Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Friday, October 08, 2010


I got an E-mail from Navy TogetherWeServed telling its members they could build a "virtual shadowbox" (example here). This got me thinking about my own actual shadowbox:

As you can see, I went the traditional route, with rank insignia (E-3 to O-4, plus shoulder boards for retirement rank), medals and ribbons, and list of major commands on brass placards, along with the obligatory flag. It's so heavy I fear hanging it on the wall, so it's been sitting propped up against my dresser for 6 years. The main thing that keeps me from going to the Navy and getting the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal I should have got from my IA duty at CENTCOM added to my service record is that I don't want to mess with my shadowbox.

What do you have or will you have in your shadowbox?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Along with my medals/ribbons, Dolphins, etc...I have my Armed Forces liberty card from a 6 month Med deployment to remind me of why I got out. Couldn't leave the boat without it, and the Engineer officer would pull the whole dept's cards (or individuals) whenever he felt like it.

10/08/2010 9:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got out in 1986 and have never wanted a shadowbox.

To serve tn Ronnie Raygun's navy is reward enough.

10/08/2010 9:21 AM

Blogger John said...

OK... I'll put my dick out on the line first. I don't have a shadow box. Never wanted one. I didn't even have a retirement ceremony. Didn't want one even though my fellow chiefs and the command wanted me to have one. I'm proud I joined the navy and I love being a submariner. I’d do it all over again. But I did not join the navy for the tradition and bullshit that comes along with the games we play. I needed a job and I found my raison d'être was to be a submariner. After my kidney stones, it was pretty much downhill from there (with the exception of my ship sup tour at TRF, Kings Bay, which I really enjoyed). The highest medal I got was one NAM. And I still made E7 in 8 years and E8 in 11. So when I see someone with lots of awards, I've got to wonder; how did they get so many in such a relatively short amount of time? Not to offend (especially you Joel since you've been brave enough to post your box), but why do the O's tend to get so many higher level awards? Do they really work that much harder? Is what they do that much more important to the mission? I love my fellow shipmates and am proud of them… but not because of the awards they got or didn’t get. All that counted was performance on the deckplate. I know this sounds like sour grapes and will come across as baby-assing, and I'll own that.
BTW - the closest I have to a shadow box or 'I Love Me Wall' is here (scroll down a bit): (PS Safe link to my website)
PS – didn’t know you were a mustang Joel. What rate were you?

10/08/2010 9:48 AM

Anonymous NHSparky said...

Don't have a shadowbox either. Not sure I'd want one. While Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is fairly close, no way I can get on there to get one made up even if I wanted one. In my office, I've got my dolphins certificate, a couple of pics of the boat, and a couple of the more significant awards for the, "I love me!" wall. I've got the memories, and that's enough for me. Anyone who saw them who wasn't a submariner would say, "Gee, that's nice," but they wouldn't understand.

10/08/2010 9:53 AM

Blogger Dave in St. Louis said...

I don't have one, but if I did, all it would have is my ET1 crow, my Dolphins, my awards bar and my Submarine Deterrent Patrol Pin with the stars representing 11 patrols.

I'd add my Shellback certificate, but it is too large.

10/08/2010 10:35 AM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

When I retired, I asked that there not be a big ceremony or a shadow box. Well, my boss relented with a small get together in the SUBASE conference room but the SUBASE Wardroom had a shadow box made anyway. It has my dolphins, SSBN Patrol Pin, Command Pin, Retiring rank eagles and my ribbons. This is all on top of brass plates of all the commands that encompassed my career. The flag is on the top. It sits on a ledge in our family room. The rest of the "I love me" wall is in a box in the attic. I did take a picture of an iceburg that I took in the early seventies and use it as my computer wallpaper.

10/08/2010 10:46 AM

Anonymous YNC(SS), USN, Retired said...

The boat presented mine. I wasn't intending to get one. Included are: My anchor, dolphins, ribbons, all of my duty stations on individual brass plaques, and above them all from the Captain; the ship's Commission Pennant. I commented that belonged to the ship and the Captain. I learned that it was a personal gift from the boss.

Info for ETCS(SS/SW) - "So when I see someone with lots of awards, I've got to wonder; how did they get so many in such a relatively short amount of time?"

Here's how some of that happens. A tour on a Destroyer right out of boot camp, resulted in an opportunity to participate in the Quemoy-Matsu operation (Formosa Patrol) in 1960. Two separate tours in Viet Nam assigned to an Army unit. Resulted in two personal decorations, and three for just being there. A two year tour as a Special Weapons Logistics Officer 1970-1972 (pretty heady stuff for a YN1) representing CINCPACFLT at Western Sea Frontier. Those were all during my first ten years. Didn't receive any medals during my recruiting tour or submarine service, unless you want to count a Navy Expeditionary Medal; you know how we get those. And of course there are those I was/we were there trinkets.

