"The End of a Long Voyage"
Commander Ed White, his friends still call him "Ed," remembers first learning about Pearl Harbor in his textbooks at Moore Street School, a block or so down the street from his Mimosa Street home. His first true experience with the infamy of that fateful December Sunday morning sixty seven years ago came while he was standing on the bridge of the USS Holland as she passed by the various memorials. His desire to find out what really happened that notorious day drove White to study what happened, why it happened and the lessons he and others can learn from the attack. "Once into port, I toured just about every memorial, and each has their own story to tell. Although tragic, this event united Americans, as did the 9-11 attacks," said White as he complimented the American people for their ability to navigate through the bad times with the help of God to serve his purpose.
Every morning as he drives down the Kamehameha Highway from his McGrew Point home, he observes bus loads of tourists, who come from all over the world and stand in line for hours, just to pay homage to the crew of the USS Arizona and the more than 3000 souls who lost their lives on the Hawaiian Island of Oahu.
As a young boy in Dublin, Ed White loved to play basketball - being taller than most of the boys in his class helped a lot. After he graduated from Dublin High School in 1977, Ed had planned a career in the grocery and dry goods business, much like his paternal grandfather of the same name. While working and going to college in Brunswick, Ed began to notice the big ships as they appeared and disappeared over the horizon near St. Simons and Jekyll Islands. He wondered to himself, "What is beyond the horizon?" He remembered visiting with his uncle Sibley White, an old navy man. "Uncle Sibley used to show me pictures of the exotic places he had visited while he was in the Navy. I can remember sitting with him on the white sandy beaches as a child and looking out over the water," White fondly remembered as he thought about those days and what the people aboard those ships were going to see after they disappeared below the sky.
Suddenly the thought of selling groceries drifted out of his head and Ed found himself enlisting in the U.S. Navy. "I started out as a Seaman Recruit, at the bottom of the totem pole in 1977, " Ed commented. Over the next dozen years, White, the youngest son of Judge William H. White and his bride, the former Melrose Coleman of Dexter, climbed the ladder in rank up to Senior Chief Petty Officer. In 1990, he was commissioned an ensign. Over the last eighteen years, White has risen in the ranks up to the position of Commander. He credits his success as an officer to his time as an enlisted man and learning how they think and how they tick. "I feel it has made me a better leader as an officer," the Commander said.
As an enlisted officer, Ed served aboard the USS Mount Whitney and the USS Edison. He lived around the country in such places as Norfolk, Austin, Nashville, Newport and Galveston. His first assignment as an officer came when he served aboard the USS Holland as the ship's Secretary, Personnel Officer and Administrative Officer. His next post was aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which saw duty in the Mediterranean Sea. After a three-year stint as Operations Coordinator for the U.S. Defense Attache Office in Australia, White returned to the states as Personnel Officer at Pensacola, Florida. From July 2000 to June 2003, Ed served as the Executive Officer of the U.S. Navy Personnel Support activity for the Far East/Pacific. While serving as Administrative Department Head aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, White was awarded the Stennis Straight Furrow Leadership Award for 2004. In March 2005, White was once again honored by being given the position of Executive Officer of the Naval base at San Diego, California, the largest of its kind in the Pacific and the Navy's second largest around the world.
Today, White serves as Staff Enlisted Personnel and Fleet Personnel Distribution Officer for the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet under the command of Admiral Bob Willard. Among the numerous medals ribbons which enhance his uniform are the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, two Navy Meritorious Service Medals, six Navy Commendation Medals, three Navy Achievement Awards, along with campaign medals from Southwest Asia (bronze star,) Armed Forces Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, three Sea Service Deployment Ribbons, six Overseas Service Awards, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal.
Now, just three months shy of his scheduled retirement after thirty-one years of service, Commander White is preparing to pull into port for the last time in his naval career, giving up a sure promotion to Captain and even a possible one to Admiral. He is retiring, not because he is tired of being in the Navy. "The Navy has meant everything to me. It has helped me to mature and given me opportunities that would I have never received, especially my education," White, the holder of a Master's Degree in Human Relations from the University of Oklahoma, remarked. He will miss talking with the President, congressmen, and ambassadors. He will miss conversing with celebrities and sports stars before they perform. And he will miss visiting the exotic places he saw in his uncle's photo album. He will always remember the thrill of piloting several of the Navy's largest ships as some kid stares as them with his mouth wide open.
No, the real reason Ed White will never go to work again in his blue uniform is some things he doesn't want to miss. For thirty years, Ed's wife Kim has supported him. "I feel it's time to settle down. I am away from home for up to a year and I have constantly moved from place to place," White lamented. "Now it is time for me to support and be there for her now that the kids are out on their own." His eldest child, William Douglas White, has just graduated from Wake Forest University. His youngest, Meredith Lynn White, is a freshman at the state university in San Diego, California, the place where White hopes he can retire, perhaps as a civilian worker while maintaining his ties with the Navy. He wants to be there when his daughter graduates. He wants to be there for the birth of his grandchildren. He simply wants to be home when he wants to be home.
When he came into the Navy, Ed White never thought he would have the honor of serving at a place like Pearl Harbor with its roots deep in Naval history. Ed, like many others, joined the Navy for the travel around the world, the free education and a new life. It didn't take but a few moments after he first stepped into Boot Camp and later aboard his first ship, for Ed to realize that it was his purpose in life to serve his country.
"I have many people to thank, starting with God above, for what He has provided. I 've been truly blessed, and I couldn't think of a better place to close my Naval career than here in Pearl Harbor." Commander White's retirement ceremony, scheduled for next February, will be aboard the Battleship USS Missouri, the same ship on which the Japanese surrender was signed. "Pearl Harbor will always have a special place in my heart," Commander White concluded.
The new year will bring a new life and new opportunities for Ed, Kim and their family. Just for a change, Ed and Kim can then take a stroll through the neighborhood or a long drive through the country and see the wonders of this side of the horizon. As you cast your anchors aweigh and sail at the break of day, and until you reach the shore, may we all wish you a happy voyage home.