I’m a Navy brat. Once a brat, always a brat. was born at Pensacola Naval Hospital in 1957 while my father was finishing flight training. Once he’d earned his Wings of Gold, duty called Dad to Naval Air Stations at Glynco, Lakehurst, Pensacola again, Key West, Quonset Point, North Island, Miramar, and North Island again before retiring as a Commander.

Dad piloted blimps (ZPG-3W), “Stoofs” (S-2F), and “Willy Fudds” (E-1B, formerly WF-2) for squadrons ZW-1, VS-28, and VAW-111, respectively. Dad served aboard antisubmarine carrier USS Wasp (CVA-18): Gemini space capsule recovery, 1965; attack carrier USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14): Vietnam combat deployment, 1968; and attack carrier USS Hancock (CVA-19): Vietnam combat deployment, 1972. You certainly got around, Dad!

As did we, of course. Thank you for your service, and Happy Veterans Day. We love you, Dad, and we’re proud of you.

One evening in 1970 (has it really been 50 years?), Dad took us to Lowry Theater on North Island to see the new film “Tora! Tora! Tora!” I’d just turned 13. The film gave me valuable historical perspective on America’s fight for freedom following the Japanese Navy’s “dastardly” sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Speaking of perspective (that’s what’s called a clumsy segue, kids), sometime during the so-called “Summer of Love” (1967), some “brat” buddies and I had biked out to good ol’ Lowry Theater for a Saturday matinee. Before the feature film, the projectionist would always play a cartoon followed by a short “Captain Marvel” episode. “Shazam!” But not this time. Instead of Captain

Marvel, the man (or woman) in the booth behind the curtain had cued up for our viewing pleasure a bit of graphic documentary footage of open-heart surgery, treating the matinee audience of mostly kids to a close-up of the scalpel, the incision, and the sep-a-ration of the sterna. And voila! There it was. The beating heart, in living color. Open sesame, indeed!

I wonder if the projectionist-turned-prankster ever caught any grief. Head-rolling time, perhaps?

More to the point, were we wee brats traumatized? Grossed out? Scarred for life? Of course not.

We were into it! Besides, the film-clip snippet, whether by accident or by design, had only flashed (hello, Flash) upon the screen for a few brief seconds before “regular” programming resumed. No harm, no foul, and on with the “shew” (a little Ed Sullivan lingo).

Still, if I close my eyes, I can clearly see that lo-o-o-o-ong incision like it was yesterday.

Just what the doctor ordered, eh?

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