I was in the US Navy from June 10, 1973 until September 10, 1977. My Boot Camp for the Navy was in Great Lakes, IL and I was in the 22nd Battalion Company 73-192. My Company Commander (CC) was 1st Class Hambrick or who we called “Blue Beard” for his sadistic and overly difficult “Happy Hours” (punishment for any infractions of the rules and resulted in 8 hours of exercise rolled into a one hour session).
Why do I tell you all this useless information? Well…basically (no pun intended) you become VERY close to the guys you go to Boot Camp with for those 8 weeks. And while 8 weeks may not seem such a long time…it’s an eternity when you’re 18 years old and have no idea what each day will bring…so you relied on your “shipmates” to help you get through.
During these 8 weeks, you hear stories of others background, you usually get a nickname (or only called by your last name), and you slowly become what the Navy set out to make you…A Sailor.
Sometime during the latter part of your Boot Camp it becomes time to have your “OFFICIAL US NAVY PHOTO” taken and also a group shot of your entire company. Again…at 18 years of age, this is just another bothersome thing you do in Boot Camp. Little did I know how important these pictures would become and how I wished I had purchased them at the time. Also during boot camp, on various days of drills, exercises and daily Boot Camp life more pictures were taken of us and finally these images were assembled together in what is commonly called a “yearbook”.
I was “smart” enough to purchase the Boot Camp Yearbook, which was called “The Keel”. I held onto this book for about 15 years before it apparently got lost during one of my moves. I noticed it missing sometime about 1992 or 1993 (or about 20 years after attending Boot Camp). Since that time I have tried NUMEROUS times to locate this book. The book was published in LIMITED quantities, after all there were only 66 guys in my company. And after 20, 30 and even 40 years…you forget names, or the names you do remember are so common you’d never be able to locate them…I mean, do you know how many HOWARD JOHNSONS there are in the United States?
Since 1995, I have searched eBAY almost daily…no really, DAILY!! I have gotten close to finding my book by seeing books of Company’s close to the time I was there…but not mine.
About 4 years ago…I finally found a LINK. One of the guys that I went through BOTH Boot Camp and Hospital Corpsman School, I found his daughter on Facebook. HOORAY I thought! Unfortunately for me, the 20 year old young lady told me that her father passed away 10 years earlier. I was devastated over the loss of my old buddy, I was just not expecting that kind of news. So after speaking with her on Facebook and telling her about her Dad over the course of several months…she got married and basically dropped out of sight. She had told me that she had seen pictures of me and Steve and also our Boot Camp buddies, as well as “THE BOOK” I had been searching for…so for the last couple of years…that lead dried up.
Just a few weeks ago…through another search I finally found Steve’s wife living in California. I also found his Dad (whom I had met back in 1973 and was now 86 years old).I called the Dad and spoke with him…we had a very nice conversation and he stated I that “I made his day and brought tears to his eyes”. AND…he gave me Steve’s wife’s phone number.
I called Steve’s wife last night and while I can understand the shock of getting such a phone call, I explained my sorrow for her loss and what I hoping to find. She was very defensive at first (understandably so), but eventually warmed up a little. She remembered seeing lots of pictures of the Boot Camp group. But she said she did not have the book. I asked her if she would look for it when she got the time, but again she gave me the excuse that she was really busy during this time in her life and did not know if she would be able to help me. I offered to scan and return any items, I offered to “compensate” her or her favorite charity, but by the end of the conversation the best I got was that she would try. She took my phone number and my email address and I hung up…more frustrated and pretty BUMMED out that my best hope at recovering this book is probably all but lost.
Finally…I did sit down and write a letter to her explaining all this all over again in the hopes that maybe the letter will change her mind…as for now, MY SEARCH CONTINUES.