For most people, the word “reunion” is often loaded with different connotations, but none more common than that of a psychological milestone.
At an even multiple of decades or fractions of a century, we are sometimes compelled to return to an intersection with people whom shared an experience at an important time of our lives.
Those people were usually there in an arbitrary way; the family you were born into, the high school you happened to live near, the military unit to which you were bureaucratically assigned or the co-survivors of an affliction or tragedy through which you might never have otherwise bonded.
But sometimes there are special groups of people in life that you explicitly choose to join, and few can compare the impact they make on who you became like the Sea Scouts. At the foreboding peak of your adolescent life, Scouting’s crucible of accelerated life challenges, occasionally life and death – but always consequential, are an incomparable experience often referenced subconsciously for the rest of your life.
How often we may wonder as decades go by, what did the other guys do with that experience? Where are they now? Did it matter as much to them?
Sea Scout Ship 33, the Gryphon of Redwood City, CA recently hosted a 20ish year reunion aboard the steel 65’ ex-Army cargo boat that has been the iconic centerpiece of the program since 1981, and later at the Sequoia Yacht Club which sponsors the Ship today.
Last winter, fellow Quartermaster Josh Gilliland, long-time Bosun Tom Wang and I spontaneously fomented alumni interest to have a reunion after a spree of comments under old crew pictures posted to Facebook.
We didn’t demand that anyone HAD to have been active in the program at any one date to be invited, but rather just have been a shipmate in the late 80’s, early ‘90s era. The more inclusive “20ish” as an imprecise measure suits the flexible Gen-X character of our age, perhaps irritating to those older and younger.
This was not a formal reunion by any stretch. Gryphon is recovering from a crippling material disaster to the boat that unfolded last year after a deterioration of hull plating led to extensive progressive flooding. The total impact nearly ended the program and even a year later they could not yet have entertained a grand weekend excursion for our event.
Nevertheless, the skipper, mates, and capable crew of today graciously invited a visit while they scrambled to finish up repairs and maintenance in time for their first full summer cruise in 2 years. Though we couldn’t enjoy getting underway that weekend, the timing turned out to be as perfect as the Bay Area weather.
After an informal breakfast with the organizers and a party logistics run to Costco in the morning, we headed down to the boat to meet the current leadership and receive whoever might show up.
One by one, “old crew” from near and far strolled down the pier, some with family in tow, to be hailed like they were showing up 20 years late for the next scheduled weekend work party. We hugged, traded jabs at the emerging gray hairs, and caught up on life while the crew’s urgent work at hand carried on.
We quietly marveled in satisfaction as today’s otherwise over-wired Generation Z crew grinned at us through engine grease smudges and a coating of sanding dust, beaming at their heroic accomplishments in the last year.
Though very different from us, we still share this crucible of youth. To show our families such a reflection of our own Sea Scout experience made an enlightening impression, too.
As afternoon advanced to evening, we moved to the yacht club for refreshments and a self-hosted barbeque. Josh presented a fantastic montage of pictures and video from our Cold War twilight era, followed by a briefing from Skipper Mike Marzano on the future of the Gryphon, their challenges, their needs, and their opportunities.
In light of our day together, we were inspired to mobilize alumni in support of the Ship that gave us so much. We closed the evening with handshakes, hugs and pledges to not wait another 20 years. I have a feeling we probably won’t, having proven a Sea Scout reunion isn’t as daunting it might have seemed.
Whatever connotation you may have with reunions, when it comes to Scouting, just remember the time you were persuaded (or dragged) to go to that first meeting or cruise and your sudden inspiration to join that special group. A reunion needn’t be a stuffy event or exhausting. It’s your shipmates in person; a little heavier, maybe funnier, a lot wiser. Just set a date, don’t over-think details, show up and enjoy yourself. You’ll be glad you did, all over again.
About the Author:
Kris Leverich is a Quartermaster Sea Scout (1994) from the SSS Gryphon, Ship 33. Growing up on the Gryphon in the late 1980’s, Kris held nearly all crew leadership offices and was a regatta winning Boatswain. Today, Kris is an officer in the United States Coast Guard, crediting many of the opportunities and advancements he has enjoyed in America’s oldest, continuous sea service to his time on the Gryphon. In proof of a small world, Kris’s wife was the Flag Aide to Admiral Wurster, the current National Commodore, while he commanded the 14th District in Hawaii.