The Navy calling — Al Chrisman

Published 12:45 am Sunday, March 9, 2008

Al Chrisman was destined for the Navy. Born in Oxnard, Calif., to a Navy Family, his dad served in both WWI and WWII. As long as Chrisman can remember someone in his family was always enlisted, and so it was the continuation of a proud tradition when he was called to report for duty, at the age of 17, on May 22, 1946.

In a synopsis of his life, Chrisman wrote, “Boot camp was an eye-opening experience…scrubbing clothes in a bucket, reveille at 0500 (5:00 a.m.), swabbing down the barrack’s decks, morning exercise, marching to breakfast, 20 minutes to eat, and a march, double time to class or the rifle range. Make a mistake and you had to pack your seabag, including hammock and blanket, and double time it around the parade ground a few times.” This routine continued for 16 weeks with no relief. In the end, Chrisman was promoted to Seaman 2nd class, and given a pay raise from $21 to $38 a month.

In September of 1946, he was transferred to Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 21 (CASU) NAS in Norfolk, Va. Chrisman cleaned compartment barracks until he was transferred to a new Aviation Supply detachment.

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From there Chrisman had many adventures with the Navy. He was promoted to officer, he taught school, and enjoyed some great assignments. One of his favorites happened in 1970, when he was sent to Bermuda. As an officer, he got to pick his destination, and this is one he chose. “I “had” to stay there for four whole years,” Chrisman joked. He described the beaches as some of the most beautiful, pink beaches in the world. He spent time learning and teaching SCUBA diving, and cleaned up tons of trash from bays and harbors.

During his twilight tour, in 1974, Chrisman was assigned to New Orleans, where he met his future wife, MaryLou Chrisman, and made some interesting friends. As a fringe benefit, he also got to enjoy Mardi Gras.

In 1976, he retired from the Navy and married MaryLou. Both having four children each from previous marriages, the entire family consisted of the eight children, plus MaryLou and Chrisman.

In 1978, Chrisman went to work for the NFCU Credit Union, and was the manager of a two person office. When he retired from the 12 person branch in 1997, it was because he had some issues with the politically correct manifestoes and recommendations.

Chrisman was now free to spend time investigating areas in which to live. As a Navy man, it was only natural to want a house on the water. After much deliberation, and because the couple had friends in the area, he settled on a house in Hide-A-Way Lake. The couple moved to Carriere in 1997.

Chrisman remains an active member of his community and neighborhood. He is with the Carriere VFW, and an officer of the Knights of Columbus.

Chrisman considers himself a “technical veteran” of WWII. He says he does talks at schools and the first thing the children always ask is “Were you shot at, and did you shoot anyone?” At the time of his service, Chrisman knew that 85% of the forces never really saw combat. He considers himself a support officer – he supported the men, the ships, and the aircrafts.

Summing up his 30 years of service, Chrisman says, “it was hours and hours of boredom interspersed by minutes of abject fear.” He also says, “I love the Navy. I would still be in it if I could.”