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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Unprecedented & Unexpected: Touring a Naval Submarine!

(Blogger's NOTE: It's been a week today but I can't still get out of my head that Sunday special treat I have had from an unexpected person I met and unexpected place I was into...Thanks to this cool, accommodating Sailor/Naval Officer named George who made it possible. Thanks to Sailor Keller, too, for his professionalism and service. Here's my recollection of last Sunday's special...)

Sunday. 14 Sep 2014. I have said this before that, of all the days of the week, my favorite is Sunday. Why? Simply because it's one of the two weekend days in which most of the populace are at home, not working, with the exception of those scheduled, and those who have duty watch, militarily speaking. Plus, it's the time for family and friends to get together in church and, later, for lunch.
What makes last Sunday extraordinary or special? Well, let me explain. After attending or participating in Sunday Mass at our parish, St. Paul's Catholic Church in downtown Portsmouth, my wife Freny and I, together with sis-in-law Rose and our family friend Myrna (her husband Mike declined our invitation to join us) have decided to go to Norfolk Naval Station (NAVSTA) where we had lunch at NEX (Navy Exchange) Food Court. (BTW, our consummate driver is none other than my wife Freny.) We ate Mexican, this time. That is, we had burritos and tacos (soft and crunchy! Note: I used "crunchy" as opposed to "hard" tacos because it may connote something...You know what I mean?) Anyway, for drinks, we opted for sweetened, iced-tea.
We had a good time there, enjoying the camaraderie and fellowship while savoring Mexican food.
Guess where did we go after lunch? Freny drove us around the largest naval base, specifically to the area where small and mammoth ships and submarines are docked, by the pier-side.
As a retired U.S. Navy veteran, I always feel a connection with where I was and what I've been witnessing...our naval vessels that have been charged with patrolling our sea lanes and oceans around the globe. The naval power we project is something so important yet interesting. For centuries, we have done  extraordinary feat of maintaining freedom and independence, and safety of our oceans which are vital to global commerce and trade. On the other hand, our Sailors have played major roles in the overall peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts, and naval exercises involving other countries.
I said I feel connected to these ships, even if, I tell you now, in my twenty years of serving honorably and proudly in the United States Navy, I haven't been stationed in or on board a naval vessel, with the exception of that training ship, USS Never Sail, while in boot camp back in the mid-1980s. The question is: Does that mean I am or was not a real Sailor? You be the judge, my dear folks and friends. But in all honesty, I have religiously upheld the Navy traditions and core values of Honor, Commitment, and Courage. Yes, I'm very much aware of the fact that I didn't have what you call "sea duty," that all I have had were "shore duty," mostly at naval medical clinic and hospitals. My only overseas duty was my assignment to U.S. Naval Hospital Guam. Well, with the early evolution of the Gulf War, with Operation Dessert Shield/Storm, I was on the alert status. My sea bag was ever-ready. On my part, I had no choice but to be ready. (Almost 60-65% of our staff-personnel in that clinic were  deployed. Thus, we had a skeleton crew. That is, we had either one or two military personnel in each department. In my department, it was only me and my chief.) Yes, I admit, I wasn't mentally ready but I would say I was because I have had to be ready to go if or when called upon to help in accomplishing the mission.
Last Sunday, to me, was a special one. I'm so thankful and glad that a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity took place in my life. Such an experience was truly unprecedented and unexpected: touring a naval submarine in commission. Yes, I did it! Never in my mind had occurred to me that I would be touring a submarine! Thank you, George! You made it happen, Sailor/Submariner! Without you, I would have not been inside a submarine. Never in my wildest dream that I would be inside a submarine!
Well, it was happenstance how and when I came to meet George, the "third man in the chain of command," he said. I couldn't believe first time to be in a submarine! How did it happen?
I met George at that parking lot by the pier where those ships and submarines were docked. I was still in our car that was parked on the parking lot facing the water, with the ships from a distant, with my company: Freny, Rose, and Myrna. We're admiring those ships...In shorts and T-shirt, he was walking towards the gate guarded by a couple of Sailors. Upon seeing him, I immediately called his attention and asked him if he could give me and my company a tour of his ship. I walked out of our car and was enthusiastically happy to meet and come to know him. Approaching him, he asked me for my military ID card which I gladly showed him. We exchanged pleasantries. Then I told him I'm retired from the U.S. Navy, after 20 years of honorable service.
