By lex, on October 3rd, 2009
Maybe it’s the Navy life, constantly moving from place to place, leaving old friends behind, making new ones, starting again. Or maybe it’s just a part of who I am, I don’t know. But I’ve never been particularly good about keeping up with old friends. I’ll see men I’ve known for twenty years or more at Tailhook for example, and embrace them like brothers. We’ll catch up, move on, see you next year. Never an email or a phone call in between, but nothing fundamental will have changed – we’ll pick right up where we left off, another year older.
I was surprised to receive an email from my academy class secretary saying that Jim Hogan had gone missing * on Curacao, having been employed in consular duties since 2005.
Jim had been one of my closer friends at the Boat School. A gregarious son of Ireland, he should have been an English major. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare and Yeats and enjoyed palavering over a pint of stout on the weekends more than the run-of-the-mill bookish/engineering types that surrounded us. Unless I’m mistaken, it was he who discovered a little known regulation in the midshipman instructions authorizing second class mids – ordinarily restricted to the Yard apart from weekends – off-campus liberty from the conclusion of our Wednesday afternoon formal parades until evening meal formation. The parades generally concluded around 1645, so it was a mad dash back up the ladders to our rooms in order to rip off our monkey jackets, throw on a shirt, tie and our service dress blue blouses over our high-waisted parade trousers and race to a little pub outside Bilger’s Gate. Moving as quickly as possible without quite seeming to be running. While anyone was looking. Because that would have been considered undignified.
Somewhat fortified in spirits, but red-faced from our exertions, we’d race back again to be in formation by 1830, a trickle of perspiration going down our collars, but with laughter in our hearts. Feeling like we’d stolen something from Mother B.
Who had it coming.
Jim played rugby, which cost him his knees and almost cost him an ear in one particularly brutal scrum. He was tenacious – some might say stubborn – and stayed in the engineering track long after it had become clear that it wasn’t a good fit for him. As a result, he wore a thin midshipman’s stripe in the sword arch at my marriage, rather than the fat gold ensign’s stripe that the rest of us wore. He was the only guy I’d ever heard of that the school let graduate late.
We kept in touch from time to time in our early years after he was commissioned and went through flight school. He got helicopters in Sandy Eggo while I was up in Lemoore flying Hornets. Our contacts grew less frequent over the intervening years, and the last I had heard of him was when we were both commanders, he was serving in a diversity billet on the BUPERS staff, the irony of which – knowing Jim as I did – was by no means lost on me. He’d looked me up in the database and cold-called me. We promised to keep in touch.
I didn’t know when he retired, had no idea that he’d joined the foreign service and now it appears that something dreadful has befallen him.
I’m past the age now of losing friends in airplane crashes. Not quite to the stage where I’m accustomed to losing them from natural causes.
I guess I thought we all had more time.
*Most of the links had disappeared and while Jim’s disappearance is still not solved at the time of this post, the new link written 3 years after Lex’s post sheds some light. – Ed