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Veterans History Project

Dennis W. Joynt, Petty Officer 2nd Class, US Navy, 1968 - 1974


Larry Nelson

Dennis W. Joynt, Petty Officer 2nd Class, US Navy, 1968 - 1974

The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.

A situation that happened in several homes in the late 1960's... a person who has graduated from high school wants to set out on his/her own course in life...his/her parents have a different plan.

Dennis Joynt completed a semester of college in Detroit, MI, then told his parents that he had joined the US Navy! He picked the Navy to honor his mother who was a Navy officer in WWII.

Dennis signed up under the "buddy plan". This was a recruiting method used by the services that pretty much guaranteed that if you signed up with a friend, the Navy would assure you that you would both be together throughout the service in that branch. It was a good plan but the people signing should be of fairly equal smarts and skills. In this case, everything Dennis signed up for and would have achieved caused him to be held back because his buddy wasn't up to the challenges. There was no work-around. If one signed up for it, that was how it was to go.

It was a short bus ride from Detroit to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. The introductory events went fairly smoothly. On the second day, he was informed that authorities were looking for him. He was taken to a different building to take an important phone call. It happened that an Uncle had passed away. Dennis was given the options available and decided to stay where he was.

While in boot camp, he was offered a chance to be in the Company Drill Team. His position was to be the guidon bearer. That's the person leading the entire Company in marches. He/she's the one carrying the flag, out front.

Dennis and his colleagues did a lot of preparation work learning the rudiments of the Navy. They memorized the "General Orders" meticulously. They did the shoe shines and polish work in their buildings, they responded as required because they knew that if they worked together, success was at hand.

Graduation was at hand after twelve weeks of boot camp. Dennis had family members that attended the ceremonies! And soon, it was straight on to "A" school. The buddy system did not work out for the two sailors involved here.

Dennis went to Aviation Refueling School in Lakehurst, NJ. This training involved firefighting - should a fire happen on a ship. They also learned the basics of fueling most other items. He went to Norfolk Naval Air Station for follow-on assignments.

One repeated phrase used in all branches of the military is this: "Never volunteer for anything!". Dennis violated that rule every time. He got an opportunity to be on a "crash crew". When he reported for duty there, he went to a Chief's office. On entry, he sees the Chief polishing the shoe on his prosthetic leg. Dennis was stunned. This Chief was a legend. (A movie was made about this man, Chief Carl Brashear. It is "Men of honor")

Right away, Dennis became qualified to drive a "Mike Boat". This is a much larger version of the "Higgins Boat" from WWII. In a certain circumstance, an aircraft in trouble would make its peril known and Dennis and his associates would be part of the responders.

An unfortunate event offered while Dennis was on duty. A sailor mis-stepped off the gang-way that led to and from a destroyer at the pier. A diving crew was needed ASAP. A 1st Class Petty Officer diver and Dennis were the first responders. The emergency required two divers. Since there was only one, Dennis volunteered to be the other. (Not within Navy regulations). Sadly, the sailor drowned. Dennis, a certified diver before the Navy, was instrumental in recovering the body.

In the aftermath of the event, a Chief's muster was held and Chief Brashear singled out Dennis and proceeded to chew him out royally. After the re-dress, the Chief told Dennis to report to the personnel office. Expecting trouble, Dennis was instead sent on to the Navy's Dive School.

Following completing the school, Dennis now had a number of qualifications in his favor. He was now a Diver, an Air-Refueler, an underwater welder, etc. While on leave, Dennis was with his family when he and a family member got into a heated argument as to why the US was involved in Viet Nam. This irritated him enough that when he returned to Norfolk NAS, he went to the personnel office and volunteered to go to Viet Nam. Before long, Dennis was landing at Tan Son Nhut AFB, Viet Nam.

In getting to where his orders directed, Dennis got aboard an outbound helicopter and actually ended up in Cambodia. The location was along the Mekong River and Dennis was now part of the Brown Water Navy. He was sent to YRBM 21 (Yard Repair Birthing, Maintenance). This was a re-fueling platform for all aircraft and ships in need of fuel in the area. It was also a whole lot of other things including food, water, ammo, some supplies and the capability of assisting MEDEVAC flights. There were several Patrol Boats (PBR) assigned to this YRBM. The PBR operators had one of the most dangerous jobs in the war. (There are two PBR operators in the VAMC at this time... hopefully they all got together!)

Dennis was the hard-hat diver of the ship. This position is one with a person trained to go on deep water missions. Dennis had worked himself into a pretty good slot. He was a unique diver and re-fueler.

Dennis transferred to the USS Askari, ARL30 where he continued his dive avocation. Dennis became a Master Diver. On one of the dives, Dennis became afflicted with having an air bubble develop in his body. The process of removing this bubble is lengthy but there is a protocol to make removal happen. By chart, regulation and competent personnel, the condition went away.

The tour in Southeast Asia ended for Dennis, bringing him back to the USA and Washington D.C. area. He served the required time frame and moved on to Rota Spain where he worked on a submarine tender. The actual work here included replacing propellers on submarines and serious damage control on larger vessels. These tasks don't usually get a lot of thought but are in demand to keep ships afloat. While in Rota Spain, Dennis received his private pilot's license. This was making good use of private time and skills.

In his six years service, Dennis earned the Navy Meritorious Service Medal, the Viet Nam Campaign and Combat medals, the national Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

Dennis lives in the Cheyenne, WY area. Service in Viet Nam provided him many of the illnesses associated with exposure to Agent Orange, and the condition known as PTSD.

Dennis is a significant volunteer at the VA Medical Center in Cheyenne, WY. In addition, he and his wife have taken on an intense dedication making and providing "Quilts of Valor" for ailing Veterans. He is a member of a group of motorcyclists who ride under the colors of the American Legion. Their efforts raise funds for children of members of the military who died in the line of duty. He is very committed to Veterans (bless your heart!)

You did good work and the Country is the better for it, 2nd Class Joynt! Thank you for your service!


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