It was my turn to ask him about himself, too. As we were walking side by side as if we've known each other before, after entering the gate, he said he's from Philly. I could sense that he's cool and respectful Sailor/naval officer. He hinted, too, that he may give me and m y company a tour.
OMG, I felt an aura in my head and my excitement was building up. I told him briefly about my work history while still active duty. We continued walking towards his sub. He's got a board meeting, he said, but would send someone to give us a tour, as he walked his way to the sub. (At that time, I was about to say, "Permission to come aboard, Sir," but I held that thought as he breezed his way to the plank and into the sub.) I don't know if he heard me say, "Thank you, George." I did it several times, though.
Momentarily, as soon he disappeared from view, a young Sailor showed up and anxiously met us. I introduced myself and thanked him for taking the time to give us a tour. He said, "no problem." Sailor Keller did give us a brief overview about the sub before he guided and lead us inside, one at a time. I can say, he did his best to show us and explain to us where he works, areas of the sub that are not off limits to visitors and guests. He mentioned, though, that his crew is anticipating a public official to have a tour, too. No wonder a couple of Sailors were, at that time, busy trying to tidy up some spaces there. All I felt was awe and amazement at what I was witnessing inside a sub. What I've seen in movies became a reality to me.
Indeed, my submarine tour was one that's unforgettable and unprecedented, and unexpected! I thanked Keller and did tell him to convey my sincere gratitude to George. As to souvenir photos, thank God, we had two. Sailor Keller made it happen for he volunteered to take the photos for us. (Freny's camera has them. My smartphone/camera was "acting up" or not functioning well that time, too bad. But, hey, my wife has the proof we've been there in that sub. But the photos were taken outside of the sub, though.)
After the tour, I thanked Sailor Keller for his professionalism and service. I reiterated my wish to extend my gratitude to George for making my once-in-a-lifetime sub tour possible! (At that moment, I offered my silent prayer of thanksgiving to God and prayed for the safety and good health to all of our servicemen and women  who are stationed everywhere...May God bless them always!)
What did I not expect to see by the same pier where we just had a tour? Chris, my fellow retired "shipmate" who also worked at NMCP while I was there...What a coincidence! He and his wife and another mid-grown female were there and presumably waiting for their turn to tour the sub, too. As usual, we did shake hands and exchange pleasantries , then we had a brief conversation as we introduced each other's company. In short, we bid goodbye to each other.
I felt so good that day, especially those moments when George and I were walking side by side while exchanging casual talks as if we've known each other for so long. I was extremely happy when we were touring the sub. I can say with pride, "Mission accomplished!" Btw, what's the name of the sub, you ask? I give you clues: Named after a city in Montana; A Los Angeles-class submarine; It's motto is "Proud and Fearless." Commissioned in 1987, and currently homeported in Norfolk, VA. It's USS H...(SSN 725).
Yes, dear folks and friends, seize the moment when there's a rare opportunity to experience something good that comes your way. Mind you, I had my first opportunity to travel abroad, in Europe, specifically in Italy, prior to emigrating here in the U.S. before. And, I considered myself fortunate that time. So, don't let any opportune moment pass or slip by. Dreams do come true, I believe, when you least expect them. So, keep on dreaming! Be good always! Such a random act of kindness, manifested by George to me and my company that Sunday afternoon was a blessing to me. Again, thank you, George, for all that you do. God bless you and your family and fellow Sailors everywhere! God bless US always!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Go for A Walk this Fall*

(Author's NOTE: As summer is winding down, the season of Fall or Autumn is just around the corner. Noticeably, the weather is getting cooler; leaves of trees are starting or have started to fall on the ground, and their colors are changing, from green to yellow to brown. As the song goes, "Autumn leaves start to fall..." Fall foliage is a delightful treat to nature and outdoor enthusiasts like me. Btw, Fall (Equinox) won't start 'til September 22nd, Monday. Welcome Fall!)

