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Around The Fleet

You Stand No Watch Alone

An Open Letter from a Veteran

Some 40 years ago, a young aviation electronic technician stood a cold and lonely mid-watch, the only sound the slap of waves against his ship and the echoing of his own thoughts. It was one of hundreds of watches Richard H. Thayer Jr. would stand over 13 years in the Cold War-era Navy, and almost 12 more in the Reserves.

He stood them on USS Saratoga (CV 60), USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63), USS Constellation (CV 64), USS America (LHA 6) and USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). He stood them with resignation, with boredom, with duty. But he misses them now. He misses the Navy and the daily challenges, the camaraderie with his shipmates, the sense of accomplishment.

"We were trained to do jobs that would make many people with advanced college educations stagger under the immensity of the tasks," Thayer, who went into aviation electronics because he loved to tinker, said. "There is no mindless work in the Navy. Every job is the cog in one of the wheels that make the whole thing turn."

Today, Thayer is a program director and professor of biomedical technology at a local college. His son, Cryptologic Technician Technical 1st Class Richard H. Thayer III, recently finished a seven-year stint in the Navy, and his son-in-law, Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Jason Keller, has been on active duty for 18 years. They inspired the commentary below, that and a friend who casually referred to something as "lonely as a mid-watch."

Thayer wants to honor "the millions of Sailors who have stood the mid-watches with only the sea for company." He wants them to "take away some small measure of self-satisfaction in the sacrifices they make to protect America.

"Examine your lives long and carefully before dismissing a career in the Navy," he further advised. "You will never again be a part of something where your sacrifice brings so much to so many."


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You stand no watch alone.

When you are out there, on that mid-watch, alone, you might question why you are there, and if anyone really cares.

I care. We all care. Our hearts are with you, and we stand every watch with you. The work you do, the work ALL Sailors do, is protecting so many of us who depend on you, whether we realize it or not. We are so proud.

You stand no watch alone.

The spirits of seafarers from time immemorial stand with you, uncountable generations long since relieved of their ephemeral watches, huddled in their oilskins, shivering for some measure of warmth in the icy rain. You stand where they stood. You are their proud legacy.

You stand no watch alone.

You stand solitary sentry, steadfast in the obligation you accepted when you swore your oath to stand in harm's way. You protect the Navy, and the Navy protects us all. You stand with the hopes of millions of Americans, and their trust that you will be true to your vow.

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You stand no watch alone.

From the birth of our country until now, many Americans have never known the full import of what you do, and what you are willing to do, to protect them. They lie in cozy beds while the world struggles in chaos, oblivious to the millions who serve their duties, uphold their oaths, stand their lonely watches, and dedicate their livelihoods - nay, even their very lives - to make that simple comfort a reality. Indeed, in the words of a famous quote, one I believe is derived from the collected writings of George Orwell, "People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf."

You stand no watch alone.

I stand with you. I salute you for your sacrifice, and for the life you have chosen. May a benevolent God rest his loving hand on your shoulder, keep you company in the bleak night, and continue to stoke the fire in your heart.

You stand no watch alone.