Thank You, America!

Autobiography of a Naval Career

Excerpt from Chapter 2

Mr. Smith

The students lived in barracks at Naval Air Station, Memphis, TN that were two story brick buildings like dormitories where about fifty guys slept on double high bunks at each level. Lockers sort of separated four sets of bunk beds into cubicles. We had a Chief Petty Officer as the Company Commander. His name was Smith.

Each day, we encountered Mr. Smith for one reason or another. I would always address him as Mr. Smith because that is how my parents raised me. We were taught to respect our elders and address them as Mr. or Mrs. I never wavered, even to people that I knew well in our little home town in Maryland, it was always Mr. or Mrs. if they were older than me.

One morning, Mr. Smith stopped me in the passageway after I had said, “Good morning Mr. Smith!” He said, “Rotruck, my name is Chief!” I said, “Okay Mr. Chief!” He said, “No, it is not Mr. Chief, it is just plain Chief!” But I said, “If my Dad heard me calling you anything but Mr., he would bust my behind good and proper!” The Chief smiled and said, “Look son, you are in the Navy now and my official title is Chief. Your Dad is not here and the Navy has different rules. Trust me, you do not dishonor me by calling me Chief. It took me a lot of years of Naval Service for me to earn this title and I wear it with pride. Do you understand?” “Yes sir,” I replied smartly. “Have a great day Chief,” as I sauntered down the passageway having received a new life lesson in my early Navy career. Nine years later, I became a Chief Petty Officer and bore the name with distinct pride. Two years later, I was commissioned as a Warrant Officer. Guess what, my name became: Mr. Rotruck.

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