Veteran Salute: Sailor delivered key parts at sea

Veteran Salute

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Many who serve others have heroes who inspired their paths. Stephen King, a Wichita native, said looking at his father’s Navy photo inspired him to become a sailor.

King said when he signed up, he was the only one in his group from Kansas. Straight out of high school, he got a number.

“They call this the military number,” the Navy veteran said.

Navy veteran Stephen King sits next to his military seabag. (KSN Photo)

He learned to live out of his seabag.

“Anything that you need and stuff, you have to put in the bag,” King said.

Loaded down, it weighed about 30 pounds, and King said a ten-mile run was tough enough, especially with a full bag on his back.

He said you never wanted to get in trouble in boot camp.

“They had this deal called happy hour,” King said.

He said the hour was anything but happy for the Great Lakes recruits.

“It was this deal where you exercised for a complete hour,” King said.

They were preparing them for life on the USS Saratoga.

“I was kind of a UPS of the Navy,” King said.

He was a storekeeper on the aircraft carrier.

Veteran Stephen King talks about his experiences in the Navy. (KSN Photo)

“So we would grab whatever we had, and we would go get whatever squadron needed them,” King said.

He said the Vietnam War was winding down.

“I was on ship with guys who were in Vietnam,” King said. “It was kind of in peacetime.”

But he says aircraft were still launching.

“In storms, the waves went above the ship,” King said.

Those hundred-foot swells made it difficult to deliver parts.

“To go down the hallway, I had to stretch my hands out because going down there, I would go from side to side,” King said.

He said it was quite the ride when his time in service ended.

“Instead of them staying on ship, and riding through, they pretty much have a plane ride off the ship,” King said.

They really had to strap him down for it, too.

FILE PHOTO: The catapult on the aircraft carrier USS SARATOGA hurls an EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft from the flight deck as an F/A-18C Hornet strike-fighter aircraft, right, is readied for takeoff during Operation Desert Shield. (Photo by DOD)

“They kind of strapped me down like the NASCAR, the strap here, strap there,” King said. “They shot the plane off the ship, and after that, I realized why they tightened it down.”

That was his send-off after a stint in the Navy allowed him and his seabag to travel to so many places.

“It was one of them experiences I wouldn’t trade for the world,” King said.

He laughed when he talked about their ritual of diving off the ship for a dip in the ocean when they were done with their shifts each day.

He said that was fun until he saw the movie Jaws.

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