In 2002, I became the CIC Officer for the USS Hurricane, a Patrol Coastal ship home ported in Coronado, CA. I had worked with the ship and her crew briefly at my previous command while we were deployed in the same operating area. At that time, she was part of the Navy Special Warfare Command, but when I got there she had taken on a new role: Maritime Homeland Security in support of Operation Noble Eagle. Our job was to patrol the west coast of the US and work to prevent terrorists from attacking vital assets like the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in SoCal, and submarines transiting Puget Sound in Washington State.
We deployed twice to Puget Sound that year, with an extra brief “surge” deployment to take part in and protect Fleet Week in Seattle. During one of those deployments, we made a short visit to Esquimalt, BC — an absolutely beautiful place.
As I did regularly, during the process of getting into port I read through the message traffic. One particular thing jumped out at me: a terrorist threat, possibly targeting a cruise ship in Seattle. Now I’ve read and followed a lot of intel reports without much extra concern, but this one was different. My parents were going on an Alaskan cruise soon, with plans to meet their ship in the area. I checked the records, and that was their ship.
My heart sank.
As soon as we pulled pierside, I did exactly what I knew not to do: I grabbed the nearest pay phone and called my parents. I knew I couldn’t give details, as what I read was classified and couldn’t be divulged (although the Coast Guard notified the area that there was a “potential terrorist threat”). I decided that at that moment, my parents’ lives were more of a concern to me than my career.
So I called, and my mom answered. And I asked her if she really wanted to go on that cruise, and if maybe there was another time she could go instead.
Her response? “Here, talk to your father.” I could tell by her tone that she understood.
So I talked to my dad. My ex-Navy, retired California Highway Patrolman, seen more action than I ever had (or would), dad. And he asked me one question.
“Are you working?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“Then we’ll be okay. I trust you to do your job. Do you have good people you work with?”
I told him I did.
“Then we won’t worry. We trust you.”
Holy crap. Just thinking of that moment still brings tears to my eyes. My dad, the one who was supposed to protect me, was knowingly putting his and my mom’s lives in my hands.
We talked some more, chatted about nothing and everything, then said our goodbyes, perhaps for the last time.
We left Esquimalt a couple of days later, and went back on patrol. I read through all the intel reports I could find, but never heard any more about the threat. My parents went on their cruise and had a great time.
But I changed. I live life better. I’m not afraid to trust. I have a better relationship with my parents than I’ve ever had. And now and then, when I’m worried that what I do doesn’t matter much, I remember that people put their trust in me, and that means everything.
I’m not a cowboy. I like cows — medium, please — and I like to ride horses, but that’s as far as it goes. I have friends that are honest-to-goodness cowboys and trick roping wonders, but that’s not me.
So why do I wear boots? Because my dad did.
My dad grew up on a dairy farm, getting up early to milk the cows before school, working the fields during harvest, riding horses and tractors, and doing general farmer/rancher stuff growing up. He wore boots, because that what you do when you do farmer/rancher stuff in the California Central Valley.
I sit (or stand) at a desk and write code. I have no need of boots, but I wear them anyway, because that’s what was modeled for me as I grew up.
I remember the days when I would dig into the shoe shine kit in the closet, grab my dad’s boots, and shine them up. It was fun, and shining my own boots brings back those good memories. I remember putting on those too-big boots and trying to walk around in them, just like my daughter does with my own boots. She’ll often decide to put her own boots on when she sees me wearing mine. I guess it’s a family thing. 🙂
I hope that one day someone will ask Joanna (or she’ll ask herself) “Why do you wear boots?”.
I expect her answer will be “Because my daddy does.”