Long Way Out by Nicole Waybright by Daniel C. Lavery for VVAW

After eight years of writing and research, Nicole Waybright finished her memoir, Long Way Out that tells the story of her coming-of-age struggles while deployed as an officer on a U.S. Navy destroyer. Waybright reports the psychological critical moments that she experienced when she discovered she was not cut out for a naval career during her five-year military commitment. Her book sets forth the factual detail based on her service as an officer in the Surface Warfare (SWO) Navy when the initial group of women was stationed aboard naval ships. This intense offering gives the reader a view into a deplorable and tragic account of an egregious executive officer criticized by her seniors when removed from command for "cruelty and maltreatment" of her crew. Nevertheless, she was the first such United States female to command an Aegis destroyer and was infamously known as the female “Captain Bligh.”
(Female Naval Officer saluting an Admiral in the Surface Warfare Group)  

The author of this "fictionalized" story while true, uses the name “Brenda” regarding her 18 months aboard Navy destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) in 1997-1998. She reports the incredibly stressful Navy life during five years of service before her honorable discharge. Her nightmare removed the adventure, romance, and excitement her parents and others, including herself, thought would await her in a world of opportunity for a woman so few had previously had the opportunity she earned. This intense ordeal forced her to find her authentic self after studying the military for her career. That catalyzed her discovery when she submerged into an intense study of self-realization and Jungian psychology.

(Surface Warfare Ships cruising on a mission at sea)  

At Boston University on a Naval ROTC scholarship, she graduated with an M.S. cum laude in Mechanical Engineering. Later as a summer intern with the CIA, she had sea duty on a summer cruise aboard the destroyer USS Spruance (DD-963). After college graduation and then six months of Surface Warfare Officers School in Newport, RI, "Brenda" flew to Sydney, Australia to rendezvous with her first ship, whose home port is the U.S. Naval Base at Yokosuka, Japan.

(Surface Warfare Destroyer launching a missile)  

A determined daughter of conventional patriotic parents, "Brenda" absorbed their goals and planned a practical career in the US Navy. She even dreamed she might attend Naval Nuclear Power School and hoped to serve on one of 10 U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carriers since women were banned from serving on the 70-plus nuclear submarines. To qualify for nuke school, she had to earn the essential Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) pin. However, she experienced chronic sleep deprivation, difficult technical duties, sea-sickness, and discovered her past academic success was insufficient for complex shipboard problems. Then she had to deal with a new Lieutenant Commander XO who made her life miserable.

(SWO pin ceremony for a naval officer who has earned the revered pin!)   Midway through her memoir, she meets the new Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Heather Gates: A woman's blue eyes piercing her "like daggers." The XO's routine of profanity and screaming at subordinates destroyed morale and endangered the ship. The Captain ignored her outrageous conduct since the Navy hierarchy wanted the XO to help recruitment of the new women naval officers.
(Task Force of Navy Jet Aircraft with the Surface Warfare Ships)  

Not surprisingly instead, after twelve years Gates was relieved of command and discharged from the Navy for cruelty toward her crews and conduct unbecoming an officer. Yet her record appeared unsullied until her discharge when enough was known to end her disgraceful naval career. At the end of her story, Waybright became a full-time writer, featured speaker, and resided in New England. She found her radicalized self as she explored building a culture of peace. This was truly an inspirational journey of determined woman to find herself under the most excruciating circumstances and achieve what in the past was only for hearty male Naval officers!

(Surface Warfare Navigation room with navigator and female naval officer working to earn her pin!)  

Published by SpeakPeace Press Copyright 2016 ISBN: 978-0-9972161-0-3 the first edition of Long Way Out was printed in the United States Softcover / 552 pages

(Nicole Waybright author of Long Way Out)  

BIO: Daniel C. Lavery graduated Annapolis, navigated a Navy jet, and then a ship to Vietnam. He resigned, turned peace activist and became a civil rights attorney for Cesar Chavez's UFW and the ACLU. His memoir, All the Difference, describes his change from a pawn to an advocate crusading for justice. HTTP://www.danielclavery.com(Author website)

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Find Your Motivation and Find Your Way to Success

