Contributed by Chuck Atwater & Beth Ann Tesluk
The people of Christ Church have a long, rich history of service on behalf of the United States military. There are honor rolls on either side of the chancel, listing the names of those from the parish who served in WWI and WWII, and St. Michael’s chapel was initially conceived as a place where those whose family members were serving could come for private prayer and devotion. Now, a local chapter of the Honor Guard (of which Chuck is a member) uses Ledyard Hall for meetings and practice. Those meetings prompted us to think about the veterans in our midst, and we thought we might share some of their remembrances.
Colonel Phil Campbell US Army (RET)
Phil Campbell is a retired Colonel with the US Army with 28 years of active and reserve service. He served during the Korean War that was waged from 1950-1953 and Phil was an active participant during this conflict. He served as a Harbor Master at Inchon and skippered Landing Craft (Mike Boats) that transferred men and material to and from US Navy transport vessels anchored out in the bay.
One of the enduring lessons Phil learned as an officer while serving in a wartime environment, “check what you are doing twice before executing”, which he still adheres to today.
Colonel Campbell is also an active member of the International Armed Forces Council which is a joint military organization for US and Canadian service members.
Vietnam War Veteran – Jim Fleming
The Vietnam war lasted 10 years from the 1960’s through 1970’s.
Jim Fleming attended the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland and was commissioned an Ensign in the US Navy. He served on active duty during this conflict from 1966-1970 on board a destroyer homeported in Long Beach, CA and the USS Constellation, CVS 64, homeported in Long Beach, CA in the Engineering Department.
While stationed aboard ship, Jim made three cruises to Vietnam; once aboard the Destroyer and twice onboard the USS Constellation. He also had the distinct privilege of meeting the late Sen. John McCain twice.
Jim reflected on his service during a high up-tempo wartime environment: Hardship, accountability, and focus were required to achieve the overall mission objectives.
Family separation during long deployments was difficult. “being part of something bigger than yourself” made you proud and gave you the courage to continue your mission despite personal sacrifice or danger.
Vietnam War Veteran – Chuck Atwater
Chuck served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. He was commissioned an Ensign in 1970 after attending Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. Post commissioning, he was assigned to the USS Recovery, ARS-43, where he was assigned the responsibility of Communications Division Officer and qualified as Officer of the Deck (Underway and In-Port). His active duty lasted from 1970-1973, and as the Vietnam War was winding down, Chuck, was reassigned to shore duty in Officer Programs in Columbus, Ohio, Recruiting District.
While assigned to the USS Recovery, Chuck served with Master Chief Brashear, Master Diver, the only one-legged diver in US Navy history. Coincidentally, many years later, a movie was made about the Master Chief’s life experiences and exploits; the name of the movie was “Men of Honor” and starred Cuba Gooding Jr. as the Master Chief and Robert DeNiro as well. Chuck was fortunate enough to be reunited, 20 years later, with the Master Chief in Detroit. The movie” Men of Honor”, was premiered in Detroit at the Charles H. Wright African American Museum and Chuck had the good fortune to present an award to him on behalf of the US Naval Reserve!
Chuck’s total active and reserve commitment spanned the years of 1970-2000. During both his active and reserve time he continually sought out leadership roles and positions that culminated in his retirement as a Captain, US Naval Reserves, (RET). In hindsight, Chuck characterized himself as a reluctant “warrior” that grew to love the Navy and the opportunities it presented via adaptation, the challenge of leadership and a desire to see the world!