Any of us who have spent a fair amount of time at sea become acquainted with the full cycle of life — from the births at home to the passings at sea.Â For those of us in aviation, that environment afforded more opportunities for the latter, sometimes, unfortunately, exceptionally so.Â My first encounter was when a young LT in one of our A-7 squadrons in CVW-7 was lost at sea after his jet slid off the deck in the North Atlantic.
Sat with him for the brief and come back next recovery to find he was no more.
That was the first of what became a long line of memorials in the foc’sl or on the flightdeck.Â Not long thereafter, during a Mediterranean deployment our COD was lost with all hands when it flew into a mountainside in IMC weather in the east Med. Â Great tragedy that was with departed pax heading home to shore duty after surviving the bulk of the deployment.Â However, it wasn’t until another ship, another squadron and air wing some years later that that procession grew especially long and underscored the violent nature of our business and the frailty of our existence.Â It began with an overdue S-3 that never returned from a night mission, a Marine A-6 lost a couple of days later when it flew into the sea checking out potential wreckage, another A-6 (same squadron) lost with both pilot and B/NÂ later in deployment on a Case III recovery or my roommate who was for all intents and purposes dead (later revived but permanently incapacitated) in an auto accident while returning from pre-exercise planning in England.Â We also lost an F-14 but regained the crew and the Whale det that was deployed the first half of our deployment would be the one that had the barrier crash on NimitzÂ with loss of all onboard later.Â In each case, the naval services (for we had Marines deployed with us on those several occasions) brought forth the best of their sea-going traditions.
For it’s like this — we all work in one persuasion or another. And we each honor and appreciate one another’s company and efforts to varying degrees.
But when you go to sea, there is a special bond that is developed through shared adversity and an understanding of the importance of the ship you share versus the timeworn elements of the sea.Â So, when a shipmate passes, one desires to honor them in a special way.
And when it is a CMC, in this case, CVW-7’s CMC, it is especially noteworthy:
(h/t to Byron’s CPO Son-in-Law & a former DDG/CG CO for the pics)