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Rita Howell Column

Rita Howell

Paradise beckons: son arrives for duty station in Aloha State

On July 10 I get this call.

“Hi, Mom, I’m in the Panama Canal.”

I’d been waiting for it.

He’s aboard the USS Hawaii, one of the Navy’s newest fast attack submarines. The call came from Panama as the boat made its way from Connecticut, where it was built at the Electric Boat Company in Groton, to Pearl Harbor, in its namesake state.

It was a short call. He’d warned me that it would be subject to international charges, so we kept it brief.  In the background I could hear other sailors making their calls during this brief window of opportunity.

During the voyage I kept up with the blog posted by the sub’s commander. He wrote about the crew’s “swim calls,” when the sub surfaces and everybody jumps in. Apparently one of these swim parties was crashed by an uninvited guest…a shark.So I was glad to hear from Thomas on July 23, the day the Hawaii arrived in Hawaii with him intact onboard.

The crew members of the Hawaii were welcomed by the governor, greeted with leis (“real flower ones, not artificial,” he said) and treated to a reception.

He’s still finding his way around the island, Oahu, which is about the size of Panola County, but what a contrast in geography, from beaches to mountains, with a 20-degree climate differential.

So I can’t wait to visit him there and see if the island lives up to the expectations I’ve harbored since I saw Elvis in “Blue Hawaii” in 1961.