NIOC Georgia celebrates the Sailor during Navy’s 238th birthday
More than 600 Sailors and guests attended the ball, which featured former Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, Joe R. Campa Jr., as the guest speaker, and Grammy award winning DJ Frankie Biggz.
The annual Navy Ball celebrates the heritage, history and more specifically the day Congress created the Navy, Oct. 13, 1775.
The night’s theme celebrated the Sailor, expressed by Petty Officer 1st Class Whitney M. Bellow, the master of ceremonies for the ball.
“As we celebrate our Navy’s 238th birthday, our history and heritage forms our identity, telling us who we are and what we stand for,” Bellow said. “Our core values... have been passed down from our founders, to every successive generation, who charged the Navy with the solemn duty to serve as a ‘shield’ of our Republic.”
Every Sailors’ part in history is important, said Bellow.
“The Navy has faced all of its challenges with distinction and success, and will continue to do so. Despite all of the changes over the last 238 years, there has been one constant: The United States Sailor.”
All Sailors fight the same mission as told how by Senior Chief Petty Officer Derek Beck, Navy Ball chairperson at NIOCGA.” Regardless of rate or rank, we are all Sailors,” said Beck.
“We work to strengthen our pride in service daily, but everything we do culminates with the celebration of our Navy’s birthday each October,” Beck went on to say. “That is why the symbol on our coin for this year’s Navy Ball features the ‘Lone Sailor’ statue within the state of Georgia. Even though we are separated from our normal Navy environments here in the middle of Georgia, we are still executing and supporting our Navy’s missions all over the world. And we remain deeply connected to our common core values, customs and traditions of excellence.”
Each table was named after Navy ships or squadrons, and included historical information of each namesake.
“We included ships’ namesakes from our CPO 365 program to reinforce our work throughout the year to connect with each ship’s history and heritage, which enhances our pride in our naval service and helps remind us that we are all a part of something that is bigger than us,” Beck said.
Command Master Chief Larry Howard, NIOC-GA command master chief, expressed his gratitude during his introduction for the mentorship Campa provided while they served together.
“I received a lot of leadership, mentorship and guidance all throughout my 28 plus years in the Navy,” said Howard. “Our guest speaker played a huge role in me being here today. It wouldn’t have been possible without my relationship with you Joe (Campa). As many of you know, we were stationed together on the USS Frank Cable.”
“You’re a great American. Our nation, our Navy and our Sailors are forever indebted to you,” Howard said. “We are indebted to your values, principles and steadfast belief in representing all that is good in the United States Navy. We remain the land of the free, because of the brave.”
During a recent trip to Washington D.C., Campa had a chance meeting with 80 World War II veterans at the Reagan National Airport, who were on their way to visit the National World War II Memorial.
Campa described one veteran in a wheelchair that struggled to stand up as the crowd welcomed the arriving veterans, “After a few moments he was able to stand as straight as his body would allow and he gave the crowd a proper salute,” Campa said. “I have to tell you it was eye watering to see the pride that these men still had after all of these years.”
After a short time longer, Campa spoke with a former Sailor among the veterans arriving at the airport. “This veteran told me that he served his entire Navy career during World War II on the USS Nevada... he spoke of his life onboard... and about the morning Pearl Harbor was attacked. Navy history is best told through the eyes of a lone Sailor.”
Campa described the gruesome details that this World War II recalled following the attack of the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor.
“This Navy veteran said he would never forget what he saw that day and he paused, looked me in the eye and said ‘you know you don’t have to bleed to be a wounded veteran,’” Campa said. “He told me that he left the Navy after the war but his whole life was shaped by it. He was a better father, better husband and a better American because of what he learned about service, sacrifice and the strength of the human spirit.”
After experiencing that chance meeting with the World War II veteran in the airport, Campa told the Navy Ball attendees that he had never felt so humbled.
“That chance meeting of those World War II veterans was an inspiring moment for me. It served as a stark reminder that it is up to us to not forget Sailors like this veteran who names history did not record but whose service and sacrifice make us who we are today,” said Campa. “That’s what we do tonight; we celebrate the legacy of the United States Sailor and the honor that comes with serving our nation and having a culture that was born at sea.”