11 Dec 2015/by Daniel Lavery/in Blog Topics: Adversity, Change, Dreams, Success, Taking Action

After I resigned my military commission as a naval officer because I lost motivation from the Vietnam War, I wondered what I could do for my future to make my life worthwhile. My best high school friend was in town as a civil rights lawyer and asked if I wanted to watch him argue a case for Cesar Chavez’s fledgling union against wine growers’ attorneys.Dad USS Whetstone (LSD 27)

  Dan hired by ACLU for farmworker project in Los Angeles 1974

Hugh Manes Jerry Cohen Civil Rights Attorney for UFW

(Civil rights lawyer Jerry Cohen addresses UFW crowd with an inspirational speech)

Cesar Chavez and dogs Huelga and Boycott      

(Cesar Chavez and his two German Shepherds)

His arguments demolished the private property claims of the ten slick business attorneys for the wine industry who tried to paint the farm workers as law-breaking scum. I was convinced I could never do anything so challenging. He convinced me that with determination and a subject that inspired me, I could do anything I set my mind on. Since I was motivated by the concept of justice, watching him win against his formidable opponents provided the spark I needed. Before long I too was a civil rights lawyer pursuing justice for the powerless. My life had been transformed into meaningful work every day.

Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott(Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott; photo from fellow Hastings College of Law friend and classmate, Howard Watkins of Fresno)

I had a similar challenge when beginning to write my memoir, which took great determination, study, and practice at word art from authors and professors of creative writing. It appeared such a daunting task with a life of so many unconnected lively experiences, how could I create a book that would accomplish my purpose of sharing my inspiration? With their encouragement I developed my craft and in six years a book.

book cover all the difference

How does what you do connect you to your greatness or your potential? Gaining confidence from a friend who knows your potential is a great asset. My father, on the other hand, discouraged me from the practice of law and said I could never pass the bar exam. Having had the opportunity to argue civil rights cases for the poor and powerless was an opportunity to achieve greatness for a righteous cause. Others said I did great work and had been transformed from the friend they knew before as an athlete, but not an advocate for the poor that made a difference in so many lives. That made me gain confidence as did my friend’s coaching and that of my professors and writing coaches when I retired and wrote my book.

Dan Reading poem at Onion Fall Poetry Festival 11102013

(Dan reads from his memoir, All the Difference, at a book signing locally)

What wisdom or guidance can I share for others? Don’t always follow your father’s advice, or that of anyone else who does not know your motivation, passion, and determination. If you have a passion to do something some people don’t believe possible, you should not be discouraged. You can do anything you set your mind to accomplish with undying determination, a reasonable goal, and the necessary training. You can always improve yourself and your future with tenacity, resilience, and the right motivation. Seek out positive people if others discourage your dream. Even if no one sees you as you want to become, you should follow your heart, but don’t forget to carry your mind with you on your journey.

  Words on Fire Poster                               Brette Elizabeth, Aleksandyr, Sean, (Back) Dan and Joan Lavery (front) 1995

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Remember How Fragile Life Is


Oak Hill Navigator

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez

I arrived at the Naval Amphibious Base at Coronado, California in February 1966 for “Indoctrination in Counterinsurgency.” One of the female instructors warned, “Bob Dylan and Joan Baez are subversives out to destroy America.” None of my fellow officers confronted her over these provocative remarks, which I found offensive. Their vital folk music spoke to a rebellious generation. I liked their sound and message. However, for me join the protests emerging like scattered fires on the America’s landscape, it would take something more

Bob Dylan The Times They Are a Changing

At the Coronado officer’s club, I met some aviators who had recently returned from Vietnam. They knew the pilots on the USS Ranger (CVA 61) and informed me that the North Vietnamese had shot down Lt. Gerald Coffee and his navigator over Vietnam on one of their first flights in February. These two officers had relieved Todd and me when we dropped out of the RA5C program a few months earlier. Only the pilot survived and was imprisoned at the infamous Hanoi Hilton where he was tortured. This news sent chills down my spine. Our rescue team could not recover the body of the person who had sat in the seat I would have occupied. I had cheated death again.

Vigilante Clamshell Cockpits opened

Much later, I saw a printout describing the attack on that RA5C, which “…was shot down by AAA while making a photo reconnaissance flight near Cap Bouton, North Vietnam, 19º12’N, 105º45’E. The SAR resulted in a vicious mêlée as destroyer Brinkley Bass (DD-887) and guided missile destroyer Waddell (DDG-24), the latter “straddled” by enemy salvos, ‘slugged it out’ with communist batteries. A total of 33 Navy and USAF aircraft were ‘diverted to suppress enemy fire’ while a USAF Grumman HU-16 Albatross attempted to locate the downed crew. Coffee survived but was captured, not returning home until 12 February 1973.”

CHAPTER 27-Y RA5C landing on aircraft carrier 1965

Another report said the navigator died from wounds, although he had ejected from the plane. The pilot watched as his crewmate’s parachute entered the water near a beach. North Vietnamese villagers found his body and buried him at the scene while fishermen captured Coffee and took him to the North Vietnamese military.

When I visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. in 2004, I took my wife and three children to witness the navigator’s name etched on the “Wall.” “That man died in my place,” I said tearfully. Had I stayed in aviation, none of you kids would have been born. Remember how fragile life is. How lucky we are to be alive to honor those not so fortunate.”

Vietnam Wall ***

To report as the navigator of the USS Oak Hill (LSD 7) in March of 1966, I took the Coronado ferry to San Diego and parked near the ship’s berth. She was commissioned before the Korean War, in need of fresh paint, and an overhaul. As I approached the ladder leading to the gangplank, I wondered what kind of leaders I would encounter in this branch of the Navy. Amphibious ships had a reputation of being the slowest in the fleet; some said they attracted “bottom feeders.” I might be wandering into a world of egotistic dictators with limited knowledge and malicious attitudes. I walked up to the Officer of the Deck, and saluted, “Lieutenant J. G. Lavery reporting as ordered, sir. I request permission to come aboard.”

Vietnam USS Oakhill black and white

The officer had a black arm patch with gold “OD” on the sleeve of his white uniform saluted back. “Welcome aboard, Lieutenant Lavery. I’m Lieutenant Commander Kay. Show me your orders.”

“Here they are, sir,” I said handing him a copy and grasped his hand in a warm handshake, “Glad to come aboard, sir.”

“Our navigator can’t wait to see you. Take Lt. Lavery to the Personnel Office,” he barked to a sailor. The muscular black swabby saluted the OD and hurried along the port side of the ship. Following him, I peered down into the landing dock where three LCU’s (landing craft utility) could carry a tank and many armed Marines. After the Captain flooded the area and lowered the stern gate, they chugged out to the ocean and to an amphibious landing.

I arrived at the Personnel Office three decks below to meet the navigator. The hum of typewriters rose above shipboard life, never close to tranquil, often filled with unexpected noise. A sharp officer was in charge, sweat on his brow, fastidious expression, intent body language, hands shuffling papers, he was immersed in monotony. Scrutinizing a document from the overflowing inbox, he glanced at me.

“Lieutenant J.G. Lavery reporting to relieve you, sir,” I said with a salute.

“Welcome aboard Mr. Lavery,” he said quickly putting on his cap and saluting. “Good to see you. Take a seat and relax. I’m Mike.”

“Call me Dan. Why are you in the Personnel Office?”

“The duties you’re relieving me of, besides Navigator, include Personnel Officer, Postal Officer, and Legal Officer,” he said with a mid-western accent, appeared intelligent, and was in no sense a “bottom feeder.”

“You’ll have to qualify as Officer of the Deck and later as Command Duty Officer.”

“What do you do as Personnel Officer?”

He handed me a three-page job description that mentioned reviewing the mail, training officers and enlisted men, and distributing orders from the Captain to the Executive Officer. After an hour of learning the office routine and meeting the sailors assigned to the office, I asked, “May I see the navigation equipment?”

“Let’s go!” He bolted out the door, with me close on his heels.

Vietnam Navigator in charthouse

He took me up two flights of ladders (stairs) to the Navigator’s station in the Operations room. A chart of the San Diego harbor rested on the desk with a compass, pencils, and a long-armed ruler attached to a swivel. The Chartroom contained books on astronomy, tides, currents, lighthouses, and other navigational objects above a radarscope used for taking a bearing or identifying ships, boats, or debris in the water. If in a fog, Loran tables provided the ship’s position from Long Range Navigation signals. Sonar sent sound waves into the ocean to determine depth, or the presence of a submarine, torpedo, or rock.

Vietnam sextant for sun line

Sextants and star tables were available for night and day sightings. Everything I saw excited me. I admired Mike and was enthusiastic about the most responsible position the Navy had ever assigned me and realized more than ever, they required me to measure up to the highest standards.


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