Yeah, I know that this guy’s uniform is jacked up. I know you can’t wear your collar standing up like that no matter how cold it is, and that your pockets are decorative only. Were I doing an inspection, The Lone Sailor here would probably not pass. He would be called to re-inspect later.
But I marched past a replica of this statue every day for some of the longest weeks of my life. He was a proud symbol of everything we hoped to achieve, and everything that everyone before us had achieved. It was an image we had hoped to live up to. A symbol of what it meant to be a Sailor. To wear even the lowest uniform and to even be graced the swab the decks was to be a proud member of the United States Navy, and that alone was worth singing “Anchors Aweigh” with a hoarse throat.
The Lone Sailor statue is cast from the hulls of ships long past, giving it the truth behind that sentiment. Lives lost and watery graves. Also, strength of the future. A symbol of strength that will endure the weather, a hint that from here on we would be perpetual, like the water that carries our ships.
Being a Sailor meant more to me than I ever expected, and no matter what happened since, it is something I will always carry with me. It was a part of me, and it continues to be, like that damned statue w/ his jacked up collar and his damned hands in his damned pockets. I have pride in that part of my life, no matter how it ended, no matter how it was cut short. No matter how the career I wanted was yanked out from under me and no matter how I feel betrayed by the very body that carried me through those days of training and “snow watch” at Great Lakes, I was a Sailor, it is a part of me that I treasure. It is a strength that can not be taken from me.
I hope that you get a chance to pay a thankful word to a Veteran today (or tomorrow depending on where you are). Whether a thank-you for what they have done, are doing, or will do (because, Active Duty are Veterans too), remember that their service meant something to them in some manner also. It wasn’t just a pay check or a call to duty. In some way it became a part of that person. It wasn’t just a uniform we put on or stamped dog tags. It was a part of our person. Something we will always carry, but not like a weapon or a line. It changed us. In our very inner most being, it changed us, hardened us and gave us the strength of dozens of ships to endure, even if it isn’t obvious to one who hasn’t served.
You don’t take that off.
It is cast on us, like bronze.