Thursday, December 22, 2016
Corpsman Chronicles XIII: Christmas at sea
I spent well over half of my military Christmases underway on the big grey bird boat. Well, not always underway, because the boat was occasionally in port on the blessed day. Regardless, Christmas on the boat was very little different than any other day on the boat. If you were in port and were in the duty section, you had a pretty normal work day. If you were not in the duty section you could go ashore, provided, of course, that you had not run afoul of some rule or regulation and had your liberty "modified." In my early navy days it was not unusual for my liberty to have been modified in some fashion.
I do remember going ashore in Naples on Christmas Day. Pretty sure that was in '83. It was nice to get off the boat and walk around but there wasn't anything Christmasy to do other than get drunk in a sailor bar. There was a lot of that going on, as I recall, but I really wasn't in the mood. I returned to the boat early and a bit dejected and missed the big Christmas meal. Now that was a real bummer.
It was a bummer because on every ship I deployed on the cooks went out of their minds insane to produce a remarkable meal. Now in general navy chow, at least in my experience, was very, very good. The food was well and correctly prepared and served. It was tasty and nourishing. There was plenty of variety. Some of it was a bit strange, like the extruded "french fries," but only rarely did I see a really bad meal, and those were limited to midrat leftovers. And box lunches, of course. But that's a different post.
The only downside to navy chow, especially on the boat, was the chow line. I really didn't like standing in those lines. To this day, if there's a line at a fast food place -- or any other place come to think of it -- I take my business elsewhere.
So anyway, chow was always pretty good on the boat, at least in my experience. But on Thanksgiving and Christmas it was astonishingly good. Perhaps the festive decorations helped, and perhaps the crew's knowledge that it was a special day and special meal eased deployment grumpiness and lifted spirits. In fact I'm sure that was part of it. But believe it or not, the quality, flavor and satisfaction of holiday meals on the boats I served on absolutely rivaled the best holiday meals I ever had at home.
Most of those deployed holiday meals have long since run together in my mind. The abiding memory is one of very good food and a certain kind of holiday cheer that you'll only ever find on a deployed warship. It's holiday cheer spiked with a strong sense of giving. I don't remember anyone ever talking about it, but I think we all felt that serving at the pointy end on Christmas was a gift to our fellow Americans. The following menus are from well before my time, but they ring true to the spirit and the food I experienced underway at Christmas.
Foot update: Today is the 14th day post-surgery. The infection seems to be coming under control, though it also seems to have a ways to go. In general the foot feels "better." I did have a fall on the ice yesterday, and during that fall I whacked my heel pretty good, so I'm having a bit more pain than I had pre-fall. I don't think it's any big deal, just one of those things. I'm still getting IV antibiotics. I'll be seeing the surgeon today and see what he has to say about where I am and where I'm headed. I'd like to get the sutures out, and I'd like to lose the picc line and perhaps go on a course of oral antibiotics to finish this off, but what I'd like and what makes sense medically may be at odds. We'll see.