10/08/2010 11:00 AM

Blogger Vigilis said...

"Shadowboxing" sounded like it might be a rather dull topic, but the comments it is attracting range from downright enlightening to fertile concepts for a psychiatrists' symposium.

Par for true submariners.

10/08/2010 12:05 PM

Anonymous MMC(SS/SW) said...

I have the usual obligatory stuff, medals, ribbons, dolphins, ESWS pin, rate pin, rank pins, list of commands, flag. I was not really happy with mine. I retired as an MMC(SS/SW) and the guy putting it together mistakenly thought I was MMCS(SS/SW), so to fix it, he just put two Chief's anchors in. It looks stupid. The one momento I added was the engraved Bosun's pipe that was given to me when I was initiated and piped aboard the Chiefs Mess on AS-39 in 1995.

10/08/2010 12:09 PM

Blogger MT1(SS)WidgetHead said...

To answer the question of what I would have if I were discharged NAVCOM, a pair of JSAMs, a GCM, a NUC, a USCG-MUC, an AFEM, and all the other "Automatic Gimmie Gimmie! ribbons" which most of us have as well. The box would also include Dolphins, an SSBN pin denoting six patrols, my MT1 Crow and a picture or two of my last boat (NNPI permitting).

I don't know if I'd want a shadow box or not. I have mixed feelings about that. But I do like seeing other guy's personal walls on display when walking into their house. It shows their career accomplishments and where they've been.

Joel, I'm somewhat surprised the GWOT is not in your paperwork as it should be. Admin must have overlooked it. Like the National Defense medal the GWOT is an automatic for everyone serving since 9/11.

10/08/2010 1:19 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

About the only thing diffferent than what Joel shows is...
I had 2 cermaic tiles imprinted with a 1 picture each. One is my boot camp picture and the other one is my retirement picture.

I ended my career with 2 NCMs, 8 NAMs, HSM, and the usual other stuff (I used mini medals, reg ribbons). I also have my CCC badge and my tour of shame..I mean recruiting badge also.

My flag in the shadow was given to me for my reenlistment in 95 on the USS Arizona Memorial and got to fly it from the flag pole attached to the Arizona and I also flew it from the stern of the USS Missouri during my reenlistment in 99.

Most of the stuff for ratings and others were actual stuff I used during my career.

I wasn't going to have a retirement ceremony until my mom asked me when it was. Then I had one!


10/08/2010 1:24 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

beebsblog/etcs(SS/SW) -

You are both losers! didn't rate a shadow box...unless they had one for psycho discharge. are just a butt...a retirement ceremony is NOT for is for the people you have served with and for the people that will follow you!

Gawd this blog is fun, but you two make it stink!

10/08/2010 3:37 PM

Anonymous CWO3 said...

When you retire from a tender and you are the DCA, it is difficult not to get a shadow box. My only complaint is the size. This thing is HUGE! You can't hang it from the wall, it had to sit on something. The wardroom on the Holland really did a good job on it. It has 2 sides, one enlisted and the other officer. Each rank insignia has a little plaque that denotes the dates. At the bottom of each are the brass plaques for the commands and bottom center is the flag flown on the Pentagon as an old high school friend happened to be a US Representive at the time of my retirement. We had been communicating and he sent me a letter to the ship. I knew when it arrived, because the XO called me to his office to find out why a Congessman was corresponding with me! It was great. My retirement party was just that at a state park by Silverdale, Wa. Camped out and had a great time.

Interesting topic Joel!

10/08/2010 4:24 PM

Anonymous STSC said...

I don't want a shadowbox.
I DO want a sea chest though.

An FTCM that I respected alot had one that he displayed at his retirement and it rang true for me. I don't need to have all that stuff displayed to people coming to my home (or office, where I've seen quite a few). I DO care about what I've done though, and right now all that stuff is saved, albeit at the top corner of my closet (shellback/blue nose/ditch certs) or in unorganized boxes in the attic.

Once I'm actually finished with my service, I'd like to organize the stuff I do treasure (even though some of it looks like garbage) & put it in a nice chest that will keep them safe from moths or damage so I'll be able to pull that stuff out once in a blue moon when I can't sleep at night as an old fogey.

For now, I'm not I cart it around in storage boxes. The wife lives with it but eventually I'll put all that stuff in a nice sea chest that looks like a niec piece of furniture.

