I served aboard U.S.S. Portland, LSD-37, from August 1983 to December 1987. When I found out they’d decommissioned her and then sank her in the early 2000s, I wanted to ensure what I knew of her was not forgotten, so I recorded various anecdotes from my time aboard in Transplanted Yankee: Lest All My Balderdash Be Forgotten.
Shortly after publication, I found out the Navy was building a new U.S.S. Portland, LPD-27. I sent three copies of Transplanted Yankee to the commanding officer, Captain J.R. Hill, asking him to do me the honor of placing a copy in the wardroom library, the ship’s library, and the electrical shop (I was an electrician, so my ego told me they might enjoy the stories, too). Totally by surprise, a year later I received an invitation from him to attend the commissioning and his reception. I made sure my entire life revolved around having that weekend free to attend these events. I’m extending a Bravo Zulu to Lieutenant Roach and Lieutenant Junior Grade Macfarlane for putting up with my numerous scheduling questions. Professionals, both of them.
After touring the ship during my visit, I went back up to the reception, stalked around until I found Captain Hill, and had my picture taken with him. I thanked him for the invite and told him he had a fine ship and crew. If I thought Portland-37 had to be flexible, Portland-27 is going to make Gumby look like a crowbar.
My most exciting moment came during the commissioning event, though. I was reading through the booklet handout, and when I got to the back, I saw my name at the bottom of the page. At first, I was little confused, but there it was, right under the Honorary Plank Owners list.
Thomas Bont (author of Transplanted Yankee)
Captain Hill, when I sent you those three books, I thought just having them on board would be honor enough. You’ve honored me even further. Thank you, sir!