BY GINA GARCIA
Mt. HELIX – Among the daily life of La Mesa and East County, there are the usual events that get the attention of the news – usually police, fire and politicians are involved. But there is the quiet life of our town that makes it a great place to live.
On Friday, part of that private life actually occurred on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum on the downtown waterfront. There, amid a misty morning, a family that has lived just down the east flank of Mt. Helix, gathered in their Sunday best.
Chief Petty Officer Kenneth N. Patterson Jr., his wife, Yumi, and his daughters Erika and Emily were there, surrounded by family members from throughout the western U.S.
Military music was played and commanders from the Pacific Fleet stood to recount the details of 23 years of service to the U.S. Navy. They recounted the sacrifices typical of the military families that live among us in this Navy region – months alone at sea, a wife at home being both father and mother to growing daughters while Dad served, challenges of moving dozens of times to new schools, new jobs, new countries.
Patterson was retiring and with great military precision, time stood still for a moment so the U.S. – all of us – could make note of those sacrifices.
Patterson’s career had actually started right here on the Midway 23 years ago, his first cruises were among the last for the great carrier that now serves as a museum.
An air traffic controller, Patterson served in Texas and at stations across the Pacific. But as he stood to address his fellow sailors, it was the sacrifices of his wife and children that brought him to tears and stopped the tourists who had been viewing nearby aircraft.
“I can say with all honesty,’’ Patterson said, “that without you Yumi, I would not be here today. You allowed me to do my best.’’
Realizing the real Navy was mixing with the museum, the tourists stopped to watch Patterson walk through flanks of “side boys,’’ an honor guard which struck a bell at his ceremonial last “going ashore.’’
Applause rose from throughout the flight deck as Patterson and his wife and children returned to their East County home.
It is the sort of heartfelt scene that often goes without notice or comment.
Not on this day.
From all your neighbors and friends: Well done, sir.