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USS THRESHER (SSN 593) MEMORIALS

- TOWN of KITTERY, MAINE

USS THRESHER MEMORIALS
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49TH MEMORIAL SERVICE

JOY MacMILLAN




TODAY WE ARE HERE TO SHARE OUR MEMORIES.


Our brains store memories like supercomputers store data.   


My memories of my dad are categorized by flowers.


Daddy Jack was at sea for long stretches of time, when he returned it was always a celebration.  When I was 5, I was playing at my friend Sheila McDonough’s swing set.  After I had just picked a big bouquet of dandelions by the swing set leg, I spotted my daddy Jack wheeling over a sparkling brand new blue 2 wheeler bike.  I threw the dandelions in the air and they landed like yellow rain.


I was six years old on April 10, 1963, I was in bed asleep, but I woke up to loud voices and crying.  My mother was devastated over the news.  I remember going out to the kitchen and seeing a bouquet of forsythias arranged in a vase.  My Aunt was there distracting me by letting me eat a snack pack of Sugar Pops cereal pouring the milk right into the box.  Everything else about that night is hazy, yet I remember the forsythias’.   Each April when they come to bloom, so do my memories.


After the news of the Thresher implosion, I spent a few days with my best friend Sheila at her house next door.  I recall seeing many large vases with sprays of gladiolas delivered to my house.  Many cars were parked in the street by my house too.  It was a hard concept to grasp at 6 why people were at my house and why were all those flowers there?  Why was mommy crying so much?  To this day, I detest gladiolas as they symbolize death to me.


As I grew, so did my perception that daddy was not ever coming back, yet like many in my situation, my imagination was my best friend.   I would ride my bike the quarter mile to Jenness  Beach with a freshly picked bouquet of purple vinca in my hand.  The Isles of shoals were always there waiting for me.  Oh did that island looked like a submarine with the conning tower sticking up above the water!  I would hurl my little purple flowers into the water in hopes that they would reach my dad.  My imagination allowed me to dream that my daddy had survived, but had amnesia from the implosion.  Picturing myself running into him in Europe and having that restore his memory was a regular daydream.  As the waves took my flowers out to sea, the familiar pangs of grief would pull just like the tide.   Today, I have purple vinca in growing in my yard.  They remind me of hope. 


Over the last 49 years of these ceremonies for the Thresher, roses are the central flower that comes to mind.  Roses were given to survivors as symbols of our strength.  I have a poem I have always treasured that I will share.  The author is only known by her first name Elizabeth.


A Rose

A lovely rose with petals soft

A scent so sweet and light

So beautiful a flower

With colors shining bright.

But something not so savory

About the fragrant rose-

The thorns, so sharp upon the stem,

That sharpens as it grows.

Yet still lovely is the flower

Despite the thorns that stick.

But do not fear to live or love,

Life’s not exempt from pain-

So pick a rose, you may get hurt,

But you will also gain. 


You have heard how my dad gave his life, and that has been a thorny path for our family.  My mother persevered through the agony of losing her husband leaving four young children without their dad. The deaths of these men brought about the Subsafe program.  Subsafe cut the thorns off future submarines.  I hold my rose proudly and remember you Daddy Jack.