Saturday, September 1, 2007

San Diego, Day 1, Thank You U.S. Navy!

Some of you may know by now that Bobby is interested in attending the U.S. Naval Academy for college. Because of this, he wanted to see some of the Pacific Fleet, which is mostly stationed in San Diego. We hoped to see a few ships today, but we had no way of knowing what a great day it would turn out to be. The U.S. Navy went all-out to make it special for all five of us, but especially for Bobby.

This is a run-down of most of the highlights of our day:

9:00 AM - We began the day with a tour of the U.S.S. Jefferson City, which is an attack class submarine. The Jefferson City is based at the Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego. The amazing thing was that the ship's captain gave us the tour himself. We saw everything interesting that was not classified. The kids' favorite parts were looking through the periscope, seeing the captain's small personal quarters, and eating doughnuts in the galley.

11:00 - Now on the other side of the large bay/harbor that sits right in the heart of the city, we visited the U.S.S. Kidd. This is the Navy's newest destroyer in the Pacific Fleet. Bobby was very pleased to get a tour from bow to stern (from, again, the ship's captain). We basically saw everything, or at least everything that they were allowed to show us. One interesting thing is that this ship was built with very few right angles on the outside, thereby making it very difficult to be spotted by radar. It is very high-tech, using stealth and other types of advanced technology.

12:30 - As we were getting a quick bite to eat, our tour guide for the day somehow used his contacts within the San Diego Chargers (the city's professional football team) to arrange a brief meeting with LaDainian Tomlinson, the team's star running back. Tomlinson had just finished filming a commercial on the naval base. After the commercial was completed, he walked over to Bobby, shook his hand, and told him that he was glad to meet him. He also shook everyone else's hands in our family (including mine - yeah!). Despite being a big star, Tomlinson seemed to be a very nice man. It was a nice contrast to the Michael Vick mess back in Virginia.

1:15 - After inhaling the remainder of lunch, we sped to the Navy Seal Training Center in Coronado. This is where the U.S. military produces its toughest soldiers (sorry to all you Army Rangers or Marines out there; I think the Seals have you beat). We were given a tour, once again by the commanding officer, that focused on their obstacle course. Mary wanted to give it a try, but fortunately time wouldn't allow it. If I had attempted to complete it, I would currently be blogging from a local E.R. instead of from my hotel room. Bobby's favorite part of going to the Seal Training Center was getting to hold various weapons (guns) that the Seals use. After watching a video on how tough it is to become a Seal (6 months of training; most applicants do not make it through), Bobby said, "I still want to be an officer in the Navy, but I don't want to be a Seal."

2:30 - We were hoping to get a boat ride around the San Diego harbor, and this was it. We visited the Navy SWCC (Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman) center, which was basically across the street from the Seal facility. SWCC, by the way, is pronounced "swick." These are the guys who drive the really cool, really fast boats of the Navy. To read more about it, click here. After being greeted and shown around by, you guessed it, the commanding officer, two other officers took us out on the harbor for a spin in one of their fast boats. For part of the trip, and this is no joke, we were traveling at 50 m.p.h. Wow! It was a blast. I'm just glad my sunglasses didn't go flying into the harbor. Bobby even got to drive the boat a bit. The above picture shows one of the Navy guys driving. The picture below shows Bobby driving (Yikes).

4:15 - The day concluded with what was probably the best part. We were given a full tour of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, which is the largest military ship in the world. Amazingly, this aircraft carrier's captain gave us the tour himself (he is standing with Bobby in the top photo of this post). He was a kind and gracious man, answering all of Bobby's many questions and spending over an hour with us. We got to see, among other things, the flight deck, the hanger bay, the bridge, the captain's quarters (which are based on the "Red Room" in the white house), and the Reagan museum on board. The museum has personally signed letters of the former president, a piece of the Berlin wall, and other items from the Reagan presidency. In the last photo below, Bobby is in the Reagan museum.

We thank the Lord for giving us this opportunity. This trip really has given Bobby something concrete to look forward to during the difficult times of chemotherapy, weakness, illness, and isolation. We also thank the U.S. Navy for going above and beyond the call of duty today.

Tomorrow we are off to visit Legoland.


Nicholas said...

Wow! What a great trip!!!

Unfortunately, you have been terribly misinformed about the Navy SEALS. It is very easy to watch what they complete in their training and assume that what they do is difficult, but the reality is that it is mere child's play compared to the rigors of becoming an Airborne Ranger. Pretty-boy SEALS have the tendency to exaggerate a lot, and that seems to be exactly the line you got.

Interestingly (And I'm not kidding) SEALS are often given the chance to go through Ranger school -- the vast majority of them do not make it. They can't handle being dirty without food and sleep for that long...

Glad to see it is going so well -- What a great experience, not only for Bobby, but the entire family!!!

Eric said...


Interesting info. about the Seals. Oh well, I'm glad both the Seals and the Rangers are on the same side against the bad guys.

It really was a great day. The rest of our time here should be nice, but I don't think anything will compare to yesterday. Legoland should be nice, but how can it compare to the USS Reagan?

Anonymous said...

As someone who met Bobby on his PACFLT tour, I would like to say how blown away we all were by his military knowledge and his vocabulary. WHAT A SPECIAL YOUNG MAN, YOU MUST BE PROUD.

--Honored to be Bobby's shipmate

P.S. The Navy SEALs are the military's elite, the best commandos in the world...don't let anybody tell you any different.

Eric said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your kind words about Bobby. He loved the day with the Navy. We were all so impressed, especially since we met with the commanding officers of all 5 places we went.

The SEALS were awesome!