On a recent, blazingly hot day, Home Team Productions had the privilege of filming a Navy retirement ceremony at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Fl.  After 28 years of service, Command Master Chief Pat is hanging up his uniform and stepping back into private life.

Campbell-UniformA tall, imposing presence with an easy, good-natured manner, CMC Pat is resplendent in his dress uniform, which is festooned with medals.  Pat has served in dozens of the world’s hottest spots, from Afghanistan, to Iraq, to Bahrain, to Guantanamo Bay, and many, many more.

As All Saints Chapel fills up with Pat’s loved ones and comrades, the gently swirling ceiling fans above the glossy wooden pews do little to cool the attendees.  No one seems to care.  This is a day for celebration.  Light streams through the stained-glass windows, shedding motes of tinted dust.

all saints chapel JAX

CMC Pat hails from Durham, NC, and family and friends have traveled far to share this moment with him.  The pride is palpable.  Pat’s Mom is front and center.  His siblings are on hand, as is his beautiful grown daughter.  Also in attendance is his special lady, Kathie, herself a member of the military, and three years away from her own retirement.

Screenshot Navy retirementPageantry, staunch patriotism, and a deep love and respect for colleagues are front and center today.  As the flag is ceremoniously unfurled by the Color Guard, snapping open gloriously in the hushed chapel, the attendees emit an audible gasp.

During an initial meeting with Pat, he recalled his 28 years of “standing the watch.”  One deployment found him out at sea for “one hundred forty-something days straight.”  He added soberly, “People don’t want to say it, but we’re still at war.  We have people in some places, bad places right now. We have our sailors on the USS Fitzgerald, we just lost seven of them out at sea.”

CMC Pat was silent for a beat, remembering.

“I’ve been through fires,” he said quietly.  “I’ve been through jet crashes.  I’ve done hurricane recovery, Haiti.”

But today he has a very special mission, a happy one.  As is customary, he begins a ceremonious presenting of gifts to those who touched deeply his life and career; many of those are folded flags, handsomely framed.  A little boy is the recipient of something he will surely carry through his life with enormous pride.

“This is my grandson, y’all, ” Pat says, allowing his own pride to shine.  “And these are my dog tags from 1988.  Paw-paw’s dog tags.”

Then it was Kathie’s turn.  The chapel was hushed as Pat announces, “Kathie and I have been dating for about three years now.”  After a brief pause, he adds, “She’s really cool people.”

And with no further ado, he dropped to one knee and proffered a small box as he said, “I knew the very moment I fell in love, just as I knew the very moment I wanted to marry you.”

Navy retirement ceremony

The crowd went crazy.  Screams of delight and exultation rose into the very rafters.  As predicted, Kathie wept.

And so, it begins: a real life happy ending.

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6 Responses to A NAVY RETIREMENT CEREMONY (And A Sweet Surprise)

  1. Kristine says:

    What a great story, beautifully told! Felt a deep respect for the service of this honorable man & loved, loved, loved the surprise ending of the day, captured perfectly in the photo of Cathy, his very ‘special lady.’

    PS – & loved your descriptions esp. w/words: resplendent, festooned, & motes.

  2. Bond, James Bond says:

    lovely lovely

  3. Stephanie Silber says:

    Kristine, aren’t you kind! Thank you. When it was ready to be told, the story wrote itself. Yes, CMC Pat exuded excellence of character. We were honored to capture the ceremony.

  4. Stephanie Silber says:

    Bond, thank you thank you!

  5. gab says:

    GREAT STORY! glad you guys are doing God’s work (LOL) in the Sunshine State.

    talk soon!

  6. Stephanie, this is very deftly told, and the ending is a wonderful surprise. And I’m so glad you guys are getting work!

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