Eh, figured I would get this out of the way since I thought it up the other night.
Next January 17th will mark the 2nd anniversary of the loss of the greatest man to live. At least to a lot of people I served with.
*Turns on time machine*
Ben and I had gone back quite a few years. We went through schooling together back in 1998-2000 after joining the Navy. We went to the same ship together in late 2000. We were in the same division, the same work center, and even in the same duty section. Often times we had stood watch in the propulsion plant together. When I went to become part of the drill team, I evaluated his ability to lead a watch team to combat casualties (as well as the other watch sections). We hung out at parties together with other people we worked with.
Ben was a very religious man born in Minnesota. Catholic to be exact. We would stand duty while in port as the steam plant operators. We were the only 2 qualified this in our section. 2 plants, 2 people, we stood a 24 hour watch. It was never a problem between us when things needed to get done we were there for each other if need be. I also took his watch on Sundays for an hour so he could go to church. Not really in agreement to the rules, but it worked out well.
Ben always was found with a smile, or at least could come up with a joke and some wit. Not something the new guys expected from someone who was also a die hard Metallica fan, and had tattoos on both arms of various items, one being a flaming skull. He took his job quite seriously, but if you looked hard enough, you could find his plans to take over the world with a yellow submarine. Look even harder and you find where he hid Star Wars figurines around the plant to keep away "gremlins."
He was extremely difficult to argue with. He could have a fiery temper, but he forgot that stuff too easily, too quickly. I remember at one party we were arguing about something. We were out on the front porch having a smoke. He took my beer and spilled it on me. So, I took his and spilled it on him. He asked why I did that. I told him because he spilled mine on me. We looked at the ground below us and put our cigarettes out. Headed inside, refilled the cups and went outside. Then we looked at each other and asked what we were arguing about. We couldn't remember even then.
He was loved and respected by many in the department. Always willing to lend a hand, or help you learn what you needed to know to get qualified a watch station. It wasn't really while doing this he found the woman he loved. She did work with us, but she was an electronics technician (Ben and I being mechanics). They dated a while and took things more seriously before too long.
January of 2005. We were going out to sea to aid in relief efforts of the tsunami victims. Our ship was going to be refueling supply planes as they flew out of Hawaii.
Our department was running an ORSE (operational Reactor Safeguards Exam). To make the explanation short: ORSE is a huge political run around for the nuke program. It's an evil necessity, evil as in none of us really get any sleep.
Anyway, we had just finished 2 of 3 drill sets. The drill team decided to take a 30 minute break for lunch, and allow the oncoming watch team to settle into their watches. The oncoming watch team was Ben's. I was in the office shuffling some training paperwork to some of the chiefs for them to sign (for me it was a no lunch break). That's when we heard the announcement. They called out a medical emergency in the foward plant. Office went to a hush. The chief in charge of the forward plant rushed out the door to see what happened. I grabbed the phone so I wouldn't get in the way down in the plant. All I got when I asked was "It's bad. Really bad. Stan, I can't talk right now. We will discuss later." At first I was hoping someone had just twisted their ankle going up a ladder. No, that would have been too nice.
Backing up a bit, to say a little bit about what happened down there. There was a funnel that was overflowing. Ben thought that it was due to a valve some 20 feet below it that was in the piping for that funnel. He decided to see if it was maybe clogged. Upon taking the cap off the valve, cold water came out. A false sense of security must have come over him. Because what came out next, steam and hot water, blasted him down. It was spraying onto his upper body. One of the guys ran and put his boot over the opening, it was all he could do. The spray shifted down to his lower body, but he could see his way out. He crawled out and proceeded to walk to medical.
Quite an accomplishment as we were told later over 60% of his body was burned. I won't mention the other details, I have dinner in front of me as I type this.
We had already fueled the planes the night before. We were on our way to Hawaii to make a port call. Ben was on morphine drip in the Ship's hospital. We turned back towards San Diego so we could launch a plane off with him on it to a land side hospital. As they were putting him on the plane he died. He never had a chance to survive it anyway. He was 26 and 60% burned. He had a 14% chance of making it. Even then, he would never be with us again. He would have been a vegetable for quite a number of years. Not brain wise, but muscle wise (no muscle function).
Most of the drill team wanted to cancel the next set of drills. Instead we ran them to try and keep their minds off of what happened to try and ease their minds.
We made a toast to his life as soon as we pulled into Hawaii. A few of us (20 or so) went to a resturaunt and bar, and saluted his life, his memory. We gave some items to one of the guys who was flying back to fly to MN with Ben's casket. I mentioned his love earlier. I didn't mention that she was pregnant. She gave birth to little James Benjamen (yes with ann E, just like Ben's full name) later in 2005. Ben never did see his son in person. However, to what he believed in, he is watching over him now. His son is beautiful. A lot of us keep track of him on a regular basis. I remember reading about when he took his first steps.
There are times in my life since then that I think back to him. He was the best of us all. He was our co-worker, sometimes our mentor, but always our beloved friend. And I miss him still.
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Thank you, and yes, little James has nothing to worry about as long as his mom keeps us posted on where she is. If he is in want of anything he has a couple hundred mommies and daddies out there willing to cough up money or items to help. There is so much more I could say about Ben, but I didn't want to make it a novel.
Posts: 2208 | Registered: Feb 2004
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