The Watch

One of my best friends in the Navy retired today, after over twenty years in service.  I flew in from Texas to attend the ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, on the Anocostia River in Washington, D.C. 

I have been proud to know the retiring gentleman for more than fourteen years, and during that time he has served this country in ways that many of us–even me–can hardly begin to understand.  I think many of you watch TV shows that portray the Navy, or read about the Navy in news articles or books, but there is much that is not visible to the average citizen.  I thought I might give you one small glimpse of how it really is. 

The Navy has a long tradition, and it shows in events like retirement ceremonies, today’s being no exception.  During the retirement, it is traditional for the official party, including the retiree, to be piped aboard–meaning a Boatswain blows his pipe, and sideboys all in full dress uniform salute as each dignitary comes aboard; there is the tradition of the shadowbox; there are others, but the one that always gets me–and got me again today–is the last item in the ceremony: the reading of “The Watch.”

I’ll leave you to read it for yourself on this fine fine Friday evening, as I raise a glass to my friend, and wish him “Fair Winds and Following Seas!”  We’re gonna miss you, man.

The Watch

For twenty 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 twenty 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,
“Shipmate, the watch stands relieved,
Relieved by those you have trained, guided, and lead.

“Shipmate, you stand relieved…we have the watch…”

Boatswain, standby to pipe the side…Shipmate going ashore.