Did you know that October 13 is the 243rd birthday of the US Navy? I didn’t. I learned about it after Rebecca agreed to perform music for one night of the celebrations at the Naval Submarine Base in Kings Bay, Georgia. As the October 11 date approached, south Georgia dealt with Hurricane Michael and for this time of year, intense heat. Despite those obstacles and others commonly associated with big events at a military facility, the Navy’s birthday kicked off smoothly.
I accompanied Rebecca to the event hosted by K. B. Finnegan’s Irish Pub on base, after undergoing the necessary background check. Some clients I’ve written for had also required background checks for projects, so this wasn’t new to me. Rebecca got a kick out of it.
Heather Altiser, who coordinated the event, had to have nerves of steel, I think, to deal with what nature threw at her right up to the day the celebrations kicked off. As Hurricane Michael roared through the southeast, none of us really knew what to expect despite constant forecasts from weather experts. Hurricane Hugo taught me you don’t know what to expect from Mother Nature until she does it.
The hurricane took mercy, and by Thursday, the sun was out and you’d never have known we’d just been under the threat of horrible weather the day before. The sun was out in a rather merciless way. The extended heat of this summer reminded me of my childhood days when my mom was pregnant with her third child. Like most Americans, we didn’t have air-conditioning as we know it now. I remember the oppressive nature of that heat, and that’s what it was like outside yesterday.
Heat didn’t deter the celebrations, although people were seeking shade and peeling off jackets.
Some relief came in the form of a sturdy breeze. I just kept moving my chair on the breezeway to dodge the sun.
People milled around, talking and trading stories about service and life. Children had a ball with the bounce house and cornhole game. I met so many people, and what struck me about our military is the diversity of it. I considered photos of the military in other countries. In some countries, the faces are homogenous. Not so in the US military—we are all in this together and the population shows it. Without exception, everyone I met or talked to was so nice. I knew a lot about military families because I married into one and my own relatives served. I admire the camaraderie and the shared sacrifices these families make.
We had one momentary hiccup. When I heard the first note of Taps, I beelined to the stage because Rebecca and her co-guitarist-vocalist Wes Goode were about to start another song. She stopped as soon as I gave her the timeout signal used at football games. I don’t think she heard those first notes because she was so focused on the set list and performing. As Taps played, we all stood silently as the sun (thankfully) was setting. It was a beautiful moment.
Despite challenges inherent in any celebration, Ms. Altiser capably got everything squared up, and a good time was had by all. Celebrations continue today ahead of the official October 13 birthday of our US Navy.
Also, thanks are due to the bartender we know through Rebecca’s performances at Wee Pub South in Kingsland for leading us out of the base because we had to exit by a different gate. We’d have had a bit of a struggle finding our way without him.
Happy birthday, US Navy, and many more to come.
(Kay B. Day/Oct. 12, 2018)