Text of my speech at Real Club Naútico de Valencia
General Macarthur said: old soldiers never die, they just fade away.
Fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests, since we are in this wonderful setting, let me tell you a story with the sea like witness.
When I was nineteen years old, my cousin Luis Fernando, by that time Captain of the Spanish Navy, helped me enter to the School of Orphans of the Navy, there I prepared the access’s exams to the Academy of Army officers.
Despite I did my best, I didn’t pass the exams; then, I decide to go to university, where I graduated in Business Administration. During those years I also met the most important person of my life: my wife.
My cousin remained in the navy and managed to promote to Commander.
Fifteen years later, Haiti suffered a terrible earthquake. To help its population, the Spanish government sent to Haiti a ship of the Navy called Buque Castilla. My cousin Luis Fernando was its quartermaster’s Commander of this boat. His wife and two daughters said goodbye to him at Rota’s port, wishing he would be able to come back for his youngest daughter’s communion.
A year after the end of the mission, in April of 2011, the Commander of the Buque Castilla, Admiral Francisco Peñuelas wrote an article for ABC (an important Spanish newspaper) titled in Spanish Botas nuevas. Let me tell you the story.
During the whole time of the mission, the Spanish government was sending medicines, food, tools etc. The supplies arrived to the Dominican Republic. The soldiers were going by helicopter from Haiti to Dominican Republic to collect the supplies whenever there was a shipment.
After three months of hard work, the boots of the marines were spoiling. They asked for 150 pairs of new boots. But the shipments were arriving always without the boots, because these boots weren’t a priority. My cousin was in charge of logistics and, at the end of every single meeting, the marines always asked to him: What about the boots? He always said with a smile: in the next shipment.
The marines started to get angry because the boots not arrived. The Admiral had to ask another Admiral in Spain for a favour. A couple of days later he got the answer: don’t worry about that, the boots are on board of the next shipment. But for some reason the boots, again, didn’t arrive.
Not even two Admirals were able to get the boots. But my cousin never ever stopped to smile to the angry marines and with tons of patience he continued saying: in the next shipment.
On Sixteenth of April of 2010, two helicopters departed from the Spanish base camp in Haiti to the Dominican Republic to collect a new shipment. One of the helicopters, never came back.
My cousin, Luis Fernando Torija and his mates Francisco Forné, Manolo Dormido and Eusebio Villatoro passed away.
At the funeral held on the boat by the four Spanish sailors deceased, as a tribute to my cousin, all the marines wore new boots .The boots had arrived in the other helicopter.
I can imagine how, that day, from heaven, my cousin said with a huge smile, I told you, in the next shipment.
And this is where we go back to General McArthur’s quote, improved by my Colonel and English teacher of the School of Orphans of the Navy:
“Old sailors never die, they return at sea, enriching forever the eternal marine soul”