Saturday, November 12, 2011

Port, Oh! Let's Just fix this Thing!

For the past week, I have spent much of my spare time advocating for sailors on the USS George H. W. Bush. I've tried to remain detached, unemotional. It's not been easy.

My  mother, who has eight children, once told me, "A mother is only as happy as her least happy child," and although I only have two sons, I have come to realize the truth in her statement. When either of my sons suffers, I do as well.

When my sailor first told me about the situation with the heads on board his floating home, he suggested I visit The official website for "the Bush" and I'll admit, I didn't go check out the VCHT system right away.

My son is an adult. He chose the Navy for his life many years ago and I knew then, as I know now, I can't fix all his problems any more. Gone are the days when my touch can heal a "boo boo." I thought,  It's just a toilet. They'll fix it. It's the Navy, after all. They can fix anything on their ship. I had no idea how extensive the problem ran. I thought it was just one or two heads that were out of order, not the entire system. Still, I thought, he's never been one to complain or over-dramatize a situation. That's never been his style. He tends to suffer in silence a while, then, when things don't resolve, he follows the chain of command toward results. Typically, he has told me long after the fact, when he'd been in situations where he needed help. He certainly has not sought out my help with anything to do with the Navy - EVER.

My son and I emailed each other and I sent him some boxes - you know, care packages - and he called me once. Just once. We touched base and he mentioned that the heads still weren't flushing. He expressed his frustration at the fact that things had been flushed or shoved into the system that shouldn't have been. I still didn't take the situation very seriously. I only thought about looking into the system. I mean, what can I do about that? It's the Navy. I can't do anything to influence the Navy!

A few more weeks, then months passed and our emails continued to discuss the typical, easy-going things we'd silently agreed were okay to talk about while he's deployed. This isn't his first deployment, so he knows what to expect on the ship. He's been assigned to long distant duty stations for so long that I don't "miss him" as much as I once did when he shipped out.

So, many months later, when I casually asked how things were going and I discovered the heads were still not working properly, and that cipher locks had been installed on the doors to the working heads, my mama bear instincts kicked in. I reacted as if someone had been poking my cub with a stick and I wanted to bite off the stick and the hand that held it. Therefore, I created this blog and updated my website.

I also reached out to the media. A reporter from Navy Times contacted me quickly. That reporter contacted my son and subsequently, he contacted someone in authority on the USS George H W Bush.

Even though this blog is the one I have told everyone about and is the only link I have included in my press releases, my website is the one that has been receiving the most hits. Yesterday morning, I found several comments on this site, despite the need to register to leave one. I was flattered that the commenters, although tainting their words with negativity and name-calling, took the time to register in order to speak their minds. Unfortunately, I was unable to verify the legitimacy of the people or bots behind the comments. I couldn't trace the IP addresses or determine if it was one person or several. So, I deleted them. I didn't create this site for the purpose of debates or for anything other than to give me the chance to voice my angst at the mal-functioning system our sailors have been enduring for months.

My first impulse was to lash out at these detractors and defend myself as well as my son. I decided to let their accusations and opinions lie dormant rather than to react to them immediately. I haven't needed to defend myself or my opinion for many years and my son can fight his own battles. I had done my research and I checked my facts as closely as I could without actually being on the ship.

Still, I was heartened to read two comments on my website that are from other family members of sailors on board the USS George H W Bush, people I have never met before. Their loved ones have complained, too. It's not an isolated or small problem! I was also heartened to read an email from a family member who gave me permission to repost that private email - anonymously.
 I read some negative remarks to your blog and I have no doubt they were written by a senior officer charged with glossing the Bush’s image. Thank you for posting the articles on the non-working toilets aboard the Bush. Everyone is so glad that the truth is finally coming out about this serious problem. My sailor is currently serving on board and like all the others on the Bush is afraid to go public – knowing that complaints about a very high profile ship could cause negative repercussions in their careers. I can’t publically complain – but I hope that you can get your articles out to a wider audience – yes, the tax payers should know what they paid for and most certainly know that our sailors are suffering!  My sailor forwarded the email with your article that was forwarded to him from someone else. But again...repercussions ... everyone is afraid to go public. 
Please, link this to all of your emails or copy and paste the appropriate post that highlights the problem. Send it to media, congressmen, your representatives or whomever you think will be able to help. Knowledge is power.

Yes, I know the people on board the ship are doing all THEY can to fix this problem. I wonder if any of them have considered air lifting a few dozen portable toilets or camping "heads" out to the ship.