Day of mourning for Ford leaves Naples base deserted
January 3, 2007
NAPLES, Italy — Tuesday was more about smart time management for Petty Officer 1st Class Grant Knight than free time away from the office.
He and a few fellow sailors didn’t get the day off for Tuesday’s national day of mourning, declared Friday by President Bush to honor the memory of former President Gerald R. Ford.
But the day wasn’t a total loss for Knight, who used the time on duty at the U.S. Navy base in Naples to study for the chief petty officer’s exam — time he might not otherwise had if Tuesday had been a regular work day.
Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Gammage, who had Tuesday’s watch and escort duty with Knight, wasn’t too upset about having to don the uniform Tuesday.
“It was either do this or clean the house, so I’m not really that bothered by it,” Gammage said.
Ford died at age 93 on Dec. 26 at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He became the nation’s 38th president after Richard Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal.
Nixon had appointed Ford, then House minority leader, vice president to replace Spiro Agnew, who resigned in a bribery scandal. When Nixon resigned, Ford went on to serve as president for about 2 ½ years. He lost the 1976 presidential election to Jimmy Carter.
The day off caught Meachele Martin off guard. The 47-year-old Jefferson, N.C., resident and her family had planned to use some of the services on the Naples base during a whirlwind backpacking tour through Europe.
Martin, her husband, and 16-year-old son, on their way to Greece after 12 days in Italy, hoped to mail a few unneeded items to the States, only to find the military post office closed.
“And the Ciao Hall (the base’s dining facility) was closed yesterday and there was no place (on base) to eat,” she said.
At least the hotel laundry facilities and base mini-mart were open Tuesday. “We’re here to wash clothes and stock up on American junk food,” Martin said.
Tuesday served as a bonus day to recoup from New Year’s Eve festivities, clean the house after the party revelers went home, and relax, said Petty Officer 1st Class Jesus Manabat.
“I’m just staying at the house, relaxing, watching TV and hanging out with friends,” said the 35-year-old sailor. “It’s nice to have an extra day to recuperate after all the craziness.”