After 6 months the USS LOUISVILLE returned to Pearl Harbor yesterday- another successful deployment to the Western Pacific behind them.
Watching a submarine fade off into the distance from the pier is one of the most sombering experiences for me. Although I have only missed one underway in the 12 years I have been riding subs, I have seen them on many occasions at sea and from the shore going off to protect our waters. A surfaced submarine one of the most loneliest-looking things I have ever seen, if there is such an anthropomorphic sight. It looks out of place, the only sign of life perhaps a few figures on top of hte sail poking their heads up and the white wash following behind.
It is an especially uplifting sight to see one pull in. The environment that we submariners operate in is in a constant flux of conflict- the ocean around us always trying to find a way in, the hydraulic, air, water, and steam systems always trying to find a way out of their captive piping. It is an unforgiving environment, one of the most dangerous in the Navy, and our policies and procedures are literally written in blood from the fallen comrades who came before us. A homecoming represents a victory for the crew against all elements that are in a perpetual battel to do us harm- this includes those enemies of the world who patrol the oceans for whom we must be on guard.
It was good to see old friends return from a journey marred with internal struggles and opposing outside forces. You could feel the tension in the air from the wives, girlfriends, soon-to-be wedded girls, and family members.
It seemed like an eternity to watch the sub bounce off the pier bumpers and get tied up, to wait for the brow to go across, and for the red carpet, barrier ropes, and arhway at the end of the brow to be set up. it seems like a nice welcoming gesture but it just holds up the people who just want to get off that boat and see their families, have a beer, and take a shower in their own home.
No Hawaii homecoming would be complete without the lei around the sail, ukulele players, hula dancers, and food and drink waiting on the pier. I had something special for my old sonar division- Jello shots in syringes (yes, real Jello 'shots'). Ironically I was told by a LCDR, prompted by a civilian woman (who I basically told to go shit in a hat when she said myae that wasn't a good idea to pass out) that since a photographer form the Honolulu Advertiser was here taking pictures that maybe I should wait until he leaves.
With as much respect as I could muster for this officer, I told him that there was a keg of beer in the direction of my finger and that there were people hanging lei's with Jack Daniels, Jose Cuervo, and Stoly wrapped in them. Jello shots were the least of the problem. He started to say something but he trailed off as 3 of my old shipmates ran over to me and grabbed the shots which I had promised 2 months earlier.
I went down when things got a little less hectic and grabbed a few things that I had left when I transferred. My wife was there and even though I wasn't returning form the deployment with them she still got a little teary eyed and realized that this is how a homecoming should be. I was comforted that this was the first and last homecoming my family will ever have to endure while I am in the Navy.