What do we say when a lion of the service crosses the brow for the last time? When a medal of honor winner who sunk 29 Japanese ships from his submarine crosses into the clearing at the end of the path? A submarine CO with four Navy Crosses who – not restricted either in his imagination or by his natural element – sent a raiding party ashore to the Japanese coast in order to blow up a troop train?
The nicknames of Rear Adm. Eugene B. Fluckey — “The Galloping Ghost of the China Coast” and “Lucky Fluckey” — meant to bring a little levity to the exploits of one of the most decorated sailors in history.
But as loved ones and shipmates approached an urn on display under the vast dome of the Naval Academy chapel yesterday to say a few words, many stopped in awe, bowing slightly as a last homage to the man who sank 29 Japanese ships as a submarine commander in the Pacific on his way to receiving the Medal of Honor and four Navy Crosses.
About 250 people gathered to pay their respects to Fluckey — an Annapolis resident who died June 28 at the age of 93 — including members of Congress, past Navy luminaries, top academy officials and 10 men who served under him.
We who stand in awe of his accomplishments cannot be grieved when someone of his stature is taken from us in the fullness of time, but rather grateful that such men walked ever among us when we needed them.
So we say, “Hail, farewell and godspeed.”