Originally published January 25 2014
The Day We Were The Good Americans
by Phil Pepin
(NaturalNews) I'm a Navy veteran who served a four year enlistment from 1979-1983. I was 17 when I signed up and turned 18 the day I completed boot-camp. I was trained as an Aviation Electrician. After all my schooling was completed I was assigned to helicopter squadron HSL-33. It was a unique squadron because the helicopters were not used on aircraft carriers or other aircraft oriented ships but rather a relatively small ship called a"Fast Frigate". They named this type of detachment "LAMPS" The ships were modified to accommodate a single helicopter. In 1982 I was part of the aviation detachment to the USS Lockwood.
The ship was froward deployed which meant it's home-port was outside the United States. The USS Lockwood's home-port was Japan. It was a very memorable experience. I visited fascinating Oriental countries and gained a valuable insight into how different the rest of the world is from America.
There was one day that will always remain the most memorable of all. The USS Lockwood was about 100 miles off the coast of Thailand. We encountered an incredible sight. A small boat crammed with people. It was a mix of men,women and children. The boat was in bad shape and it was loaded beyond the weight limits intend for it and barely able to keep from taking on water. Our ship stopped and pulled along side. I was on topside and witnessed the whole event. As the small craft drifted closer to the ship you could see the desperation in their faces. Soon we were informed that these people were refugees making a very dangerous attempt to flee Vietnam and make it to Thailand. Even as late as 1982 the aftermath of the Vietnam War was still destroying the lives of the people of Vietnam.
Another announcement came stating that the refugees were out of water, food, and fuel. They would of never made it to Thailand still about 100 hundred miles away. The announcement was made by the Executive Officer. He continued, "we will give them the supplies they need and send them on their way." The reaction was immediate among the crew, we were stunned. Even with supplies and fuel the odds were against them ever making it to Thailand . Then something unexpected happened. A few minutes after that announcement the Captain of the USS Lockwood made this announcement, "in order to avoid a mutiny we are going to give these refugees a ride to Thailand."
High fives and smiles were to be seen everywhere I looked. We took them aboard and the crew used the ship's only gun near the bow to sink the abandoned boat. That's done to prevent it from being a possible danger to other ships passing through the area. A few hours later we came across another boat of Vietnamese refugees. There were no more announcements the ship picked up those desperate people too.
When I think back on that day a number of thoughts come to mind. How many of those small boats with desperate refugees didn't make it to Thailand? I wonder what happened to the refugees we saved?
The USS Lockwood was given a Humanitarian Award. We wore a ribbon on our uniforms for the actions taken that day. I'm proud of the attitude of my fellow shipmates they instinctively wanted to help those people. I'm proud I served on a ship with a compassionate Captain that overruled his Executive Officer. His remarks about a mutiny were tongue-in-cheek, there was no danger of that happening. He knew however, it would damage ship morale. I'm grateful the Captain allowed his crew to be the good Americans that day.
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