I invited Will, the soldier-sailor who is battling leukemia, to be my guest at Quantico Yacht Club’s annual holiday party and change of watch last night. His ride from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center fell through, he decided to take the train from Union Station, but the train was over an hour late, which brought him into Q-Town about 30 minutes after the dinner began at Sam’s Inn Restaurant.
However, this also set the stage for a grand entrance. Will called me when he arrived at the station, and I walked down the street to meet him. Coming back into the restaurant, I introduced him to everyone as best I could over the din. The people that Will had already met–skippers Sean and Charlie–were the first to greet him, followed by the outgoing commodore, Marty. QYC is a friendly club, so, of course, everyone welcomed the soldier-sailor with warmth and kindness.
Will sat at my table and seemed to enjoy the boating conversation, though, somehow, we were ironically sitting at what was jokingly referred to as “The Power Boater Table.” Of course, I joked right back. “I can drive power boats, too,” I said, “Like this,” and held my hands on an invisible steering wheel and bobbed up and down in my chair.
After dinner and one of those enormous Blue & Gray beers, Will and two of our table mates walked down the hill to the club house near the marina. There, everyone gathered for coffee, dessert, cocktails, and a formal Change of Watch, during which the new board was installed. Afterward, a long and hilarious white elephant gift exchange ensued, with alcoholic beverages being the most popular “swiped” items. Will ended up with a nice bottle of wine for himself, and I somehow managed to blindly select the only Greek item–a game called “Pente”–among the wrapped gifts.
The social hours stretched on, and I saw that Will was making new connections within the club and seemed to be greatly enjoying himself. So, though I had about a 2-hour drive ahead to take him to the barracks and return home, I did not want to pull him away. Finally, sometime after 11 PM, we headed to my car for the drive back to Bethesda. Will and I chatted the whole way, about sailing, boats for sale, his plans for the future and more. The drive went by quickly, and soon I was hugging Will good-bye.
I smiled nearly the entire drive home, thinking about what a good night Will seemed to have, and that he has such great plans, a dream on which he can focus and make come true. It is wonderful to see him coming into the boating community and making his own way. I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.