I now head downstairs for the traditional Friday-night concert of the Navy Musicians Association.
It's just a bunch of friends playing for friends and family, MUs gathered together for music, snacks and talk.
And I'm nervous. I always am, every time we do this. Just a little bit, but still.
I have a small speaking role in the show's patriotic closing. Between the Navy Hymn and final service medley, I'll recite the narrative "We Serve With Honor" as the band performs Carmen Dragon's arrangement of "America, the Beautiful." Navy bands have performed this since the 1960s; I've done it a hundred times, in the Navy in the '70s and with the NMA in this century.
And I still get nervous.
It's not because my part is hard; it isn't. It's not because I'm afraid I'll screw it up; I won't.
I think it's because doing this--honoring our Navy, our armed forces and our shipmates--is more important to me now. Along the way, I've developed a perspective on naval service that is independent of the morning musters, haircuts, shoe-shining, bitching and beer that were once part of the daily routine.
So here's what happens: as the band plays the Navy Hymn, I think of those with whom I served. Especially those who are gone. I think of my father and grandfather, my wife's father and grandfather, all of whom served honorably in the United States Navy during times of war. I think about my first NMA reunion, when I found myself surrounded by the people who once molded me as a musician, a sailor, a citizen. I think about how proud I am to have been a part of all of this.
And then, I have to somehow hold it together and act like a grownup during "America, the Beautiful."