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Seamans: The Real Turkey Campaign

11/25/09 5:55PM By Bill Seamans
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(HOST) Day after tomorrow, people around the country will participate in the second annual National Day of Listening. As part of that effort, commentator Bill Seamans has the story of the missile cruiser and the Campaign for Real Turkey.

(SEAMANS) My Thanksgiving Day story dates back to 1987 - not one of those wonderful heritage tales passed down from a great or great-great ancestor but a special family story anyway - about quite a large family at that.  300 sailors and 30 officers aboard the big missile cruiser U.S.S. Richmond K. Turner patrolling on combat alert in the Persian Gulf, close to the major Iranian base at Farsi Island.  The Turner was protecting huge oil tankers from Iranian mines, gunboats and air attacks as they conveyed  their strategic cargo from Iraq through the Persian Gulf to the U.S.  I was aboard as the pool tv correspondent reporting for all the networks.

The crew members of a naval vessel sailing in harm's way form a communal family as everyone cares for the welfare of his, and now her, shipmates.  We cruised slowly behind our screen of minesweepers - out ahead seeking out and blowing up Iranian mines to clear our passage - and we were looking forward to - despite the alert combat condition = a big traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner promised by Cap. John Luke who hailed from real turkey country - North Conway, N.H. - and he was pleased to learn that the tv guy also was from the Granite State.

Some weeks before Thanksgiving a helicopter delivering our turkeys arrived and the crates were unloaded and almost reverently passed on to the galley - but the cooks soon discovered that they had received pressed turkey loaf instead of turkeys that looked like turkeys and could be carved like turkeys in front of the crew.

The Richmond K. Turner went into Real Turkey Battle Stations!  Capt. Luke fired rockets up the naval supply chain of command.  The tv guy and the wire service, newspaper, radio and still photo pool persons blasted home a barrage of heart wrenching Kleenex stories about the shattered morale of our Richmond K. Turner crew facing a Thanksgiving Day turkey that looked like slices of sandwich meat from the local deli.  There were pictures of crewmen sadly looking at pinups of roasted turkeys coming out of the oven with their drumsticks proudly displayed - sailor wistfully telling how they watched the traditional carving back home.

But the power of a combat ship's captain and the press prevailed.  Not one, but two helicopters arrived a week later with enough real turkeys to stuff the crew and provide sandwiches for a week.  Turkeys were carved in front of the crew, morale was restored, and there was a lottery for the drumsticks - I lost! 

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