Tag Archives: navy

Seagulls are Dead Sailors

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my Aunt talks about how seagulls are dead sailors watching over you.

AJ: Did your mom ever tell you about seagulls?

Me: That’s a crazy way to start a sentence.

AJ: [laughs] I guess that’s true. Well, when I was thinking about folklore I remembered this thing I think your grandpa told me. It was after his brother Dean died, shortly before you were born. We were both really sad, and he had just come back from taking his ashes to California, and we saw a seagull. Now, we don’t see many seagulls in Tulsa, do we?

Me: Nope.

AJ: So I pointed it out to daddy and he told me something he learned in the Navy. He said that when a sailor dies, they come back to life as a seagull.

Me: Oh yeah, mom told me that after he died.

AJ: Yeah. I don’t think your grandfather necessarily believed in reincarnation, but I think he thought in some way maybe he could come back as a seagull.

Me: Is that why you like the idea?

AJ: Yeah, I think so. It’s a comforting thought, right? That he’s watching over us, even if it means he’s a bird. [laughs] Every time I see a seagull I think of him. You probably see them a lot in California.

Me: Yeah, especially after the tailgating.

AJ: [laughs] Well, next time you see one, it might just be your grandpa.

Much like a lot of the folklore I collected from both my mother and my Aunt, this piece relates to those we have lost coming back and being around us. I think my aunt finds comfort in the fact that my grandfather is watching her and is guiding her in life. It’s interesting, because if you asked my aunt if she believed in reincarnation, she would say no. Yet, this folk belief is can be considered reincarnation in a certain way. It’s always interesting trying to figure out where the line is in people’s folk beliefs and their religious beliefs, as some seem to contradict the other, yet it’s totally fine that they do.

“Pin Me Chief!”

Kropp was a secret geek in high school. He thoroughly enjoyed sports, rap, and women but had a soft spot for cartoons. He says he would secretly want to be a superhero if he had the chance – “a dope superhero” at that. He is currently a USC student studying environmental science, is enrolled in the NROTC program and loves to skateboard. He has very close ties with his extended family. He hopes to one day commission into the navy as an officer.

One of the roughest part of being in the military are the old traditions. One of them is the “Pinning Ceremony”. In the military there is a rank system. You start at the bottom and slowly start making your way up the ladder. A rank is worn on the collar of the uniform shirt. The rank is a small metal insignia about an inch in length and width. It is pinned to the collar by two prongs that are closed at the back of the collar with frogs (the way an earring is pierced to an ear). One of the oldest traditions in the military is what you do with this pin. Kropp was invited to an advancement ceremony of one of his fellow sailors down in Camp Pendleton a few months ago. The commanding officer speaks and lots of pictures are taking; sailors are dressed up in their uniform. Sailors invite family and friends to these so that they may place the rank on the sailor, give them a kiss and that concludes the ceremony. Kropp said that after the ceremony was when the tradition took part.

Sailors were taking back to their individual commands and then spit up by rank. All of the third classes (4th rank) went with their department heads – their chiefs. And the seconds and first classes with theirs. In order to truly earn your rank, you had to bleed for it. Chiefs would tell sailors to remove the frogs from the back of the rank (the rank still easily remains on the collar). Then all of his department, mostly those that ranked above him would “beat the living hell out of ’em” Kropp says. They punch the rank into your collar bone until you bleed. When Kropps friend came out, he asked him how it went. His shoulder bled and there was a smile on his face. Weird, huh? He just got a beating and he was content.

Analysis: This is not a tradition that is validated by the Navy. All sorts of hazing are both frowned upon and illegal by mandate of the Chief of Naval Operations. This tradition still continues because of how most traditions survive. “If I had to do it, so do you.” In the military, you’re not supposed to be able to skate by. It’s one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. It’s a job meant for tough men and women. Traditions like this may not be sane in the least bit, nor are they supposed to be happening. But the sailors want it. They look forward to it. Because they know they will not belong with their fellow chiefs unless they went through what they went through. One of the fastest ways to build brotherhood in this world is to shed a little blood for each other. And who does that better than the United States Military. 3042100_34e3a666-e788-4964-b3fc-c53c0044c261_grande

You Owe the Lot!

Steele is one of my friends I train in the ROTC program. Very interesting character. He is a freshman at USC. In his spare time he reads The Prince by Machiavelli on the Realism; an International Relations school of thought. He dates 5 women at a time and loves clash of clans.

Steele fell victim to an old navy tradition a few days ago. In the military, we wear what is called a “cover”. In the civilian world you would call it a hat or cap. The military is known for its discipline, stiffness, and tidiness. We keep our quarters spotless and smelling good. There’s also a high level of respect. When a military personnel leaves their cover (cap) on a table it’s considered disrespectful. The way you take your hat off before entering a building, or close a wet umbrella before walking in. Anyone can call you out for leaving your cover on the table. If you’re caught, for the painful disrespect you have befallen, you owe who ever is in the room a round of drinks. Let’s just say when Steele got caught, he said that it was a very expensive (potential buy). Luckily in the program, not all of us are 21 yet so they can’t hold us to it unless they’re keeping a tab.

Analysis: One of the navy’s oldest traditions. When you think Navy, you think “Drunken Sailor” on an old rustic sail ship. That’s where the tradition comes from. Sailors spent gruesome, cruel hours under and on the poop deck of a ship maintaining the large wooden object for sea. But when they weren’t hoisting the colors, or manning the helm, they had to do something. Many of today’s drinking games and chanties come from the world’s finest Navy.