When I served aboard the U.S.S. Ranger (CVA-61) during the Vietnam War, I often “got selected” to work night shift as editor of the shipboard newspaper. In those days before WiFI and cell phones, there was no instant news other than this mimeographed, four-to-six page newspaper on legal size paper that I handed out to berthing areas, offices, the mess decks, and other compartments just before reveille every morning in 1968
While my headline “Ho Chi Minh is Dead” probably got the most attention, my most popular headline–on a slow news day–was “A Modern Love Story.” Since we weren’t supposed to take those papers off the ship, I have no copies. So, I no longer know where this love story happened or when or even the details. It ran on the Associated Press wire and filled up a fair amount of the front page of “The Daily Shield.”
Basically, two lovers were separated from each other, perhaps by the war, perhaps by transfers to new jobs or colleges, or the random vicissitudes of fate. Like a tear-jerker movie, the young man and young woman spent many days months or years trying to find each other again. They went through hell and high water, never gave up, and finally–by the end up the story–were standing arm and arm, perhaps in the sunrise, filled with hope.
At a time when there was a long line of sailors who thought they had VD outside the sick bay door after every liberty call at a sailor town, that anyone on the ship would read “A Modern Love Story” seemed unlikely. After all, these are the tough sailors who said, as they went into town, “if you not in bed by nine o’clock, you might as well go back to the ship.”
Our cruises (as we called them) lasted about nine months. Being away from wives, fiancées, girlfriends, and parents for that long was more difficult than rough sailor talk about bar girls would lead one to believe. Even so, I was unprepared to walk through the mess decks at breakfast and find an unusual silence. The men weren’t talking, laughing, or complaining about the food. They were reading the story, some sharing the paper with others at the table. They cheered when they got to the end of it as the young lovers were reunited.
Pure schmaltz. The hard-boiled reporters and copyeditors back in the States would have relegated such a story to the features section, not page one. I didn’t run the story because I thought it would bring out the best in everyone, I ran it because I was desperate for enough copy to fill up the paper.
The Ranger was a flagship, and that meant the admiral and his staff we aboard. The following day when I arrived before the crack of dawn at the flag office, the admiral himself was standing there waiting for his papers. This wasn’t unusual. What was unusual was shaking his hand as he said, “If you find any more love stories, print them.” “Aye aye, sir.”
My good luck made me look like a genius, and that was unusual.
If your husband or wife or son or daughter or mother or dad is serving his or her country far away, remember them always, but especially on February 14th.