Prior to Memorial Day, I toured the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum in New York City, and was intrigued by submarine duty. I visited The USS Growler (SSG-577), a cruise missile submarine launched in 1958 and decommissioned in 1964, and wondered about the intersection of faith and serving for long periods under the sea. During World War II alone, 52 American submarines were lost, and 3,600 sailors died. For those who served on The Growler, the headspace between bunk beds is coffin-like, doors, passageways and rooms are cramped, with barely space for toilet doors to close. Every guide noted submariners are strictly volunteer, and “it took a special type of person to serve.” Like John T. “JT” Glover of Milton, Massachusetts, who is married to Velma, and is a 48-year-old father to two children. He served for 24 years (1990-2014) in the U.S. Navy as a submarine sonar technician. “We’re the eyes and ears for the submarine,” he said. At the age of 20, his first deployment was for six months on the USS Flying Fish. He spent 76 straight days under the sea. “Claustrophobia didn’t even enter my mind. It was my first experience so I thought it was normal,” said Glover. Back then, communication was severely restricted due to radio silence. Messages were sent via a “familygram,” which allowed 15 words. In later years, the number expanded to 50. “My biggest challenge was being accepted as a black man. That’s how it was 20 years ago. Not everyone qualifies (for submarine duty), so it’s an upper echelon thing when you do volunteer. They don’t take just anyone, but on top of that, the hard part is being respected. But once guys see that you know how to do your job, things being hard went away. It became more about doing your job than the color of your skin,” and he added, “I tended to be on ships with high minority representations, so I was fortunate.” What was his particular challenge? Anger. “I had to do something with it before it got me into serious trouble.” While off duty, he read the Bible. “You have time to think about things, and you have to fill the void. I ended up wanting to have a relationship with God, to strengthen my faith. I had anger management issues so I turned to reading the Bible to keep myself level, reading God’s word and trying to apply it. It actually helped me in the long run.” People are ever curious. How do submariners deal with claustrophobia or long periods of submersion and missing fresh air and terra firma? “Being underwater is like a hurricane in South Carolina, it’s like being boarded up, but you still cook, clean, eat, and sleep,” said Glover. Personal concerns hurt more than outdoor deprivation. “Everyone goes through the same things: Putting your life on hold, separation from your family, marital issues, trying to raise kids.” Now retired, Glover served with over 600 colleagues during his career and said, “It’s like being part of a fraternity, no matter where you go you meet someone who served on a submarine, and you have an instant connection and understanding of what they went through. It’s an unspoken bond, a brotherhood.” My visit to the Intrepid Sea Air and Space Museum, particularly the USS Growler, brought home the sacrifices made by our military men and women to serve our great country. Today, we honor our courageous fallen. — Email Suzette Martinez Standring at suzmar@comcast.net.