This was my belt buckle for most of my career in the Submarine Force. I got it shortly after I qualified in Submarines, which is one of the those rare, banner-days in a Submariner’s life. I remember my LPO coming around the boat with the order forms and everyone was signing up to get their rank/rate put on it, or their nickname, or whatever profane designation they could dream up, but I just wanted my last name. To me, the rate and rank and all the other stuff didn’t matter, it was only my last name under those so-sought-after dolphins that I wanted. Yes, you can’t tell, but those two blurbs of metal on the left and right are supposed to be dolphins, and that steel tower in the middle is a submarine. It’s the Submarine Warfare insignia, and dammit, you’ve got to earn that SOB. I call it “Plot Buckle” because all of the etching is pretty much faded away because my waistline was constantly rubbing up against the navigation plot where I was stationed as Quartermaster. The “plot” simply means where the charts are laid out and worked on, and even though all navigation was done digitally, it was still there. I like to look at it here and there, pick it up, feel its grooves and lines, because it brings back that tactile sense of all those years I spent on the boat. Especially now as I write my memoir about that time, I need any physical connection to the boat that will rejuvenate my mind and heighten the memory. And, I’m just damn proud of it!
My grandfather worked his way up from being a janitor at Conoco Oil, to becoming Vice-President of the company. It sits front and center on my desk, always directly in my view. It’s an urgent, daily reminder to keep working and pushing on. Dreams do come true, but you have work hard at them. This lighter represents how my Papa achieved the American Dream, and I love it. For me, these daily reminders are an absolute necessity.