When I was in the Navy, I listened to a lot of music. Those who know me know Elvis (Presley) was and is my #1. But there is one song that got more play time above and beyond Elvis. The Beatles, Let It Be.
When we did major deployments (3 months or more) we brought along a compliment of Marines. I’d like to stop right there…I don’t know why it’s called a compliment. Having the Marines on board was hardly complimentary. Understand, I (we) respected the marines for what they did (to a degree). But for goodness sake, they made it tough. When they came on board with all their stuff, they stormed pretty much everything like they stormed a beach. That’s where Let it Be came in.
I remember reading an article of an interview with Paul McCartney and he spoke of when he wrote Let It Be. I’m paraphrasing but Paul said he had a dream about his mom (Mary) where she told him “It will be all right, just let it be” regarding how tense things were getting with The Beatles. That dream inspired him to write Let It Be.
I ran the ship’s store periodically in my time on ship. It wasn’t so bad in port with just the ships crew. But when the Marines came aboard, things got a bit tense. It was nonstop, all day. They would get in line for the store even before I would open. Kind of like on Black Friday. I would open at 0800 to 1100. After chow from 1300 (1pm for you civilians) to 1600 (4pm). Then because we were on deployment we’d have extended hours opening from (OK fine, I’ll skip the military time) 5pm to 7pm. Sometimes I didn’t close right away, I stayed open. What the heck, there was nothing better to do at sea. But when it was time to close I had to cash out, or restock the shelves. The Marines would clean us out daily. Especially before they were to go ashore for an operation. I mean, you just gotta have that extra Snickers bar. Sometimes at the end of the day I would just hung out in the store because it was a quiet space to be in. Sometimes my shipmates would come in and hangout with me and help me stock the shelves. Inevitably if people saw the lock off the door, they would knock. “Dude, I need a pack of smokes!”
During normal open times because there were so many Marines on board we had to have an alternating system. One marine, one sailor. And no more than 6 people in the store at one time. I had a security guy (a Marine) at the door. Yes, we had some sticky fingers on board so I needed an extra set of eyes and someone to help maintain order.
The line would stretch down the passageway, sometimes out to the flight deck. You’d think it really was Black Friday…every day! Sometimes I would see the same Marines 3 or 4 times a day. Which astonished me because with the lines being so long, they basically spent all day in line? But then, that’s what they did on board…stand in line. Ship’s store line, Gedunk store line (that was our snack shack across the mess decks), chow line…you get the picture. If there was a line to be stood in, the Marines were in it.
Now it wasn’t just the Marines. Ship’s company didn’t make things any easier. Sometimes arguments would break out outside the store; accusations of cutting in line and such Once in a while inside the store, someone grabbed the last of something and someone else had their eye on it. And the officers didn’t help, they had head of line privileges. So when one walked in ahead of everyone else I got the complaints. There were even times when people would come to my rack needing something after hours. That was annoying but I didn’t complain too much, I got an under the table fee for the inconvenience. The fee was based on what, when, and who inconvenienced me.
I was talking about the song, “Let It Be,” wasn’t I? Let It Be came to be a song I would play several times a day, especially before I opened the store. I needed to hear, “It will be all right, just let it be,” there were days I’d have it playing on an endless loop. I was once asked about it by a Marine. Why was it playing over and over? I just smiled and said, “Next.”
Things have changed since then. The frustrations I had with the Marines only exists in memory. They are my brothers and I have a deep respect for all my veteran family past and present. Well, some things don’t change, Elvis still remains #1. Let It Be is not listened to as often as it once was. I have new songs I listen to for comfort and reassurance. But they all have one thing in common. They let me know, “It will be all right, just let it be.”