Nov. 8, 2002 – St. Thomas sailor Camile Haliday, who got a ride home last week aboard the Navy destroyer on which he serves, has spent the last week enjoying a liberty to remember.
The electronics engineer third class, his crewmates and officers got such a warm welcome when they pulled into Cruz Bay on board the USS Bulkeley that his commanding officer granted Haliday several days' extra leave. The ship pulled out on Sunday; he left by plane Thursday night to fly to Puerto Rico and rejoin his fellow crew members there.
Cynthia Farmer of the St. Thomas USO, which operates the hospitality center on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront for non-commissioner personnel such as Haliday, said the commanding officer "was so pleased by the warmth of the reception he received" that he gave the Virgin Islander an extra week off that, among other things, allowed him to celebrate his birthday at home with family and friends.
Farmer was on hand when the gesture was made last week in Red Hook during a special occasion when the Navy League presented the young Virgin Islander with a plaque for his service to the U.S. military.
"It's not that often anyone gets recognized by the military, because it's such a vast amount of people, the seven-year serviceman said of his honor.
His mother, Patrice Haliday, also was honored, with the presentation of the Mother's Cross, an old-time tradition from World Wars I and II. "It was the kind of thing mothers put in the window when their children were away in the service," Farmer said.
As Haliday spent his last afternoon at home before flying to San Juan to rejoin the Bulkeley, he recounted the memorable moments of his liberty call: the recognition party hosted by the Navy League, the four cakes his mom baked for his birthday on Monday, and being taken by his uncle to the Clinton E. Phipps racetrack in the rain.
But then there was also the three days he had to spend replacing things from a wallet he lost during his stay. It took that long to replace the missing military I.D., something he needed by Thursday night when he had to leave St. Thomas to fly to San Juan.
Farmer said the four-day leave enjoyed by the rest of the sailors and their officers was just as enjoyable. "They all said how well they were treated on St. John," she related. "One guy said he went into a bar and the patrons wouldn't let him buy himself a drink."
But when the leave ended, it was time to resume duty in a Navy taking on a wartime footing. The Bulkeley, commissioned last December in New York City and homported in Norfolk, Virginia, is a state-of-the-art guided missile destroyer fitted with special water and air purification systems to deal with bioterrorist attack. Its motto is "Freedom's Torch."
Patrice Haliday said the thought of war makes her worry. "I do, a lot, especially with what's going on in Afghanistan," she said. "But I also pray a lot."
Camile Haliday, on the other hand, said he is ready to put all fears aside and face whatever the future may hold. "Patriotism is always good," he said. "And with the events of the world, if anyone can't take it, that''s on them, but I can take it."
He added, "Anything my country wants me to do, I will."
That's not just brave patriotic talk. Haliday reenlisted for a second six-year stint last January. He hopes by the end of that time he will achieve the rank of Navy officer.
Publisher's note : Like the St. Thomas Source now? Find out how you can love us twice as much — and show your support for the islands' free and independent news voice … click here.