I Hadn't Cried While Reading A Newspaper Story Until Now...
I don't know why this hit me so hard, but it kind of sums up for me the whole concept of brotherhood of submariners. Here's where I lost it:
"In the three months since Ashley's death Jan. 9, Ashley's parents, Dan and Vicki Ashley, and Mooney have developed a deep bond. At the center of the relationship is Joseph ``Joey'' Ashley, a machinist's mate 2nd class who graduated from Manchester High School in 1999.
"Late Saturday afternoon, the commander met the grieving father in a parking lot a few miles from the cemetery. The two men hugged. ``It's not far now,'' Dan Ashley said.
"Mooney was not able to attend the sailor's funeral in January, so this was his first chance to visit the grave. Joey had told his grandmother that he wanted to be buried here when he died. The men turned their cars onto a single-lane road that quickly turned to gravel, winding through the stunning green April countryside.
"They stopped briefly at Dan Ashley's parents' house. Mooney opened his car trunk, reached for his uniform and pulled off one of the pins, his command star. ``It's my most prized possession,'' Mooney said. ``It's for Joey.''
The "command star" the article mentions is the symbol of a CO's responsibilities, and is worn only by current and former COs. This quote from Joseph Conrad that is included in most Change of Command programs tells it as good as anything what being "Captain" means, and what the Command at Sea pin represents:
THE PRESTIGE, PRIVILEGE AND BURDEN OF COMMAND
Only a Seaman realizes to what extent an entire ship reflects the personality and ability of one individual, the Commanding Officer. To a landsman, this is not understandable, and sometimes it is even difficult for us to comprehend, but it is so.
A ship at sea is a distant world in herself and, in consideration of the protracted and distant operations of the fleet units, the Navy must place great power, responsibility and trust in the hands of the leaders chosen for command.
In each ship, there is one man who, in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one man who alone is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfire, and morale of his ship.
He is the Commanding Officer.
HE IS THE SHIP!
This is the most difficult and demanding assignment in the Navy. There is not an instant during his tour of duty as a Commanding Officer that he can escape the grasp of command responsibility. His privileges in view of his obligations are most ludicrously small, nevertheless command is the spur which has given the Navy its great leaders.
It is a duty which most richly deserves the highest, time-honored title of the seafaring world...