful that I AM no longer the 17 year old that first put the Navy uniform on back in August of 1972.
I never planned to make it a career. I took it one job at a time, and if I thought I was going to enjoy the next assignment, I took it. Once I did decide, sorry, that is, 'we' decided, that I would stay in and make it a career, the Navy told me to get out.
What will stand out in my heart and mind as I look back at these 22 years of wearing the uniform?
Enjoying a lot of time on a school rifle team, that at the time, which was the only school team with a winning record!
Dinner with a fellow student, in Pensacola, hours before he died, and going through his belongings the next day. My heart was troubled.
Friday the 13th, January 1978. I got my wings that day, and felt so proud and so empty.
Sunday, July 4th, 1979. I accepted Christ that day, and felt so fulfilled.
Many, many days, people and events from my time with VF-84, the Jolly Rogers, aboard the USS Nimitz between February 1979 and July 1982. They truly are too many to list at this time. Multiple times I entered situations identical to ones from which others didn't return, and have often asked myself 'Why?'. No one forgets a night landing on a carrier, even if they did have their eyes shut!! After all, eyes open or shut, they look about the same!
The same goes for my teaching the Navy's Leadership and Management Education and Training course for three years. Running the Communications Center, being the Director of the Family Service Center, my time flying jet-powered drones at VC-6, my time aboard the USS Enterprise and my time at CREDO.
To make a very long story short, (yes, its too late for that) what I will remember most are the challenging times. Those that challenged my skills as a professional jet-jockey and as a Naval Officer, those that challenged my heart as a human, those that challenged my beliefs as a Son of God, those that challenged my habits as a growing human being. But even more, I will remember those with whom I had the honor of sharing those challenges. Some of you are here today. Again, thanks.
You can call me lucky, if you believe in luck, and I'll understand. You could say that I have been extremely lucky to have had great leaders, co-workers, peers and subordinates (those are Navy words for people). I believe that I was greatly blessed by them and by my God.
That luck, or blessedness, applies beyond my relationships at work. I have been told that you can pick your friends, but not your family. That's not totally true. I AM under the impression that I picked Judy to be my wife. Some may argue that she did the picking. Thank you Judy, for the wonderful years we've had, and will have together. I may be leaving active duty today, and you're coming with me. That's great. I love you, and the children we have been blessed with: Nathan and Julie. These flowers are a way for me to say: "Thank you for 99% of our time together, and for still being there after the other 1%".
I also want to thank my parents, Roman and Irene. You went through hell, fighting Communists before America as a country realized it was the right thing to do. You gave me your strong points: including a work ethic, and made me take the opportunity to challenge myself. Speaking of challenging myself, Mom, now that Dad and I are both retired, we have a tee-time tomorrow morning at 9:30. We'll see you after lunch.
What am I bringing with me as I leave active duty? The friends, the relationships, the mementos, the memories, and a monthly retainer check. I AM also leaving with a few more inches around my waist, a few less hairs on my head, some more wisdom in my soul, a few less defenses around my heart, a wonderful family, and a future full of life. What a blessing! Thank you for sharing this day with me.