Part 3 of 3- My Daze in the U.S. Navy
In late November 1972, the USS Ranger (CVA 61) cruised under the Golden Gate Bridge, never stopping until it reached the Gulf of Tonkin off Vietnam. For approximately six weeks we launched planes that flew bombing missions inland. My work space and birthing (sleeping) area were at the very front of the carrier, just below the flight deck where the planes were catapulted off the ship. Planes were launched 24/7 during those initial six weeks. The noise and movement of the bow, or front of the ship, was horrific. I was on the top bunk and the catapult ran directly above my head. The same was true in my work space. Earplugs made little difference.
Around the third week of January 1973, we cruised into Subic Bay, Philippines, for the first time. Olongapo, known as “sin city”, awaited the men on board. In the midst of the city was the Overseas Christian Serviceman’s Center which offered a breath of fresh air…figuratively and literally as well. Everyone that came to the center was fed, invited to stay for a time of singing and Bible study, and approximately a dozen men could spend the night. This seemed like a bit of heaven on earth for a weary sailor.
On January 28, 1973, the Ranger headed back out to sea where something significant was about to take place. The captain, who doesn’t normally speak to the crew, came over the PA system. He announced that the Vietnam cease-fire was now in effect and four carriers: USS Ranger, USS Enterprise, USS America, and USS Oriskany, along with their destroyers, would be lining up together in the Gulf of Tonkin for a celebratory picture. There were shouts of joy throughout the ship. Some men thought we would be heading back home. That didn’t happen for another five months!
During the ensuing months I had opportunity to visit Hong Kong, Kowloon, Singapore, Japan, and a number of visits to several beautiful places in the Philippines. I realized God had answered my prayers to see some of the world.
On May 15, the Ranger headed south until we crossed the Equator. We anxiously anticipated the arrival of King Neptune, Davey Jones, and the worthy Shellbacks of the mysterious realm. We didn’t have to wait long and soon it was time for four thousand seven hundred hearty Pollywogs (the other three hundred men had already been across the equator) to prove their loyalty to the Sea King through a series of not-so-much-fun initiations, ending with a dip in the green magic solution to remove the slim of the “wog”. I will never forget having my face smeared across the bulging belly of the Royal Baby!
Around this point in the cruise I received a letter from Dr. Walter Sligh, Dr. Mike Sligh’s father and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Lakeland Christian School. I had known Dr. Walter all my life and knew of his prayers for me over many years. His kind letter contained an invitation to consider returning to Lakeland after fulfilling my four year service commitment and working at LCS. He encouraged me to take time to seriously pray and ask for God’s guidance. I did just that and over a period of several weeks felt God wanted me to accept his offer.
On June22, 1973, the USS Ranger once again crossed under the Golden Gate Bridge. The tug boats guided her into place in Alameda. There was not the fanfare that you see today when carriers return. Yes, there was a small band that played, and many family members were waiting, but this was a turbulent time in our nation’s history. Few understood or supported this war that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 58,000 service men on the other side of the world.
My last six months on the Ranger were a blur. I can tell you that I wouldn’t have changed those four years for anything. I made friends that I still stay in touch with today. God used those days to clearly speak truth into my life and equip me for my years at Lakeland Christian School.
I began my career at LCS on March 1, 1974, and it was here that I met my wife, Kären (she began teaching here in August 1969), and where our two children, Ashley and Dustin, were educated in the light of God’s Word. My official days at LCS came to a close in August 2014, when Matt Green took the helm. What a joy it is for me to see him carry the torch to the next generation. I continue to volunteer as the LCS Archivist, preserving the school’s history for future generations.
– Viking View written by John Douglass, LCS Alumni & Archivist