10/08/2010 4:52 PM

Blogger SJV said...

Don't have a problem with the I love me wall, but it's not for everyone. The most important successes in my life don't have badges, pins, or stickers, though.

10/08/2010 5:09 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

@ETCS - I was a nuke ET, but never made it to sea as a blueshirt. Boot camp at GLAKES in 1983, went through ET "A" school, Nuke School (8406), and got picked up for NECP while at Prototype in Idaho. Graduated with my class and when they went to sea, I went to college. Got the GCM while assigned to the NROTC unit at Kansas.

@MT1 - The GWOT Service Medal didn't come out until just right around when I left CENTCOM, and they weren't very good about having the admin follow you around. The IA program was pretty disorganized back then; I think they're doing much better now.

10/08/2010 5:17 PM

Anonymous MentalJim said...

I retired with no shadow box or ceremony. It just wasn't important to me. The only one I wanted to thank was my wife and kids for putting up with everything they put up with and I didn't see the need to do that in front of a bunch of people.

10/08/2010 5:24 PM

Anonymous Tom said...

I have a shadow box. I thought, after 33 years, and after pitching in for a butt tom of shadow boxes - hell yeah, make'em crap one for me!

I'm glad I did. I keep it in my man cave.

Tom Desrosier

10/08/2010 6:13 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Discharge pin, dog tag, E-6 metal crow, ribbons, metals, dolphins, scuba pin, boot camp pic, etc.

10/08/2010 6:37 PM

Blogger Ken in Yoko said...

The only thing different about my shadow box is that I asked for a Japanese flag flown on the Japanese SS-580. They gave me two, a new flag and one signed by the entire crew. I have now idea what it says though. I still don't read scribblin's.

10/08/2010 9:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shadow box, no retirement ceremony, just a hosted bar tab at the local Horse and Cow for a great lunch. I have some of my treasures on a bookshelf in the living room including a nice little San Fran plaque with coral removed from the mbts and a 1/4" thick gauge glass I punched out during the collision. I guess it just depends upon your ego. I've also a nice 688 scaled model on top that I love and boat coins on
one of the shelves.
Other than that? mammaries,
just mammaries.....there are some things I don't wanna be reminded about. The number of awards I received? WHO GIVES A SHYT? I knew a LDO CDR who made it in 20 and his highest award was a good conduct....

'nuff said,

10/09/2010 12:27 AM

Anonymous been there said...

No shadowbox for me, seems a bit vain. All I got is my dolphins/patrol pin stuck above a whiteboard at work.

I'll talk about it if people want (oh the horrors I've seen... the HORRORS!!), but I've moved on.

10/09/2010 6:42 AM

Blogger FastAttackChief said...

So far I have been assigned to the Cavalla, Columbus, Columbia, and Connecticut. If all works out my next three boats will begin with "C" and I will have "Sailor of the seven C's" on my shadowbox. If I go to the City of Corpus Christi I think it should count four the remaining three.

10/09/2010 7:31 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After 24 years in and almost 4 years retired, my shadow box is still a work in progress sitting in the corner behind the couch. Never really got the motivation to put anything together.Maybe someday.

I do have nice flag flown in Iraq, given to me by a P-3 LDO friend who was there when I retired.

Have a lot of plaques from boats and commands that I served at hanging in my den.

Like some others, plenty of medals and awards...all siting in a closet somewhere.

My best memory and contribution to the force...never having run a boat aground...can't ask for much more.

Jim C.

10/09/2010 10:33 AM

Blogger John said...

@ Anon 1537 - While I don't necessarily disagree with you that one of the reasons for a retirement ceremony is for others it remains a personal decision. It's a bit strong to say I'm a butt or that I make this blog stink. But you know what really sucks? How you much of a pussy you are for calling people names behind your anonymous tag. Grow a set and own your comments.

Actually I am surprised to see the number of folks here that chose not to get a shadowbox and/or a retirement ceremony. While I was the Weapons Repair Dept LCPO at TRF I did coordinate a number of retirement ceremonies and also personally had a couple of shadowboxes put together. Ceremonies and shadowboxes really are impressive, no doubt about it... it just wasn't something for me.

I'm with MentalJim in that recognizing my wife and two boys was, and still is, the most important thing I bring away from my time in the navy.

BTW - while not something that would go in your shadowbox (unless/if they finally authorize the medal) you can apply for, and receive, a Cold War Recognition Certificate if you served between Sept. 2, 1945 to Dec. 26, 1991

10/09/2010 10:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Never had a shadowbox and all my Navy stuff was stolen in a burglary about 15 years ago. Where I live almost everyone was in the military at one time or another. Hardly anyone ever talks about their experiences. Military service is just something that everyone does.

