Monday, September 21, 2009

Submarine Torpedoman Departs on Eternal Patrol

Several years ago I was shocked to learn that one of the deacons at my church was in fact a retired torpedoman hiding out in North Carolina. I got wise to him since he had one of those airdale jackets with all of his command patches sewed on it.

TM1(SS) Chester Berryman, USN Ret. passed away this summer after complications from cardiac surgery. He will missed by family, friends, shipmates and younger sailors like me. He was from the old boats and it showed.

Despite going to church with him for years and having him pass me his copies of American Submariner when he was done with them, he didn't tell a lot of sea stories. I at least know he served on USS Piper (SS409) and USS Bergall (SSN667).

I always assumed he retired as a chief. It wasn't until I talked with his son that I learned about his pre-navy military career. Chester served in Korea and was wounded in combat with the army. He was medically discharged as a Staff Sgt. and returned to the States where he was sent home to Arlington, Va. He never made it home. He spotted a Navy recruiter at Union station and talked his way into the fleet.

So since he already had served in the army for a couple of years, he didn't need to do a whole 20 year hitch in the navy to qualify for retirement so he when he put his papers in, he was still a TM1. By my calculations, he made E5 in the mudfeet and E6 in the Subforce so that makes him an E11! Either way, I still call him Chief.

Notice the big grin in the photo. I have a feeling that grin kept him in red hash marks. (When did we start using gold hashmaks for good conduct?)

Chester was sent on his final patrol by members of the the Tarheel Subvets Base. A member of the church sang the Navy Hymn. He was interned by a honor guard from the North Carolina National Guard that acted as pallbearers and firing party and three Navy Petty officers from Naval Reserve Center Raleigh who folded the colors and sounded taps on the bugle.

We need to do better job of learning all we can from this wise old warriors while they are still with us.

When we say goodbye, the families and friends should know that we, as a community of Submariners, have the wherewithall to show respect for our shipmates as they pass. If you are not involved with the Subvets in your area, get off of your couch and turn to. Put together an honor guard for Submariner funerals and make it happen. Tarheel Base will be putting together a quartet to sing the hymn with the right lyrics at funerals in the future.

So Long, Chief. Your spot in the Torpedo room is vacant and your coffee cup is empty. I miss you.

No comments: