Gtmo? That scroungy place at the southeastern tip of Cuba?that base the Navy has held onto since 1903?that rock with
nothing but lousy beaches, coral rocks, brown grass, cactus and nothing to do but stare at the ocean wishing you were on it
heading away as fast as possible?that Gtmo?
You can't mean that Gtmo because that isn't the Gtmo so many of us hold
in our hearts the way we hold any favorite memory. That Gtmo, even though some of us have not seen if for over 40 years, still
has its mysterious hold on us. Whether it was a two-year stay while our military parents grumbled about being there, or the
many years of being there while our civilian parents loved it almost as much as we did. We grew up while we were there, emotionally
and chronologically. We went from the innocence of youth to the wonders of our teens while we were there, and we did so with
the comfort of knowing that Gtmo held us closely so that we wouldn't make too many mistakes.
Lousy beaches? Maybe.
Coral rocks? Absolutely. Brown grass? Of course. Nothing to do? You gotta be kidding! Anyone who couldn't find something to
amuse themselves there simply chose not to, (even if it didn't always amuse the base police). Was Gtmo restrictive? Yes, at
times, it was. But that didn't always stop us, did it? How many of us actually stayed inside during those NEGDEF exercises?
But Gtmo also gave us a chance to test out those new wings we were developing and to do so with a wonderful safety net. Some
of us learned our colors and how to add and subtract there. Some of us learned how to drive there. And some of us learned
about sex there. (Don't worry, I won't tell about all those things you did, even if I'm not the only one who knows about them!)
If nothing else, Gtmo helped us all learn a little something about the person we were becoming.
Above all, we learned
that there is no other place in the world quite like Gtmo. That is an indisputable fact. I'll bet that you, like virtually
all of us, have tried to figure out why. I'll also bet that you never came up with one single, defining thing. That's part
of the mystery of Gtmo, and it may very well be the best thing about it. We don't analyze why we like a particular food, we
just enjoy it. Most of us have tried to analyze Gtmo over the years weve been away, and even though we're old enough now to
have insights into things we didn't in our youth, it doesn't help one stinking bit! We still can't explain the hold it has
on us, even to ourselves, let alone our friends and family. It just does, and frankly, I'm glad. Not being able to solve the
mystery makes it that much more intriguing.
We never forget our first true love, and Gtmo might be that love. It,
like a past lover, has given us memories that we can bring to mind at the drop of a thought. None of us have to add Beach
when we talk about Windmill, or have to offer an explanation when we say that silly word, gedunk.
Among the many things
we took away with us when we left were memories that have, over the years, outlasted many more important ones, and that is
something special. We have all moved on to other places in our lives. We are parents now, and grandparents, and maybe some
of us are even great grandparents. We've had successes and failures in our loves, and in our lives. We've made gains and suffered
losses. Our lives have been a series of decisions and options, of changes made or rejected, and hopefully we've learned and
grown from them. Through it all, while looking ahead, we've hung onto the special parts of our past. They are the foundations
that we've built on. Gtmo was a very large part of that foundation.
Gtmo? That Gtmo? The one with the lousy beaches,
and coral rocks, and brown grass, and nothing to do? NO! Because it is OUR lousy beaches, OUR coral rocks, OUR brown grass,
and OUR place where we did all the things that have burned themselves into life-long memories. Yes, that Gtmo. The never-forgotten
Gtmo. OUR Gtmo.
Class of 59
Gtmo resident from 1946-1960