Yesterday was 11-11-11, Veterans Day. Priscilla and I enjoyed a free meal for vets at Applebees Restaurant. There was table room for two more, and a long line waiting, so we asked for two more, and a vet and his wife responded. As two vets compared their history, memories came to both. I’ll share one of my many memories of Vietnam era experiences.

Whenever I hear or sing the hymn IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL, I recall that it was written by a man whose four daughters died at sea. It has special significance for me because;

In 1964 two Naval officers, Pilot and Navigator of a Phantom jet fighter which flew from the USS CONSTELLATION (my home for 3.5 years) were shot down over the Tonkin Gulf while protecting US Army troops in the area, and their bodies were not recovered. The parents of the pilot could not attend the shipboard memorial service. However, they did request of the ship’s captain that a shipboard choir sing IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL.

The captain asked our Protestant chaplain if there was a group of sailors who would be willing and able to grant the parents’ request. He answered affirmatively if the choir could have some time off from their regular duties to practice. The captain agreed, and arrangements were made. I don’t remember why, but I was one of those mates selected. (perhaps because the chaplain, who knew me well, was confident that I could contribute with a strong bass voice)  Neither do I remember the choir size, but I believe it was a dozen men. We practiced several times until we had it right, then sang (with no accompaniment and lots of volume) for the officers and crew who attended the memorial service in the huge hangar deck. As I recall, the captain brought the huge ship to a halt while many sailors heard the chaplain speak and fellow crewmen sing in a manner worthy of two fellow brave warriors.

I had sung the hymn before in church services in my youth, but, as you can imagine, this experience made this hymn unforgettable for me.

– Ken Barker