On Friday, the seventeenth of January at eleven o’clock I had the honor and privilege of attending the Retirement Ceremony of my pal Lee and his family from 30 years of service in the United States Navy. Driving onto the Naval Air Station, Oceana is itself a rare and solemn moment for me as a civilian. Driving the proper speed through the base, I ruminated on the many ways the military would have been good for me…though I don’t think I would have been very good for the military. Thank God for Lee Barbrey.
Inside the hangar, we prepped the reception tables as the air of celebration danced alongside the weight of loyal patriotism.
Uniformed soldiers at attention exemplify dedicated, excellent leadership resulting in a powerful ripple effect that protects our country.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again,
because there is not effort without error and shortcoming;
but who does actually strive to do the deeds…who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement…” ~Theodore Roosevelt
Commanding Officer J. Sager and Master Chief Petty Officer M. Stevens both spoke eloquently and respectfully of my friend. I gather that they are as important as Lee if not more, as they hold him in such high regard, thereby showing their intelligence and good taste in a Shipmate. MCPON Stevens told a great story about a special event where a flag was raised upside down during the visit of a respected dignitary. The soldiers quickly regrouped and hung the flag again–upside down. The rope was on a loop and would have eventually righted the flag but there was squirming and appropriate fear in the ranks. However, Lee plopped down in a chair afterwards and drawled to his shipmate, “I think that ceremony went pretty well, dontchoo?”
Brave men and women in uniform inspire awe as they exude respect, honor, and integrity. There was not a dry eye in the house during the CMC’s closing remarks, and as a comrade read “Pipe the Side” through tough guy emotions and we watched the entire family symbolically go ashore.
PIPE THE SIDE
This order has been passed on naval ships from the 1500’s through today. Spanish, French, English, Dutch…yes, all navies of the world use the boatswain and sideboys to bring abord or send ashore all ship’s company officers, visiting officers and dignitaries. The sideboys would haul on the ropes and raise or lower the boarding platform so dignitaries would not have to climb the rat lines that were used by the crew.
It was not uncommon for the commanding officer of a ship to order up the jolly boat, a crew of eight strong backs, sideboys, and boatswain to send an old Shipmate and fellow officer to his shore retirement…home…never to sail on Naval ships again.
“All hands on deck” was passed, speeches were made about great victories, battles fought upon the open sea, raging storms weathered, and voyages to distant and strange lands with ports of call others only dreamed about. Then, a fine sword…a brace of pistols…a rifle or musket…or maybe a sea chest of fine wood and bound in brass…was presented to remind him of crews and ships he has served with. The boatswain would stand tall the sideboys, the retiree would request permission to go ashore and step to the platform as the sideboys lowered away. As the jolly boat pulled away, the gunner would fire a salute from the ship’s main battery as the retiree sat in the stern sheets…going ashore.
Today our navy has given most of the pomp and circumstance, the honors, traditions, and ceremonies back to history. Time does not give us the freedom to do these things from the past, but we still have to stop all engines, lay about smartly, and drop anchor to pay honor to one of our Shipmates going ashore. To honor the years served, the guidance, the leadership, the experience, and above all the friendship that this Shipmate has freely given these 30 years.
Boatswain…stand by to pipe the side. Our Shipmate, Command Master Chief Lee Barbrey and family, going ashore.
If not for the traditions and training of these fine men and women, I would not feel as comfortable with the knowledge that CMC Barbrey is no longer standing the watch. However, his leadership leaves a legacy which will carry on and I can be brave, as he has been, as he leaves the Red Rippers in capable hands.
For thirty years this sailor has stood the watch.
While some of us were in our bunks at night this sailor stood the watch.
While some of us were in school learning our trade this Shipmate stood the watch.
Yes, even before some of us were born into this world this Shipmate stood the watch.
In those years when the storm clouds of war were seen brewing on the horizon of history,
this Shipmate stood the watch.
Many times he would cast an eye ashore and see his family standing there
needing his guidance and help,
needing that hand to hold during those hard times,
but still he stood the watch.
He stood the watch for thirty years.
He stood the watch so that we, our families, and our fellow countrymen
could sleep soundly in safety each and every night
knowing that a Sailor stood the watch.
Today we are here to say…
“Master Chief…the watch stands relieved.
Relieved by those you have trained, guided and led.”