I left my heart in CHASN – she was my first permanent duty station after my commissioning, and she would be the last for tens of thousands of Sailors who watched the Ensign come down for the last time in 1996.
I spent 15 months here, most of it at the Shipyard while the Strike Shamrock, USS O’Bannon, replaced her ASROC launcher with the 61 cell VLS launcher loaded with Tomahawk missiles from the Weapons Station 10 miles north on the current-ridden Cooper River.
In 1993, with the Cold War behind us, Congress decided to close the beloved Charleston Naval Base losing 15,000 Sailors and 7,000 civilians.
I remember many precarious sea-and-anchor details with the ‘Lucky O’ coming into port. Spent many hours navigating the windy, sharp turns of the Cooper River. On our change of duty station to nearby Mayport, I took a moment to glance at the steeple-studded city I grew to love. I momentarily dived into reflections, remembering those long, relaxing walks on Meeting Street, window shopping, drinking cappuccinos on the verandas of local coffee shops, buying straw baskets from the ladies who made them while sitting on cobblestone sidewalks beside the antebellum mansions that painted the backdrop of Rainbow Row.
This charming Southern town had a plethora of secret gardens and hidden alleyways, overgrown with jasmine and wisteria. And those great summer nights partying and bar hopping on Church and Market Streets. I ate at Wild Wings, listened to rhythm and blues at Hamptons and danced the night away at Acmes.
Today the only existing structure that memorializes our contributions is the Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial. The tribute was planned by veterans and the city of North Charleston. For almost a century, hundreds of thousands of Sailors were stationed here and made a huge impact for the war efforts. And everyone who weighed anchor here should sail back to rekindle old memories.
Waterfront parks and quiet beaches are as abundant as antique shops. And this is one park overlooking the Cooper River that you must pay homage to.
Bronze statues of a submarine, a landing craft and a destroyer – 256 vessels were built here – many more like the USS O’Bannon was serviced and refitted here.
Charleston, the steeple-studded, rainbow row, charming Southern town – I will forever miss you. The base may be closed, but I’ll always lay anchor here.