By Ron Vaughn
(Originally published on the USS Richard B. Anderson Web Page)


I have just returned from my ship's reunion in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and was amazed at what I had observed. As a born-again evangelical Christian for the past 15 years, I have been active in the Church, specifically Men's Ministry. A large influence over Men's Ministry today is the Promise Keepers organization whose heartbeat is for men to form small groups and hold one another accountable for integrity in business dealings, and commitment to wives and family. The scriptural basis for Men's small groups is Proverbs 27:17 which states "Iron sharpens Iron so one man sharpens another."

Men building relationships with one another is one of the most difficult goals because of things with which we must contend. For example, I live in Kingwood, Texas which is a community that was formed by a development company that was a subsidiary of Exxon Oil Company. The community is made up of Oil Company Executives, Manufacturers Representatives, and because of its proximity to the Houston Airport, airline personnel. These are all people on the go who travel during the week. As a result, the small group gatherings are usually scheduled on Saturday morning. That is when errands must be run to complete the "honey do" list before cleaning out the garage, and getting the lawn mowed. With all the distractions, it is difficult to get an effective small group together.

The Church will then schedule a Men's retreat, which is designed get the guys out of the main stream hustle and bustle and "retreat" to a remote area. This will force them to get together. What happens, however, is that the testosterone takes over, and a basketball, football, or softball game breaks out. It is virtually impossible for men to just sit down, and talk to one another.

Women do not have this problem. When two women meet, before they even know each other's names, they begin relating to one another. One might say, "that sure is a pretty yellow dress you have on." When two men meet, however, it is a ritual of an exchange of facts. "What is your name, where do you work, how long have you been doing that?" When President Kennedy was shot, a typical male reaction was logistical. "What are the Russians up to? How many missiles do they have? Did we get them all out of Cuba?" The typical women's reaction was, "Poor Jackie, Poor Caroline."

The stumbling blocks for men to relate to one another are enormous, but the Navy had a better idea. When we got to boot camp, we had on all different color clothes, and hair styles that varied in length. The first the Navy did was strip us naked, and give us a designer haircut before we had the opportunity to "prejudge" one another. Then we all looked the same. Our new wardrobes all looked the same, and we were taught to be a team and work together. The teaching method was beautiful. No classroom work at all, just present these guys with a stressful situation and let them work it out. In our case, our company commander took all our uniforms and threw them all over the barracks, and informed us we had a seabag inspection in the morning. We formed a team, organized, passed out the dirty clothes, set up shifts to wash them and got it together by the next morning. To get this done, we related to one another.

Remember the church retreat referred to earlier? The Navy had a better idea. The Navy put us all on a ship 390 feet six inches long, and 44 feet at the beam, and took us out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Not only that, but in one of the yard periods, they must have taken down the basketball goals, and the tennis courts. There was no "Cruise Activities Officer" in the crew. We had nothing to do but to talk to one another in our spare time and relate to one another.

After thirty five years, I had the opportunity to reunite with some of my shipmates, and we began to relate again rehashing the old sea stories that have expanded in truth as much as our waistlines.

Now the wives had no problem relating to one another, and they got along great. I did however, catch them a couple of times staring at us as though they had never seen their husband relating with other guys like that. If I have learned nothing else from that reunion, it is that after thirty five years, the relationships formed, were still solid. The glue stuck.

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