'Brothers of the Phin'
I chanced upon a sailor once with an emblem on his chest. It appeared to be two angry sharks on a trash can for a rest.
His white hat was wrinkled and dirty; his neckerchief tied too tight and he had only one eye open as he staggered through the night.
He was young and scrawny and wiry; with knuckles cracked and oozing. I could tell from the way he looked and smelled he'd spent the night whorin' and boozin'.
But as he pulled abreast, he squared his hat and said "Sir, do you have a light? I'm due back aboard by quarter to four Or the COB will be settin' me right."
As I fumbled around for my lighter he pulled some smokes from his sock "and I'll be damned lucky to make it," he muttered 'Cause I'm steamin' against the clock."
Through the flame of my well-worn Zippo I could see a smile on his face. "But, you know -- it was damn well worth it. That 'Bell's' is a helluva place."
He sucked the smoke deep down in his lungs and blew smoke rings up towards the moon Then he rolled up his cuffs, pushed his hat to the back and said "Maybe there'll be a cab soon."
In spite of the time he was losing He was wanting to shoot the breeze So we sat on the curb, like two birds on a perch as he talked of his life on the seas.
I asked about the thing on his chest and he looked at me with a grin. Then he squared his hat, snubbed out his smoke and said "I'm a Brother of the 'Phin."
"I'm one of the boys who go under the sea where the lights from above don't shine; Where mermaids play and Neptune is king and life and death intertwine."
"Life on a boat goes deep in your blood and nothing on earth can compare to the feeling inside as she commences a dive going deep on a hope and a prayer."
"I've sailed some fearsome waters down below the raging main and I've heard that old boat creak and groan like the wheels of a railroad train."
"It's the one place on earth where there ain't no slack where you don't have more than you need; where each man is prince of his own little space and each lives by the submarine creed."
"There ain't much I've done in this fickle life that would cause other men to take note, But I've walked in the steps of some mighty fine men who helped keep this country afloat."
"They slipped silently through the layers down below that raging main while up above enemy men-o'-war laid claim to the same domain."
"Brave sailors were they in their sleek boats of steel silently stalking their prey and closing in for the kill."
"They died as they lived unafraid, proud and free Putting all on the line to secure liberty."
"Their bones now rest in glory down in Neptune's hallowed ground But their souls stand tall at the right hand of God Awaiting the klaxon's next sound."
"So, it's more than a 'thing' that I wear on my chest It's a badge of the brave, proud and true. It's a tribute to those who have gone here before riding boats that are still overdue"
"It's the "Dolphins" of a submariner worn proudly by the few who've qualified at every watch and touched every bolt and screw."
"They know the boat on which they sail like they know their very soul and through the fires of hell or the pearly gates they're ready for each patrol."
"But when in port they take great sport standing out from all the rest. For deep inside they burn with pride for the dolphins on their chest."
Then he stood erect, squared his hat and pulled his neckerchief down to the 'V' He rolled down his cuffs, put his smokes in his sock and squinted back towards the sea.
"I can hear them diesels calling So I'd best be on my way. We'll be punchin' holes in the ocean when the sun peeks over the bay."
As I watched him turn and walk away I felt honored to know such men. for they bring life to Duty, Honor, Country these "Brothers of the 'Phin." *** Larry Dunn July 2003