Go for A Walk this Fall*

One simple, inexpensive way I have found to cope with and manage my fibromyalgia and chronic lower back pain is walking around the neighborhood. I believe in mowing around, doing simple physical conditioning to ease my body and muscle (and joint) pain.

Fall is the perfect time to get out of the house to stretch my legs, breathe fresh air, enjoy the scenery, and meet new friends along the way.

Walking is the simplest form of exercise, and it's free---no gym equipment or tools required. all you need are comfortable clothes and a pair of walking shoes and maybe an audiobook or an MP3 to listen to, along with a ball cap or a visor. Even better is having a friend to keep you company.

Walking helps relieve boredom and anxiety. It's a stress-buster, too. Weather and body permitting, I prefer walking in the morning sun. It's such a relief strolling in the neighborhood, meeting joggers, bikers and fellow walkers and greeting each other with a pleasant "Good morning!"

A simple stroll can add vitality to your life, besides giving you the opportunity to meet a new neighbor, get vitamin D from the morning sun and find ways to help out in your community.

One important thing to always consider in maintaining our health, especially while outdoors: Think safety at all times. Before engaging in strenuous physical exercise, check with your doctor.

Go for a short walk and enjoy the fall weather. The leaves are starting to fall and fall foliage is a delightful treat for nature and outdoor enthusiasts like me.

Happy walking!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at Visit his blog at onebuddingpoet/ Check out his YouTube channel, Chris Quilpa, for short, random videos.

*Published in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk New-Herald, Saturday, September 20, 2014. For more info, visit

Monday, September 1, 2014

Rest and Relax on Labor Day!

Well, well, well, it's the first day of 'ber! September, that is! Yes, it's the first day of all the four 'bers of the last months in our calendar!

Btw, what day is it today? Monday! The first Monday of September, to be exact. What comes to mind? Labor Day! (It's a holiday, for all we know!) Happy Labor Day, everyone!

Today is a day off for our indefatigable laborers, workers, employees, civil or military, local or national. Yes, they deserve this special day, a federal holiday, to have a good/great time to be with their family and friends. It's a day (supposed to be) filled with rest and relaxation for them. Thank God for our laborers and workers, employees who toil day and night to keep America beautiful, clean, free, safe, peaceful, progressive, and great. God bless America! God bless US always!

This morning, while I was pondering today's observance of Labor Day, I thought of the many contributions our men and women, past and present, have done to make America the Land of the Free, a land of opportunity, justice, liberty and equality. May we pray for them as we continue to do our part to work hard and smart for our families and communities, and for the common good, and for the glory of God, our Heavenly Father/Creator of the Universe.

I would like to share with you what I have read something about today's observance of Labor Day. Let's begin...Labor Day is observed, annually, in the United States and her neighboring country Canada on the first Monday of September. Other countries around the world also celebrate or observe Labor Day, but on different dates. (As far as I know, The Philippines observes Labor Day on May 1st, each year.)

