Meet Ron Thompson, a U.S. Navy veteran and volunteer aboard the USS Yorktown. Ron reminds us we need to make the best of the tough situations that life throws our way. After all, it's not the accolades that our everyday heroes cherish the most – it's the memories, experiences and the sense of accomplishment that comes with serving your country.
The services had pretty well stopped drafting, so it was quite a surprise when I got a draft notice and was drafted in December of 1955. We were in a boot company at Great Lakes, there were 23 of us who were college graduates that had been drafted into the Navy. Believe me, we weren't the ideal recruits. My name is Ron Thompson, I'm currently a volunteer here on the USS Yorktown in Mount Pleasant. I served aboard an aircraft carrier when I was in the Navy from 1955 to 1957, it was the USS Boxer, CVS-21. It was an attack carrier, a CVA. They converted it to antisubmarine, CVS. And if it's a light carrier it's CVL. If it's an escort carrier it's CVE.
We weren't shooting at anybody, and nobody was shooting at us. Our mission was to patrol the Western Pacific and the Sea of Japan. We were on antisubmarine warfare training. In the summer of 1957, we were in Hong Kong on a little R&R, a little rest and relaxation. The Suez Crisis broke out in 1957, they ended our liberty in that port immediately and sent us south towards the Indian Ocean. They changed their mind and sent us back up to the Sea of Japan, and we spent weeks patrolling [the sea]. We were supposedly looking for any Russian submarines that might be making an attempt to come through the Formosa Straits. We didn't see any submarines.
We were at sea for probably three to four weeks. We ran out of fresh food, and those ships at that time only carried enough fresh food for about 2 1/2 weeks. That's when they broke out those delicacies like canned SPAM, powdered eggs, powdered milk. Believe me, I don't look like it, but I survived on peanut butter and soda crackers.
We got back into Yokosuka, Japan and I had a steak with a couple of eggs on top of it, French fries, salad, the whole works for two bucks, unbelievable today. Looking back on it, it certainly was an experience, one which I'll never forget. And I still hold a lot of admiration for all of our military people.