October 9, 2012

Navy White Coming to Town



Soon I’ll no longer have to travel to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to see the white coats. That’s because the white coats are coming…to Moon.

Moon, Pennsylvania, that is.

I’ll only have to travel ninety minutes to be surrounded by white uniforms when a new Navy Operational Support Center opens in Moon., Pennsylvania, in February 2014. The ground breaking ceremony was held on October 6 at the 911th Air Force Reserve.1

Growing up in Portsmouth I lived among Navy personnel stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The presence of white uniforms was the norm, nothing special. At the time, my uncle, John (Jack) Walker Briskay, was enlisted in the Navy. I remember how attractive he was in his white uniform.

Then when I was eleven years old we moved to Buffalo, New York—with a loss of white uniforms dotting the population. After that, we lived in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania, for thirteen years, after which we moved to Stone Mountain, Georgia, for three years. We returned to Pennsylvania to live in New Castle, then Jamestown…


Yes, a small Southwestern Pennsylvania community with a population of nine hundred. A tiny community far, far away from any handsome white-coated young men.

It was also the community where my official journalism “career” began. I was the Jamestown correspondent for the Greenville Record Argus, published in the nearby town of Greenville. Usually I chose my own assignments but one day my editor asked me to cover a special story. A Jamestown resident, a former Navy enlistee, was expected to pin a Navy medal on his enlisted son.

I entered the V. F. W. hall to report the story. Up front was a gathering of white-adorned men. Walking to them I found myself in their midst. I could only stand there with a dumb look on my face. One of them snapped me out of my unprofessionalism by asking me if something was wrong.

“No,” I said. “It’s just that it’s been so long since I’ve been in the midst of a group of Navy men.” I further explained my connection to the Navy.

I took a few pictures before and during the presentation speeches. Just before the father was to pin the medal onto his son I squatted in the aisle, camera prepared to shoot the picture in real time. As the two generations of men stood up front, father reaching out to his son, pin in hand, my knees locked. I did a backwards somersault in the aisle. Several people covered their mouths trying not to laugh out loud. I managed to stand up, my feelings definitely ruffled and the shot missed.

After the ceremony I had father and son pose for a picture.

Then, I did something that was, well, journalistically unethical. I shamelessly asked the young man to get me something. A gift, so to speak.

You see, he was assigned to the ship U. S. S. Holland, and I dearly desired to have a jacket, or at least a cap, from that ship. So I asked him if he could get me one.

His mother overheard, and several months later she was on our doorstep with a cap from the U. S. S. Holland. She said she had kept after her son to send something back to the United States for me.

And I’ll wear the cap proudly if Navy Operational Support Center.

NOTE: In reading the comments at the end of the news article1 I noticed one that self-described her comment as a “rant” and listed errors and political aspects of the new project. This post is not meant to deal with the political aspects, only the memories it elicited.




Air Show in Latrobe (PA) Features the Navy Blue Angels

Flag Man (Bob Cornell) Shivers





  1. Nice piece Carolyn .

    Comment by Dmitri Beljan — October 10, 2012 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

    • Thanks Dmitri. I read it at Mellow Mike last night…Diane gave your greetings…keept he faith!
      The booklets are done. Ligonier Days are upon us, as you know.

      Comment by carolyncholland — October 10, 2012 @ 11:39 pm | Reply

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