Sailors traded stories for a ride

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Tuesday, May 6, 2003 9:00pm
  • Local News

He walked wearily toward us, a lone sailor in a sea of jubilant families.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Berry appeared out of the sun-splashed blur of welcome home signs, American flags and yellow pompoms held high.

In crisp whites and lugging a green duffel bag, he looked dazed as he scanned the throng on the pier at Naval Station Everett. He looked tired.

No one was there to greet him, but Berry was ready to go home.

I was there with 30 members of the Everett Rotary Club who held neon-green signs offering "FREE RIDES."

"Seattle?" he asked.

Sure, I answered. I had volunteered to join the group for the day as a Rotary taxi driver for sailors in need of transportation.

The 33-year-old avionics technician was my first passenger Tuesday. I gave him a lift. In exchange, Berry put a face on what will surely be remembered as one of the greatest days Everett has ever seen.

And from Berry came a reminder: Behind picture-perfect scenes played out over and over as the USS Abraham Lincoln came into port are real lives, each with its story and its travail.

Berry’s wife, Kathy, suffers from lupus, a chronic disease that affects the skin and the immune and nervous systems. They live with their three children in military housing at Old Fort Lawton in Seattle’s Discovery Park. Kathy Berry couldn’t make the trip to Everett Tuesday.

But she waited at home with her husband’s favorite tuna sandwiches already made.

"That’s the one thing I want to eat. It’s the simple things you really miss," he said.

Berry will never forget the highs or lows of the nearly 10-month deployment, including the New Year’s Day announcement that the Lincoln wouldn’t be coming home as scheduled.

"That hurt," Berry said. "Today is great," he added. "And I shook the president’s hand. That was my high point," he said of President Bush’s visit and speech aboard the carrier before it docked in San Diego last week.

A quiet man who spent 10 years in the Army and a short time out of the military before joining the Navy two years ago, Berry plans to stay in until retirement.

"I didn’t make a good civilian," he said. "I miss my kids, but somebody’s got to protect the country. Why not me?"

Outside their modest home, Berry unloaded his bag, shook my hand and thanked me abundantly. He declined to invite me in for the reunion — a family time.

Back on base in Everett for a new carload, I got myself a whole new ballgame.

I followed Rotarian and Everett resident Ed Rubatino, whose big Lincoln carried the other half of my bunch of Navy buddies. These young fellows were headed for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, but their flights to Minnesota and other points east weren’t leaving until today.

We left them at a Motel 6 on Highway 99 near the airport, their base for a night on the town. The location wouldn’t have been my choice, but it suited them fine with an exotic dance club within walking distance and Southcenter Mall a short hop away.

Airman Apprentice Jamie Glatz, 22, spoke — a lot — for the restless group. At one point, he said he was "sorry ma’am" for "swearing like a sailor."

"That’s OK," I replied, "you are a sailor."

A native of Fulda, Minn., population 1,200, Glatz said if the long deployment taught him anything it’s that a long Navy career isn’t for him.

"It’s like that movie ‘Groundhog Day.’ Every day was always the same. No one knew what day it was," Glatz said.

During the war, "I worked every day sending bombs to the flight deck," he said. "The greatest day for me is when they said we could go home."

This morning, he’s on his way to Fulda to marry his fiance, Gina Johnson, and spend a 20-day leave. Let’s not think about the headache he might have on the plane from his night on the town.

I left the group I’ll always remember as "my Lincoln boys" in the motel parking lot with some yellow pompoms and instructions to eat a healthy dinner. They just laughed.

I doubt we’ll cross paths again, but what a wonderful day it was.

My younger riders were too busy checking out women in other cars to discuss their place in history. Petty Officer Berry actually thought about my question.

"I’m not sure it’s completely sunk in yet," he said.

I looked at him, looked at his sailor cap resting on my dashboard, and thought about where he had been.

Ten months, a war — it hasn’t sunk in yet.

One day, a homecoming — it hasn’t sunk in yet.

Columnist Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460 or

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

“There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

Officers respond to a ferry traffic disturbance Tuesday after a woman in a motorhome threatened to drive off the dock, authorities said. (Photo provided by Mukilteo Police Department)
Everett woman disrupts ferry, threatens to drive motorhome into water

Police arrested the woman at the Mukilteo ferry terminal Tuesday morning after using pepper-ball rounds to get her out.

Man gets 75 years for terrorizing exes in Bothell, Mukilteo

In 2021, Joseph Sims broke into his ex-girlfriend’s home in Bothell and assaulted her. He went on a crime spree from there.

Allan and Frances Peterson, a woodworker and artist respectively, stand in the door of the old horse stable they turned into Milkwood on Sunday, March 31, 2024, in Index, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Old horse stall in Index is mini art gallery in the boonies

Frances and Allan Peterson showcase their art. And where else you can buy a souvenir Index pillow or dish towel?

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Providence to pay $200M for illegal timekeeping and break practices

One of the lead plaintiffs in the “enormous” class-action lawsuit was Naomi Bennett, of Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.

Dorothy Crossman rides up on her bike to turn in her ballot  on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Voters to decide on levies for Arlington fire, Lakewood schools

On Tuesday, a fire district tries for the fourth time to pass a levy and a school district makes a change two months after failing.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.