My wife and I recently celebrated our 36th wedding anniversary. I mentioned on Facebook that our wedding almost didn’t happen. Friend asked for details. Here goes.

In 1987, I was an officer in the US Navy. I was stationed aboard the USS MARVIN SHIELDS (FF-1066). Our home port was San Diego, California.


Our ship had just returned from our deployment to the Indian Ocean. I was supervising the ship’s electricians and auxiliary team (A and E divisions in the Engineering department).

Ships of this class had the ability to carry a rocket thrown depth charge with a nuclear warhead (recall that the Soviet Union was our primary adversary at that time). As such, the ship was required to undergo a periodic certification inspection. An inspection was scheduled for the week of April 20, 1987.

As the ship’s electrical officer I was required to be onboard as the ship’s physical alarm system was tested. That part of the inspection was normally carried out near the end of the process, normally on Wednesday. This meant that I would be able to join my family on Thursday in plenty of time for the wedding on April 25, 1987.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft a-gley.

“To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns

Things did not go according to plan. There were problems with the parts of the inspection that were to take place on Monday and problems with the parts that were to take place on Tuesday. With every delay, my superior officers remained confident that the inspection would be complete and that I wouldn’t be able to get home in time for the wedding. I was beginning to have my doubts.

Suddenly, it’s Friday morning. The inspection is still less than halfway complete and I’m getting tense and worried. The commodore of our ship’s squadron has offered to allow me to use a helicopter to get home in time for the wedding if needed. In retrospect, I’m unsure he had the ability or authority to make that offer.

US Navy SH-60 Helicopters

Late Friday afternoon, an agreement is reached between our ship’s Captain, the Commodore, and the inspection team. A Senior Chief Petty Officer is designated as the ship’s electrical officer and I am given permission to go home on leave.

Last flight to San Francisco

I drove to the San Diego airport, and managed to get on the last flight of the evening headed to San Francisco. I arrived at my fiancee’s home about 11:30 PM. I had missed the wedding rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner, and every bit of preparation that went into planning the wedding.

My best man did buy me a drink at a local bar after midnight. That was the extent of my bachelor party.

The wedding went off as planned. My bride looked beautiful. The bridesmaids looked lovely, and the groomsmen handsome. The reception was a typical Mexican style reception: the whole town managed to show up, invited or not.

April 25, 1987
Santa Rosa, California

Since, there have been many challenges conquered and adventures enjoyed. But I will always wonder what would have happened if were unable to go ashore on a Friday night in April 1987.

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