Commentary: A Magic Look into Life at Sea

16 Jun 2008 | Sgt. Andy Hurt 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Author’s Note: The following article is NOT news. It might not even be true. Parts of it are factual; most of it is here-say and banter … or is it? It is highly recommended that no reader take this story seriously, but instead, read it aloud to a child or yourself and you might find a laugh or two in the midst of deployment fog. In any case, enjoy.

 “Aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard” is usually the way we begin our news stories. The simple introduction is usually followed by a date, and if you’re of keen eye you’ll notice we post stories here usually one day ahead of when they appear on the Web site. For example, if you view the unit Web site on April 24th, you might notice the most recent story was posted on April 25th. Unusual isn’t it? Well, there is a simple explanation we use to explain this and other strange occurrences we experience on the ship each and every day … The ship is magic.

Don’t believe it? Shortly after passing the Hawaiian Islands on our trans-pacific voyage, the ships crossed a line, an imaginary line, known as the International Date Line. The exact moment we crossed the line, we set our clocks forward in time twenty-four hours. For this reason alone, we completely skipped a twenty-four hour period of time (known to humans as “one day”). I think this year, we missed April 23. No one deployed right now with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit or Bonhomme Richard Strike Group (including the USS Denver and Rushmore) can remember anything about themselves on April 23, 2007. And they never will. We never experienced it. What’s even wilder is that on our return trip to the United States, we will live one certain day twice.

If that doesn’t convince you of our “Magic Ship,” this will …

This morning, as the sun rose over the ocean and everything was peaceful and right with the world, I sat on the edge of the flight deck and gazed off into the mist. The water was like pure glass, unfettered and smooth. The sky was a cool blue-gray, and seemingly dripped into the horizon, melting the line between Earth and space. It was beautiful. Nothing could disturb the utter peace I felt, until something jumped out of the water. It wasn’t much of a jump, more of a flitter-splash and just enough to make a few rings dance and disappear with the ship’s wake. But from the splash flew a fish! Yes, a flying fish. The fish did not leap and land, the fish leapt from the water, spread its wings, glided over the surface of the ocean for 100 yards or so, and landed. When I was young, I had only dreamed of a fish that could fly, because fish that can fly must certainly be Magic.

Once, I saw a bird dive into the water after one of these fish. At the instant the bird dipped his claws into the water, the fish flew out and away. The bird chased after the fish, but to no avail. The fish out-flew the bird. Pure Magic.

And then there are “Sweepers.” Periodically throughout the day, a call comes over the ships public address system (we call it the 1MC): “Sweepers, sweepers, man your brooms. Give the ship a good sweep down front to aft …” The reason for Sweepers it quite strange in itself, because although we are nowhere near land, somehow dirt and dust are everywhere, in every nook and cranny, every untouched corner. Where does the dirt come from? Apparently, someone was so dirty prior to our departure, they continue to track dirt about the ship nearly one month after leaving San Diego. But the strangest, most “Magic” aspect about Sweepers are the Sweepers themselves.

It is a common belief that Sweepers are not of the usual crew. They are small, elf-like persons that hide in the passageways (which we call p-ways) and only come out whence called. Even now, the rumor of Sweepers’ existence is unconfirmed. No one has ever seen a Sweeper, probably because they hide. But day in and day out in this life at sea, the ship maintains a high-gloss shine of cleanliness. The Sweepers are Magic.

There are several more instances of Magic occurring aboard our ships, but those shall be left for telling another day. Until that day comes, cherish the thought that ship life for your deployed service member does not consist only of long lines and lukewarm foodstuffs. There is an element of Magic everywhere in the world, and the Bonhomme Richard Strike Group, which slowly but surely steams its way along WESTPAC 07, is no exception.

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit