Weatherford Democrat

Local News

August 17, 2012

Like father, like son when it comes to military service

— Some of David Sheffler’s earliest memories revolve around his father’s Navy stories.

His father, Francis Eugene “Gene” Sheffler, spent three years with the Navy, and his military tales left a lasting impression on David.

“There are so many stories, but my favorite was of my father talking about swim call,” David Sheffler said, referring to a time when his father’s ship would stop in the middle of the ocean and sailors who weren’t on watch could go swimming, with men with rifles stationed on deck for protection against sharks.

“Visions of that danced in my head for years,” he said.

Though he never got to experience it himself, Sheffler joined the Navy after graduating from high school in 1971.

“It was my first time away from home,” he recalled. “And I remember two weeks before I left, my mom beat my butt because some friends and I went to Wichita [Kansas] and had a night out without telling her.”

Sheffler boarded his first ship, the USS Chicago, in Long Beach, Calif. following boot camp and traveled along the Pacific Ocean to Japan, Africa and other exotic places.

During that time, he also transitioned from a Pollywogs to a Shellback, a rite of passage for sailors who have crossed the equator.

Sheffler spent six years in total, four years active and two years in reserves, in the Navy before being discharged.

By contrast, his father entered the fray a few years younger than his son, joining the Navy at the age of 17 after getting his parents’ permission.

“My dad absolutely had an impact on my decision to join the Navy,” David Sheffler, who has a son and daughter of his own, said. “I wished I could have gotten my boy involved. He just doesn’t have the travel bug like we did.”

Though distance has created a natural divide between father and son, David Sheffler and his father, now 83 and living with his daughters in Oregon, remain close.

“I couldn’t have had a better childhood,” David Sheffler said. “My dad is a fisherman deluxe, and in Kansas was known as the ‘old man of the sea.’

“I thank my father to this day that he helped me decide to join the Navy... even if I never got to do that swim call.”

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