Dying Sailor Returns To His Youth One Last Time

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If I die young bury me in satin
Lay me down on a bed of roses
Sink me in the river at dawn
Send me away with the words of a love song

In a sense we all die young. Even those who live a full human span can tell you how quickly life has passed before their eyes. Time is a human concept and as we age it only appears to speed up. Patriots Point received a call a few weeks ago from a Guilford County, North Carolina, farmer’s wife, Mrs. Jennie Garrett. She was looking for a way and hoping to give her dying husband a special visit to the days of his Navy youth. His former ship, USS Lofberg (DD-759) , had been scrapped in 1974, but she found out that a sister Sumner class destroyer USS Laffey was still in existence at Patriots Point.  Her call to Patriots Point arranged a special visit for her husband and family to tour the ship, and a chance for him to return to the days of his youth and pass on his stories to his children and grandchildren.

USS Lofberg leaving San Diego, California.

Former Navy Petty Officer Jimmy Garrett and his family were welcomed onboard Laffey Friday morning by a group of Citadel cadets who served as an honor guard/sideboys and the staff of Patriots Point along with some local press, Schuyler Kropf of the Post and Courier and Cleve Bryan of WCBD TV-2. As Mr. Garrett told us later, when he joined the Navy, “I was country come to town.” He seemed a little overwhelmed by the entourage and possibly the memories that were gushing up, but as the tour progressed he became more at ease.

Mr. Jimmy Garrett touring Laffey and remembering his job as an electrician onboard (Photo Patriots Point - Jim Vickers)

As a poor, tenant farmer, he had never been beyond the tobacco fields south of Greensboro, North Carolina, until he joined the Navy in 1959. After boot camp, he was stationed in San Diego, California, on the Lofberg and made several western Pacific cruises.  Mr. Garrett visited Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan…where he visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He told us that the Navy had greatly influenced his life and that he still dreams of his youth spent aboard his destroyer. He led his children and grandchildren as they toured the Laffey from the engine room to the 5 inch guns to the bridge, following him in the footsteps of his youth. They heard the stories and history of his Navy service as he climbed ship’s ladders and ducked through the hatches of a Navy destroyer one last time.

Jimmy Garrett with his grandson. (Post and Courier photo)

 

Wife Jennie explained that the tour and visit to the Laffey, “It has put a smile on his face; I haven’t seen in a while.” Her call to Patriots Point was a gift to her husband, the Laffey became his “bed of roses” and the tour a chance for the family to “Send me away with the words of a love song” as the lyrics from The Band Perry song sing out in the video below.  Is there a better way to go…

 

 

 

Read Schuyler Kropf’s News and Courier story here…

See the WCBD story by Cleve Bryan here…

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2 thoughts on “Dying Sailor Returns To His Youth One Last Time

  1. To Warring and all our Navy Friends,
    Our nation’s veterans are one of my passions, and I appreciate how Mr. Garrett got the opportunity to recall his time of service. The website I posted is actually about the Battle of Midway – fought before DD-724 was launched but, no stranger to the USS Yorktown (CV-5). The group has 100 members, over 1.200 photos of the men and machines that fought that epic battle, and is dedicated to their sacrifice. I urge you to check it out. I served on the USS Laffey, from 1967-68, and, for one week, was her acting C.O. – Jim Hanford, Brownstown, MI.

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