In the U.S. of A, Labor Day is a day to honor all past and present workers who have contributed and continue to do so to make America a better place to live in. The question of how did Labor Day originate is not clear, according to urban legend. However, there is the belief or notion that the idea came from two men, Matthew Maguire and Peter McGuire, both union members. (Btw or by the way, a union is an organization that represents the rights and interests of types of workers, such as those of Steel Workers Union.) To honor and pay tribute to their fellow workers, the two successfully organized parades and celebrations, on two separate occasions. On the other hand, a labor union, known as the Knights of Labor, was founded in 1869. It held a parade in New York City on September 5, 1882, to recognize all the hard work and contributions of its members and other laborers. With the success of that parade, consequently, other parades were held in other cities. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) declared Labor Day  a national holiday in June 1894. This means that all banks and many private businesses, schools, Federal and state offices were closed. Hence, it is a day of rest and relaxation for majority of our employees, laborers and workers nationwide; a day for families and/or friends to get together as they celebrate the last, unofficial, day or activity of summer, prior to back to school day the following day, Tuesday. It means that students and teachers will return to school again for the start of a new school year. That means that their summer vacation is over, with the exception of those home-schooled.

There we have it, my dear folks and friends. Hope you have a restful and relaxing Labor Day! May God bless US always!-chris a. quilpa, 01Sep2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Back to School Once Again*

It's that time of year again, when students and teachers go back to school after the Labor Day holiday, unofficially marking the end of summer vacation.

Other school systems in the country have begun school a week ago or two ago, as have many private schools.

For teachers, the time since they returned to school Aug. 20 has been filled with teachers' meetings, in-service training, professional updates, working in and decorating their respective classrooms, doing last minute arranging and setting up their audio-visual teaching aids and equipment, all in an effort to get ready to welcome their students.

One of the guest or resource speakers in a professional development class my wife and I attended a few years ago quoted Henry Brooks Adams, a Harvard graduate who became an assistant professor of history at Harvard University, 1869-1876: "A teacher affects eternity; teachers can never tell where their influence stops."

My daughter Tintin, who left Hampton Roads a week ago, is back at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, pursuing graduate studies in school counseling, after her two-year stint as one of the college advisers of Virginia College Advising Corps and employed by UVA in partnership with AmeriCorps program.

As a parent and retired member of our armed forces who values a good quality education, I applaud and support my daughter's decision to pursue a career in school guidance and counseling. her two-year working experience with high schoolers in an economically-depressed community in Virginia has inspired her to help students stay in school and further their education.

As parents, we have to let our children go and experience life outside of their comfort zone, spread their wings and learn more about life and the world, with hope that they will realize their dreams and be successful in their own ways.

But we assure them that we're always there for them, no matter what happens.

I remember our two separate trips to UVA six years ago, when we dropped off our then third-year student Andrew and then our first-year college student, Tintin. The road that day was busy and overwhelming, filled with travelers, with a convoy of family vans headed to Charlottesville.

Overall, move-in day turned out smoothly and orderly. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped us parents unload and bring our students' stuff to their respective dorms.

Best wishes to all students and teachers-educators for a successful new school year.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. E-mail him at

*Published in Suffolk News-Herald (print edition), Sunday, August 31, 2014. For more info, visit

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Alive and Well with A New Adventure!

Thank God, we're alive and well...As you've noticed, I haven't had any post for the month of August and the month is almost over just as summer is, I believe. Anyway, I'm here...still trying to live in and enjoy the present moment the best I can! Yes, I'm very much alive and enthusiastic to go on, or shall I say, move on...with a new adventure! (I'm sure, you've seen a couple of my silliness and amateurism in YouTube!)

Guess what's occupying my time betcha, YouTube! For those of you, my dear folks and friends, who didn't have a clue that your truly has invaded YT, check his channel out! Go to YT and type Chris Quilpa, and there you have it! But please, oh, please, be kind and supportive of me, I beg you. If you like and learn something from my videos, do subscribe, will ya please? Thank you. And if you have comments, be bold to share them with me so I can improve my channel's content. Deal? But, of course, I would like to go on making/uploading short, varied vids. That's my short term goal. That is, to share with you whatever something that comes to mind that's appropriate and decent, and entertaining, for as long as I'm able and capable. FYI: I've got about 200 short videos already on YouTube, in not even a month that I ventured into this new adventure! Wow, isn't that something, folks/friends? I need a pat on my shoulders, please! Thank you. This is the reason why I had a "brain fart" or hiatus on my blog. Don't worry, friends, for as long as we're alive and well, we'll keep on chatting/communicating/keeping in touch with you. That's a promise. Even if there's only one blog post weekly or monthly, we'll do it. As you know, this blog of mine serves as a portal for me to dump or "vent" my artistry/creativity, sort of. So, dear folks and friends, stand by for more...

