I was looking at old pictures of one of the ships I was on when I was in the Navy, then took a look at what it looks like now. This is the USS Monticello (LSD-35) where I spent the last part of my first four years in the Navy. This ship holds a lot of memories for me, horseback riding in Northen Luzon in the Phillippines, the ship being kicked off of the base on the island of Kwajalein, following a major bar fight centering around the sole prostitute on the island, canvassing the WanChai district on a rainy Sunday, or dealing with broken glass on my weatherdeck, the residue from drunkards who had thrown beer bottles on it because they had nothing better to do.
I felt a kind of emptiness deep inside of me, like a stone sinking to the bottom of a lake. I suddenly felt cold, lackluster and sad. There is something about looking at what was once part of your life, now shackled to a cement tomb. A look inside the ship shows what is left (lockers, etc.) stacked up like cordwood in many a compartment, paint peeling or missing in some places, the compartments cold, lifeless and empty.
The mess deck, where we ate our daily meals, played Bingo every Saturday night, played cards, listened to our boom boxes, or just talked. This was the social center of the ship, the pulse during the evening, empty during the day as we all worked in our respective spaces. The colors were bright, the lights brilliant, and the noise incoherent.
Like a wake, all I have are the memories of my time aboard the USS Monticello (LSD-35). I feel a certain loss…an ache in looking at these images, feeling that when I join the rest of the crew that I served with, all our memories will be lost in time. Like the character, Roy Batty in Blade Runner, we were warriors of a sort. And when our time comes, I have no doubt that many of us who served on the USS Monticello (LSD-35) will feel like Batty’s character: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.”