Dean Slone, SN USNR
There are pictures of me at age 2 in
1945, dressed in short pants and a sailor suit, holding
my stuffed bunny. I was always destined to be a sailor.
I joined the Naval Reserves in 1961 while still in high school. I thought Castro and Cuba would cause the next major war. I also thought that with the modern weapons of the 1960's I would rather be floating (not marching) if it happened. I had two weeks of boot training at Great Lakes in the summer of 1961 and started junior college that fall. I was not ready for college, quit in February 1962 and volunteered for my 2 years of active duty. The paper work dragged on for so long that I went for two more weeks training aboard a tender in Norfolk VA the summer of 1962. By the time I was finally called up, it was time to pick the crew for the Guided Missile Destroyer Semmes, DDG-18.
September 1962 to September 1964 were exciting, sad, wonderful times for the Semmes and me.
September 1962 - I came from the reserves as an E-3 already trained in radar. Due to not having the striker patch (paper work snafu) from the reserves, I wound up in Newport, RI in the PreCom deck force crew. The ship was looking for radar strikers and hands to stand watches in CIC. Taking 30 hands from the deck force, we were given radar/CIC training. Five trainees were selected to become radar strikers. Question? Who was first in the class and wound up an E-5 before leaving the ship? I came in second in the class but was not one of the five selected. Radarman Chief Lyons had asked me to work the controls of the radar training equipment while he practiced to take his advancement exam. I guess he just did not appreciate it when I sent a couple of 600+ MPH bogies across the screen for him to track.
November 1962 - Operation Scotch Tape. I say we were there. If not, when were we along side the Russian merchant ship with the missiles on deck? Who has proof one way or the other? Please, it is driving me nuts.
December 1962 - I was quarterdeck Messenger during commissioning. Question? Where was the operating quarterdeck on 10 December 1962?
March 1963 the XO asked me to go to Missile A school and then come back to the Semmes after completion. I had passed the requirements for BM3 and told the XO that if he would let me sit for the BM3 test I would go to his missile school as a BM3 or as a SN if I failed. The XO said that I could not go to the school if I made rate. I guess he thought I would pass because he told me he would never let me sit for the BM3 exam. I told him I could do my remaining 18 months on the deck force "standing on my head". Actually, as I recall, I did most of it mess cooking.
10 Apr 1963 - Semmes was on site when the Thresher went on eternal patrol.
October 1963 - I became the ships first major casualty. While steaming off Cape Hatteras I was washed overboard off the main deck and then washed back on board, We were in rough seas and taking green water over the flying bridge. (service disability from injuries sustained in that incident)
22 November 1963 - Having no dependants in Charleston I volunteered to stand duty during a dependants cruise and was assigned to be the fantail lookout. It was a beautiful day for the cruise. Calm sea, bright sun, blue sky and puffy white clouds. We had just left sight of land when I received an order from the bridge to get all civilians below decks. A petty officer shipmate with his family, asked why, and what my authority was. I was telling him about President Kennedy being shot when the announcement came over the topside speakers. The ship then heeled over, put up a rooster tail and started making knots for port. He moved his family quickly below. I was left alone on the fantail with my thoughts. It was no longer a nice day.
I was Quarterdeck Messenger during the first change of command ceremony. (Was the quarterdeck the only place they could keep an eye on me during important ceremonies?)
September 1964 - I was released from active duty a few days early because the Semmes was going on a cruise to the cold north. I rode my 1955 Harley KK back to Massachusetts by way of upstate New York and almost froze in Pennsylvania.
In September of 1964 everyone was trying to get into the reserves to beat the Army draft. When I reported back to my reserve command there were no openings for able bodied seamen. I was released from the remainder of my active reserve obligation.
LtCdr Donald Wayne Knutson, XO, USS SEMMES DDG-18, supplied the motto "Dare to Excel". As a 19 year old I thought it was a corny, even ridiculous motto. I am, to this day, amazed at how often during my life I have remembered it and followed it. Thanks Mr. Knutson, I have never forgotten.
After the Semmes years, my life has been rather dull. I have been married since 1967 to my wife Judi. We have two wonderful children a girl and a boy. Both with advanced college degrees. Our daughter is a middle school librarian in Southern California and our son is a Research Entomologist with the forest service in Louisiana.
After 17 years I retired in 1982 from day to day computer work and began developing and producing proprietary educational software for the Apple computer. Speed Reading and Remedial Reading programs produced by Creative Curriculum in Huntington Beach, CA. Ameslan (Talking Hands) produced by EBSCO Curriculum in Alabama, Crapshooter and Visual Signaling produced by Felicity Systems in Westminster, CA. Visual Signaling taught semaphore and light using the Semmes as a hi-res backdrop and sailors doing the signaling. From 1983 to 1989 I taught computer and business courses for National Education Centers in Southern California.
In 1989, with my programs past their useful life and the school closing, Judi and I decided to relocate from Southern California. We sold our home and toured the US of A for 4 months and decided to stop and stay on the beautiful lost coast of California. Judi works as a bookkeeper for a prestigious law firm in Eureka and I have moved on from restoring Victorian homes to being a Realtor. We are currently building our retirement home that contains my realty office and guestrooms for clients, friends, relatives and old shipmates who care to visit.
My wife and I will be in Charleston for the 2002 reunion. With enough of us there we can reconnect a few of those missing memory links. See you there.
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