In the mid-1970s I was stationed at the Navy Public Affairs Center in Norfolk, where at one point I was assigned to shoot photos of a group of Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps midshipmen. Part of that training, unsurprisingly, involved going to sea, and I was about to board the ship in question when I was told that this part of my assignment had been canceled by senior brass. The reason? The midshipmen included a number of women, and there was concern that any press coverage of the fact that women officer candidates in the Navy actually left port aboard ship might generate some political problems with certain fossils in Congress.
How times have changed. Now women routinely serve on sea duty, as they should. And not just because it’s the right thing. I recall one old chief or first class who told me that Navy women should either be aboard ships or out of the Navy, because otherwise they took shore billets from Navy men. He was right. The old policy was unfair to everybody. I don’t think he favored the out-of-the-Navy option, and I certainly didn’t. I was dating female sailors — WAVES as they used to be called — not long after I enlisted, and I would have missed them.
Yesterday the United State Navy took another step forward. The crew of USS Oak Hill (LSD-51) (an LSD is a dock landing ship, a type of amphibious warfare vessel, and yes, we did laugh about abbreviation that when I was in the service) had held a traditional raffle to see who would get the right of first kiss with one’s spouse or girl/boyfriend on return from a deployment, the proceeds going to fund the crew’s Christmas party. The winner of the raffle was Fire Controlman Second Class Marissa Gaeta. Waiting on the pier for her yesterday at the Little Creek amphibious base in Norfolk was her girlfriend, FC3 Citlalic Snell of USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), a destroyer. The two sailors embraced and kissed while crew members and their families and friends cheered and waved the American flag.
This was apparently the first time the traditional first kiss involved two people of the same sex, but as Commander David Bauer, Oak Hill’s captain, commented beforehand, “It’s going to happen and the crew’s going to enjoy it,” and it’s no big deal.
— D Gary Grady, ex-JO2, USN
Proud veteran of the greatest Navy in the world
(Postscript: I realize that there are people who will view the foregoing not as a positive development but the opposite. To them I say I respect your right to a different opinion, and I understand that you may feel that same-sex affection violates natural law or the will of God. For that matter, I’ve known sincere folks who felt exactly the same way about a kiss between a man and a woman of different races, or about public kissing in general. That said, if you’re a guy, and you can look at the photos of those two lovely young women sharing a moment of genuine affection and not think to yourself, “Whoa, that’s hot!” — well, what are you, gay?)