Column: Whitford venerates veterans


December 11, 2017

I salute all who served, or currently serve, in the U.S. military. Every day — not just on Veterans Day — we should show gratitude for their service to country.

I served in the U.S. Navy from 1987 to 1991, rocking and rolling aboard the USS Schenectady (LST-1185).

As fate would have it, the day I was born — July 15, 1966 — Congress ordered the USS Schenectady to be built. Serving aboard that ship was the birthday gift of a lifetime.

One of my nieces, Sydney Skinner, recently interviewed me for a grade school report for Veterans Day. The exercise reminded me how blessed we are to live in, and serve, The United States of America. Here’s a slice of that Q&A:

Navy man

Photo: Marty Whitford

Photo: Marty Whitford

SS: When and where did you serve in the Navy?

MW: I spent eight weeks in boot camp in Orlando, Fla., in spring 1987. The experience tore down me and built up us. Then I spent eight weeks in Meridian, Miss., where I basically studied to play the role of Radar O’Reilly, supply clerk/bookkeeper from the 1970s hit TV series M*A*S*H. Then I spent three years and eight months aboard the USS Schenectady, stationed in sunny San Diego. Twice we cruised the Western Pacific for six months.

SS: Was boot camp difficult?

MW: Absolutely, but it was worth every character-building moment. I think everyone should go through boot camp.

SS: Were there any wars while you served?

MW: Yes. In late 1990, we were called on to serve in the first Persian Gulf War. Our ship transported about 250 marines and dozens of tanks and AAVs (amphibious assault vehicles) to Bahrain. We weren’t allowed to tell anyone where we were going, and we had to wear gas masks several hours a day. Those few months seemed like years.

SS: What are your strongest Navy memories?


  • My first morning in boot camp: My alarm clock was our commanding officer hurling a huge metal garbage can down the middle of our barracks at 3 a.m., screaming: “I ain’t your mama! You’re not home anymore! You’re in the United States Navy! Get your sorry as*** out of bed!”
  • Pulling into Pearl Harbor.
  • The moment I was informed we were steaming to the Persian Gulf. This was the moment I began to truly understand what “service to country” means.

SS: What are some of your fondest memories of serving in the Navy?

MW: I cherish the entire experience, from boot camp to serving in the Persian Gulf War, and everything in between. I saw the world … and somehow became a man along
the way.

Publisher and Editorial Director Marty Whitford can be reached at or 216-706-3766.

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  1. Thank you Marty for your service to our country. Really enjoyed reading your shared memories of your Navy days.