There is no doubt that September 11, 2001 was a devastating time for all Americans. The endless hours of watching the unfolding drama of rescue, personal grief, acts of faith that someone would still be alive, and other breaking news that the perpetrators would be eventually hunted down, placed a pall upon the general public.
As a former crewmember of USS DIABLO (SS 479), I was looking forward to visiting many of my old shipmates at our Sub Reunion, scheduled for October 11, 2001. Then 911 took place, and the wind went out of my sails, as I am sure many of the potential attendees scheduled for the Reunion also felt. We were still going to Groton, but!
Most of us arrived at the reunion hospitality room in Groton not quite sure that our original plans for the weekend were still in play. We exchanged various pleasantries, but still the 911 Event was foremost in our minds. We were pleasantly surprised to hear that true to our original plan, our crew was invited to the Basic Submarine School Graduation on the Base the very next morning. Thanks to the efforts of our Reunion coordinators.
The next day my wife and I went through the Base Security check-in process, and then proceeded to the Graduation along with several dozen of our shipmates, all wearing USS DIABLO caps or shirts.
This is where that OLD FEELING comes into focus!
Collectively and individually, our Reunion group was greeted by one of the primary instructors for the graduating class just prior to the ceremony. He praised the fact that those in sub crews like ours were the standard bearers for the Sub Force of today, especially those who were taking their first graduation steps prior to being assigned to one of the boats. This young officer was so enthusiastic; it was infectious. We in turn conveyed our congratulations with sincerity and joy to each of those young Sub School graduates. After the ceremony, from the Admiral on down through the Chaplain and instructional petty officers, they shook our hands, and again thanked us for our service. Wow! Can you imagine what that did for our egos?
It didn’t end there. As a group, we were directed to the Enlisted Mess Hall, where we mingled in the serving line as well as at the tables with many submariners and support staff. They were polite, courteous and inquisitive as to who we were, and why we were in New London.
Walking back to our cars from the Mess Hall, we passed many enlisted and officer personnel who greeted us in a very friendly and respectful manner as we passed by. We even found that just asking how to get to a specific building or two on the base resulted in patient detailed directions.
Later on in the day, we had the privilege of visiting the Nautilus Museum in all of its glory. Here again, respect for who we were was the order of the day. Many of us discussed these pleasant experiences later during our various Reunion activities.
Net result! I have regained that OLD FEELING of being a submariner and all that this means to each of us who chose this option. Thanks to all of those submariners in New London, who rekindled such powerful feelings.