I served in the U.S. Navy from 1976-1979 as a Machinist Mate aboard the U.S.S. Horne CG-30 out of San Diego, Ca. This was a fairly quiet and transitional period for the military in the Post Vietnam years. Most people in the country really didn’t want to hear about the military nor cared about the military after the war and years of turmoil at home.
Despite this many of us still served. In the spring of 1978 while we were in the preparation phase for our South Pacific cruise I had my first exposure to death of someone I knew. An Engineman and Bosuns-mates we’re performing PMS on a launch, located on the pier side of the ship. I wasn’t present but clearly recall the call going out for the Duty Corpsman to report to the pier.
The launch had become unstable and fallen off the ship to the pier throwing the Engineman out onto the pier and landing on him crushing him. It was a heavy blow to the ship as our crew was fairly small and close-knit at around 300 and the Snipe contingent (engineering rates) was even smaller. I can clearly recall being at the memorial service on the fantail when the ship next to us kicked on a generator and thick diesel exhaust floated over us thinking it was so appropriate as Engine-men worked on Diesel engines. Most of us were around 18-20 and really didn’t know how to process the death or at least admit to ourselves that we actually weren’t indestructible.
Most of us ever thought about a Shipmate dying during peacetime after all the war was over. It’s been 40 years since that first death in my life. I’ve seen many more since that day as a police officer and as family members have died but I’ll never forget that first death.
It comes up every few months on the ships Facebook page with a number of Shipmates having been onboard or having had a part in the response. None of us have ever forgotten that day. Rest In Peace ENFN Raymond Peterson, USN. Never forgotten.
Author – Art Dorst is the owner of A. Dorst Consulting & Training Services and is a Senior Consultant for LaSorsa & Associates. He served in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserves and eventually retired as an NCO from The Army National Guard. He is also a retired municipal Police Officer, a Certified EMT, NRA Instructor, and is currently a security provider/trainer.