I recently received an item,THE GOOD EARTH, from Brenda in Australia - which is currently on this site under that title. I wrote the following in my message back to her:
“It is nice to have someone from so far away clicking on Keeping Apace. Isn't the World Wide Web great?!
During the Korean War (at the conclusion of my last tour of duty there aboard an aircraft carrier) our ship was scheduled for a cruise to Australia before returning home. Everyone on board was looking forward to the treat. Unfortunately, we were caught in a heavy typhoon that damaged our flight and hangar decks, requiring return to the states for shipyard repairs instead of proceeding on to visit your wonderful country.”
She responded with the following message:
“The web sure is an incredible piece of technology. Some see it as computers, but really it's all about connecting people together…
We quite often get US ships docking in Sydney - at the navy base of Garden Island right in one of the best locations in the harbour. And whenever they dock and have an open day the queues are huge. Families are everywhere and the atmosphere is wonderful. On a big port visit all the sailors add kind of festive feel to the inner city.
But there's one ship visit a few years ago that has really stayed in my memory.
The ship (wish I could remember the name) was in Sydney for Anzac Day. To Australians Anzac Day is probably the most meaningful day of the year. It started as a commemoration of the World War I landings at Gallipoli, but has evolved to be a “veterans day”. Every year there's a dawn service and a parade of veterans in all the cities and towns.
This particular Anzac Day it rained.
The veterans kept marching of course and for a while the crowds along the roadside kept their positions, too. Then it rained a little heavier and gradually the crowds shrank back a couple of metres to shelter under the awnings of shops.
And as the crowd moved back one figure remained standing straight and unconcerned as the veterans marched and rain poured. He was impeccably dressed and groomed and seemed not to have even noticed the rain.
It was a lone US sailor from the visiting warship.
It was a touching, symbolic moment better than any media report, speech or tv show. It was a bond between friends and allies which I think everyone there felt. The US Navy won some more friends in Sydney that day.
Even now the whole scene - a parade of old veterans in the rain, the crowd shrunk back, the sailor standing alone - the memory of it is vivid and I can feel the tears in my eyes. I wish I had of said something to that sailor but maybe he knew what we were feeling.