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Service in the U.S. Naval Reserve
My approximately 20 years of service in the U.S. Naval Reserve afforded me many memorable experiences that I could not have afforded under other circumstances. Every year, I was required to go on a two-week training course. How else would I have been able to have gone to Panama twice and enjoyed a railroad trip along the Panama Canal from one side of the isthmus to the other, witnessing the ships going through the opening and the closing of the huge locks. What a modern marvel.
One of my trips was to Havana, Cuba, and to Guantanamo Bay. Another trip was to Kingston, Jamaica. Local trips were to Key West, Fla., and San Diego and San Pedro, Calif. (They called it San Pee-dro. What a sacrilege.) On a trip to Baltimore, Md., I was able to visit Fort McHenry, where Francis Scott Key was imprisoned when he wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.” Most of my trips originated in New Orleans, after a train trip, with evening and breakfast meals in the dining car and sleep in a curtained two-level bunk bed.
Before jets, one of my trips to California was on a DC-3 (a two-propeller plane). Very tiring trip. Most of my trips were on a destroyer or a destroyer escort. One of my trips was on a light cruiser, one on a transport, one on an LST (landing ship tank), and one on an oiler (USS Caliente). One of the destroyers I was on was the USS Haynsworth.
My barber, older than I, served on that ship during World War II in the U.S. Navy. He told me an interesting story about that period. He lived in Rio Grande City when the war started and received notice from his draft board to report for a pre-induction physical. One of his acquaintances was a robust person, and my barber, Andy, was skinny. His acquaintance told him, “Andy, you’re too skinny; you’ll never make it.” When the physicals were completed, the results were announced in alphabetical order. Andy was declared 1-A, physically fit. His acquaintance was declared 4-F, physically unfit.
During that era, a popular song sung by a female included the words “He’s 1-A in the Army, and he’s 1-A in my heart.” I had a picture of the USS Haynsworth and made a copy for Andy. He has it on display in his barbershop.
Rudy Elizondo is Julia Castro’s nephew and formerly of Floresville.
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