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.
We’ve been driving around parts of Panama City the past week and a half during our off time, mostly around Albrook and Balboa areas. It’s been weird knowing that I’ve been here before, but not really the same areas.
Until this past Saturday.
See, this is the first country, really the first city, I’ve been to as a civilian that I once spent time in while I was in the Navy. I knew some of the area was familiar, but in that general “yeah, this seems familiar” kind of way. Driving through a part of Balboa, it hit me: I’ve been THERE before. I recognized the little shopping area where I bought a hummingbird carved from a nut, and where I bought a painting that still hangs on our wall at home. I even drove by (a couple of times now) the McDonalds that we all ate at, and that I ordered an “hamburgesa sin carne” (hamburger without meat, for a vegetarian friend). I’m going to see the Panama Canal this coming Saturday as a tourist. The last time I saw it, I was in the middle of it on “el barco blanco” – the USNS Stalwart (T-AGOS 1).
I am a changed man since I was here last, so my feelings aren’t coming back like I want to re-live those days, but man, it’s a strange feeling some time. I’m glad I can remember some of the past and see the difference in my life now, and sometimes I’m glad that I don’t have memories of other things. But the truth is, I have more than enough, and don’t always want the ones I have.
The main point is, this to me is proof that you can begin again. I’m in the same place physically, but a totally different place spiritually. I can have good memories and not get caught up in bad ones. I can be thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over the world, serving my country in one life, and serving God in another.
Wonder what’ll come up next? I’m excited to find out myself.