This is a note to thank all of you who thus far provided me feedback on the installments of my book, Steel Decks and Glass Ceilings.
Those who have complimented the book have motivated me to keep at it. That is good. i need motivation.
Others have included corrections, edits, or revisions. This changed my perspective on the installments. i now look upon that feedback as essential in making this a more accurate and much better read in the long run.
One issue about the book has bugged me from the beginning. That is using the actual names of sailors who did some things wrong during the deployment. i initially decided it was not big deal. i checked with several folks who have more knowledge and experience than i do. From that i concluded naming the guilty was not my problem and what risk of a law suit existed, i was willing to chance for the book being as accurate as it could be.
Several friends including my wife were concerned about possible libel suits from the guilty. Although i had considered such a possibility, this is not the reason i have changed my mind about names. But with the number of folks voicing concern, i sat down with myself and reconsidered the situation.
First off, i concluded naming those guilty folks would serve no purpose other than to put their names out there with a negative connotation for the public at large. During my two-year tour aboard Yosemite there were four crew members, one female and three males, that drove me bonkers with their disruption of good order and discipline. As a problem, they didn’t go away until i left the ship for my next duty station. Although i told myself i was only being accurate, there could have been a hint of revenge for the trouble they caused me, at least subconsciously. i believe i am better than that, above revenge, above holding a grudge.
Then there was and what continues to be my job as executive officer of the USS Yosemite. The executive officer has many facets of his job to perform. There are none more important than supporting the commanding officer in all matters, regardless of what the XO personally believes is a better course of action. As Captain Boyle and i discussed at the end of one incident, the captain’s job includes ensuring justice is carried out aboard his ship. The exec, as i pointed out, is responsible for good order and discipline, and i added, if a few innocent folks are condemned falsely and good order and discipline has benefitted from their misfortune, the the XO, me, though sad at the fate of the innocent, i can go with it.
That is not the captain’s position then nor is it now. He stands for justice. And if his XO is worth a damn, that XO is ultimately for justice as well. And i am. To not use the real names is justice at work.
Finally, i have tried to do what is correct in all of my personal and professional life. i certainly haven’t been perfect, but i have tried. My good friend and shipmate during my last tour, Peter Thomas articulated this well in a discussion we had several years ago when i asked him what one characteristic, one competency that was most important in being an effective leader. Peter said, “Do the right thing.” i had never articulated what i was trying to do so succinctly. Peter’s words have stuck with me, and i considered what is the right thing in this instance.
The names will be changed. i have already begun the process and will give these individuals the generic name of “Schmidt.” Why? Why not “Doe” or “Smith,” or even the old Navy moniker of “Joe Shit the Rag Man.”
Because for me, “Schmidt” is perfect. i was raised in a strict Southern Methodist family. We didn’t have any booze in the house except whiskey flavoring for boil custard at Christmas. There was no profanity. Then, my father told a joke at the breakfast table on the Sunday before Christmas. i was fourteen, my younger brother Joe, was nine.
Daddy turned to Joe and said, “On one Christmas Eve, Santa was in his sleigh in the sky headed to give gifts to all of the children. His sleigh was being pulled by his reindeer with Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the lead. Santa was giving instructions to Rudolph about which roof to land on next. All of sudden, Rudolph took a steep dive downward. The other reindeer followed and then came the sleigh carrying Santa.
“Rudolph and the whole shebang crashed into an outhouse. Santa climbed out of his sleigh, out of the outhouse basement and finally outside. As he wiped all of the foul content off his red outfit, he cried out, ‘Dammit, Rudolph, i said the Schmidt house!'”
My mother was aghast. My sister chuckled. Joe and i were rolling on the breakfast room floor laughing.
But as Paul Harvey used to say, that was not the end of the story.
As we often did on Sundays after church, we went to dinner (also known as lunch in other parts of the country) along with our Aunt Bettye Kate and Uncle Snooks Hall. It was a nice family restaurant on North Cumberland near East High Street. i don’t remember the name, but it was good and on that Sunday crowded. We sat at a table in the middle of the room. The men, Joe, Uncle Snooks, our father, and i, sat at one end. The women, Aunt Bettye Kate, Martha, and our mother sat at the other end.
Sometime during the repast, brother Joe asked our father if he could tell the Santa joke to Uncle Snooks. Daddy, with a mischievous grin, nodded it was okay. Joe, all nine-years old of boy, got excited and began to tell the story. As he described Rudolph going into his dive, Joe became more excited and increasingly louder. By the time he reached the part where Santa was climbing out of the outhouse and brushing himself off, he was practically yelling. Quite a few of the other diners had stopped eating and were listening.
When he reached the final line, Joe shouted, “Rudolph, I said the Schmidt house!” my mother was aghast, Martha and Aunt Bettye Kate were trying to hold back their laughter, but Uncle Snooks, Daddy, and i were practically rolling on the floor.
Aunt Bettye Kate memorialized the event with a cross-stitch of the scene with Rudolph, Santa, the outhouse, and the punch line. i still have the cross-stitch and pull it out every Christmas to put it in a place of honor, and i laugh once again. My anonymous trouble makers have to be named Schmidt in honor of my family and the legendary joke.