Today I worked at a local mental health facility. My job was to sit with an elderly patient that had been giving the staff some problems. (Well, OK, he was combative and a grouch). They said he was hard to get along with, had threatened staff and his mind was not often sharp. I have sit with patients times before and the days can be quite long. I noticed several tattoos on his weathered arms. On closer inspection, I noticed an anchor, USN and other navy tattoos. I ask him how long he was in the Navy (not knowing if he really was). He said "35 years". He ask if I had served in the military. I told him I had also served in the Navy. He ask my rate and I told him I was a fire control gunner. He knew exactly what that was and ask what size guns we used. In just a few minutes as we talked, he seemed to calm down, cooperate with the staff and actually smile. He said he retired as a Master Chief Boatswain's Mate. (that chest puffed up a little when he said that). He said "even the skipper listens to the Chief when he puts those stars on that anchor." He said "these old legs don't work so good anymore but they have carried me to beaches in the far corners of the world". He said he had served on 9 different ships and could name every one of them. His favorite was the tin cans and the sea going tug.
It is amazing how the memories of long ago can seem so sharp while the mind slips away. For the next few hours I listened to his sea stories. He even impressed the staff by doing his walking exercises further than ever before. I told the staff that if they would address him as Master Chief occasionally it would be good for his morale. After all, he had worked hard to get that title.
At the end of my shift I shook his hand and thanked him for his service. He said "you just watch, I am gonna walk out of here soon with no @$#%@ walker". I said "you take care Master Chief".
I spent the day with history and walked away a better person for it.