On the other hand, we know what's keeping us all busy these days. (Not me, personally,but my wife who has been reporting to her school-work ten days ago, attending teachers' meeting, in-service training or professional development, decorating their classrooms, etc.) Since summer is almost over, it's "welcome back to school" for new and returning students and teachers! For those of us who are not familiar with the educational schedule of classes or opening of schools in the U.S. of A., school opening for public schools is held after the national Labor Day holiday (first Monday of September, each year). This year, Labor Day falls on September 1st, Monday. That is why, back to school is scheduled on September 2, Tuesday. For private schools and colleges and/or universities, classes have started a week ago. How do I know? Well, my young adult daughter returned to her alma mater, almost two weeks ago, to pursue her graduate studies, after having worked for two years with high schoolers.  That's right, we did help her bring some of her stuff to her apartment. Glad and thankful that we were able to meet her two apartment mates; one of them we came to know her parents. They seem nice and friendly, too.

Before I forget, here's wishing you all, dear folks and friends, a happy, safe, restive and relaxing holiday weekend! Again, Happy Labor Day, everyone! Take care and God bless US always!-chris a. quilpa, 30Aug2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Singing Amidst a Stormy Weather

Hi and Good day, everyone! Hope you're having a good time, wherever you guys are.

It's stormy in Hampton Roads today, Thursday. Nothing we can do about it but to do what we can do to live in and enjoy the present moment. One thing that I can do is to praise God. How? Singing! Yes, singing church songs and recorded them and uploaded them on YouTube, and eventually shared a couple to our Facebook families, folks and friends.

Here below are a number of videos I've done today while it's stormy outside. I just don't know but I felt like singing...That's just one way of praising our God, our Heavenly Father. So, here's just sharing with you one of my favorite things to do...Hope you're inspired to sing or share whatever talent/s and/or skills you have also to our world, trying to make a difference, even in small ways, in others' lives.

Again, thanks for listening and watching my videos. (Btw, I'm still new to this newly-discovered "adventure" in "vlogging?" I admit, I still have a lot to learn. Hopefully, I get better at it as I go on with this hobby of mine.)

Hope you enjoyed listening and watching my videos. If you like them, subscribe to my YouTube channel. Do appreciate it.

Well, this is all for now, folks and friends. Until next time around...Take care and have a wonderful day. May God bless US always!-chris a. quilpa, 24Jul14

Monday, July 14, 2014

A New (Ad)venture?

Hi, everyone! Good day to y'all! Thank God, we're alive and well...

OMG, what did I get into? A new (ad)venture! Yes, I'm excited to be an amateur vlogger/YouTuber! Why did I venture into this new experience? Simply my dear folks and friends, I just want to learn more stuff about this and that, and share what I know to the world. That's about it. Here's my maiden video on YouTube.

Now, let me share with you another sample, my first attempts at vlogging or video making? Let me know how did I fare, okay? I'm still a neophyte, learning how to do it and share or upload what I captured out of my camera. So, folks and friends, bear with me. I promise to get better as I continue to learn technologically. Enjoy and, if you like it, do subscribe to my channel. Thanks for watching and listening.
Well, that's all for now. Btw, thanks, YouTube and Blogger, and Google. Thanks, everyone, for visiting my blog and watching my video. (I hope I didn't bore you to death...Just kidding! Again, I do appreciate very much if you have time to comment and let me know what you think of my videos. Thanks. Until next time around. Take care and Have a wonderful day! May God bless US always!-chris a. quilpa