10/09/2010 11:28 AM

Anonymous SparkyWT said...

I retired this year and elected to go with paddle (my last command was CTF-56 (Expeditionary CC) in Bahrain.
On the paddle: ribbon rack with, service date, 1 shoulder board, mini-dolphins, mini-FBM pin, mini-jump wings, mini-EIB; and three challenge coins (navy intel, submarine service, and army infantry).
Its in the office with my favorite submarine artifact --- a primary valv operator I "acquired" after the "Great Cinci-Fish Wrench Hunt of 1998".

10/09/2010 12:02 PM

Blogger Vigilis said...


re: the "Cold War Recognition Certificate"

Anyone who served in either the military or other capacity in the employ of the Federal Government during the Cold War is authorized to receive the certificate. For instance, a seasonal employee of the US Postal Service qualifies to receive this dubious certificate, per Wikipedia.

If correct, it certainly seems an slam to the sacrifices of SSN submariners of the period.

10/09/2010 1:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the nicer retirement or transfer gifts I've seen is a submarine model made by a fellow named George Allen down in Vallejo. Unfortunately, I think George isn't around anymore... been trying to track him down for a year now with no joy. Anyone have any recent news on him?

10/09/2010 1:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got out as a E-5 (after 3 years, 363 days)-- on St. Patrick's Day. I got all my stuff off the boat (368) and into my van in the "lowly puke" parking lot. Then I schlepped all around lower and upper subbase checking out. Finally stopped at Dealey Center for one last BLT and met a few friends. They didn't think to present me with a shadowbox.

A young lady there pinned a green carnation on my white hat and promised to meet me later at the Acey Duecy Club.

We left the gedunk, and as I stepped onto the sidewalk some E-7 chief (no dolphins) shouted me down (in front of my buddies and the young lady) and told me to get squared away and get rid of "that green thing."

He made me feel like shit. I threw the flower away, then left the base and threw away my white hat.

I have my dolphins -- that's all I would put in MY shadowbox.

50% of stuff I've seen in shadowboxs is a record of someone stepping on someone else. I hope that asshat chief has a green carnation in his.

10/09/2010 3:17 PM

Blogger John said...

Vigilis - I'd have to agree with you on dubious nature of the CW certificate. I'd also add that it slams not only SSN sailors, but all military personnel that served.

The official website says contractors are excluded... what about all of those folks that helped develop and make all of that hardware we drove around?

10/09/2010 3:51 PM

Blogger SJV said...

My personal fave is that SSBN sailors are eligible for the VFW, if they have the FBM pin. Line from a TV show last night..."if you want a pat on the back, don't be a policeman".

10/09/2010 6:16 PM

Blogger John said...

@ SJV - Really? My understanding is that the VFW isn't interested in anyone that hasn't gotten down in the mud and been shot at. As recent as a few years ago, one of my friends with a deterrent pin was told by the VFW that it 'didn't count'. Indeed, submariners in general 'didn't count'.
This was a few years ago and maybe things have changed. I hope so.

10/09/2010 8:33 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The VFW rule to allow SSBN deterrent pins was changed early in the last decade.

10/09/2010 8:50 PM

Blogger SJV said...

Can't see that either meet the real criteria for "foreign war". I think you need to get shot at. As for me, I'm glad to have been able to serve my country. I didn't join for the plaque.

10/09/2010 9:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a scrapbook that will someday be complete and contain photo documentation of my entire time at USNA, and I wouldn't give one shit if nobody else ever saw it. Granted, it's nice to show off one's workmanship, but really its whole purpose is to bring a huge smile to my face as I look back on wonderful memories.

I view a shadowbox the same way. You might call my wall an "I love me wall", but I think of it as an I love life wall. I appreciate the opportunities that have been given to me, and I enjoy reflecting back on them. My time at USNA has so far defined me. I am the same person as when I entered, but my direction has completely changed.

I'm also an insufferable packrat whom has been saving every shoulderboard, rank insignia, and bauble that I have had since Plebe year. I have no doubt that my time in the Navy will be the same, and I will amass large quantities of things to stick into shiny cases, and frankly I can't wait, because it will mean that I have spent that much more time living and I will have that much more to remember.

10/10/2010 12:28 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The VFW what a load of shit.

Did you know that if a Vet has a AFEM on his DD214 he clears for VFW membership? so nowadays, a SSBN pin counts too...I guess that's a good thing. Gee thanks

10/10/2010 12:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Navy Expeditionary Medal is qualifying for the VFW as well. If you were on an SSN during the cold war and you didn't get one, well, that's not MY fault.

10/10/2010 7:25 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

We left the gedunk, and as I stepped onto the sidewalk some E-7 chief (no dolphins) shouted me down (in front of my buddies and the young lady) and told me to get squared away and get rid of "that green thing."

I had just completed out-processing at 32nd street (for some reason guys from Sub Base SD had to check out there) & was in the parking lot changing out of dress whites into shorts & a t-shirt. Some o-ganger walking by the parking lot starts to give me $h!+. I gave him the single finger salute & told him "I'm no longer in the effin Navy, so F you." He just walked away. Ahhhhhhhhh - my last "official" act on any base.

10/10/2010 12:57 PM

Anonymous Cal said...

George Allen is still around and making models. I have dealt with him on a regular basis over the past few years. He did just move, but if you are interested I have his contact information.

10/10/2010 1:47 PM

Blogger 630-738 said...

I have my shadowbox, it's got the standard fare-rank insignia, medals, ribbons without medals, dolphins, FBM pin, and in my case, Recruit Company Comamnder, Command Career Counselor and Recruiter badges. The hell of it was I had to assemble it myself. My CPO mess didn't see the need to take care of that. Of course, it was a shore duty mess. On the ships I was on, that NEVER happened, even if a non-Chief retired. He always was presented a nice shadow box.

I never question anyone's motives for having (or not having) a retirement ceremony. I don't buy the argument that it's for others, it's a personal choice. ETCS(SS/SW): thanks for your service. I hope you got out of it what you expected and desired. As far as that is concerned, you are most certainly not a dick. 'Nuff said.

As for VFW membership, I could really give a flyin' monkey's ass. I qualify based on NEM, AFEM, and FBM pin, but I'm not joining. Neither am I joining USSVI, FRA, NCOA, or any other service organization. I was motivated to join one or more when I retired, and attended a couple of meetings. I found a mutual admiration society that existed only to collect dues and hold national conventions in areas I had absolutely no interest in visiting to meet people I didn't know and likely wouldn't like, and get commode-hugging drunk with them while telling BS stories that likely didn't happen. No thanks, I can read all the "DBF > Nuke" bullshit online all day. I don't need to listen to it in person.

10/11/2010 10:06 PM

Anonymous 3383 said...

Never knew there was a word for those. Didn't retire, either, so....

I only had 5 awards- Battle "E", Armed Forces Expeditionary (was part of Earnest Will), Good Conduct, the Sea Service Deployment one; and one I can't remember.

10/12/2010 6:23 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I retired in 1977 from ComSubPac Staff N61 shop. Didn't want a retirement ceremony, outprocessed on my last day on active duty after drafting two messages that morning (good to the last drop). As best I can recall, no such thing as a shadow box back then. Shipmates gave me a huge placque with CPO anchors, ribbons, duty assignments on little brass thingys. Hung it up in the garage for many years until my daughter asked if she could have it. It's somewhere in Minnisota now. First CPO retirement I observed was on USS Cusk SS-348 in 1961. Skipper presented him with letter of commendation at quarters topside, Goat Locker were his side boys as he was piped ashore no plaque or anything back then, just his big grin as he walked off the brow.

Yep, thats the way it was in them days...............


10/12/2010 11:38 AM

Blogger I'm Bill Howell. said...

My shadowbox is more of a shadowframe. I wanted something that I could hang on the wall (without worrying that it might fall on someone and kill them). What I got just has my rank insignia, dolphins, ribbons, patrol pin, and a small brass plaque with my name and dates of service. No commands, flags, or medals.

I like to think it's tasteful.

Not tasteful at all, but something I'm much more proud of, is the desk set that my guys made for me out of the guts of ASW-608 when I was Eng on the 639. The plaque on it reads: "Eng: For the "balls" you used to help us during SRA-91. Thanks."

I'd rather have that than all the shadowboxes in the world.

10/12/2010 6:14 PM

Anonymous pc asscolwn said...

reaticNo shadowbox for me. Just a small trinket box where I keep dolphins, ribbons, and FBM patrol pin. I also keep a couple of buffalo nickles, wedding band from first wife, and a couple of teeth that got so rotten that they just fell out of my mouth (somehow I just couldn't part with them).

10/13/2010 10:47 AM

Blogger John said...

@ I'm Bill - that's an awesome thing the guys put together for you. I'd prize something like that forever.

The only things I got off the boats (along with a thousand US Govt pens) were two broken magnetrons from the BPS-15. I had those things for a long time. I had plans to make table lamps out of them, but they got lost somewhere along the lines.

10/13/2010 3:11 PM

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