Local sailor on ship with COVID

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Residents’ son aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt

  • Photo from USS Theodore Roosevelt Facebook page The USS Theodore Roosevelt is docked in Guam. Hayesville High School graduate John Buckley Jr. is among nearly 5,000 military aboard the ship. There have now been nearly 100 positive cases of COVID-19 reported on the ship.
    Photo from USS Theodore Roosevelt Facebook page The USS Theodore Roosevelt is docked in Guam. Hayesville High School graduate John Buckley Jr. is among nearly 5,000 military aboard the ship. There have now been nearly 100 positive cases of COVID-19 reported on the ship.
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When John Buckley, Jr. joined the Navy Oct. 11, 2006, he and his family knew there could be dangers and challenges. Yet, it is unlikely any of them suspected one of the biggest challenges of his career would be an invisible foe.

John Buckley, Jr. is shown receiving a promotion from a commanding officer during his current deployment on the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The ship is being held near Guam where all 5,000 sailors on board are being tested for corona virus after many tested positive.

Novel corona virus, also known as COVID 19, is living with him and 5,000 other sailors on the Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt — the place he calls home.

Last week, ABC news reported all sailors on board the ship would be tested for novel coronavirus after 36 of them had tested positive. That number has now grown to 100.

Buckley was unavailable to talk; however, his mother, Sarah Buckley shared her sentiments on Tuesday.

“I am trying to keep it together,” she said from her Hayesville home. “As a nurse, I know COVID is treatable, but he is worried about his family, too.

They live on Whidbey Island, Wash., where he is stationed when not deployed. They are in the first epicenter of the coronavirus. They have already been in quarantine for a long time.”

Sarah said she first heard about the cases on the ship when she was watching a television news report.

“I saw the ship was sitting off the coast of Guam and I knew that was where my son is,” she said.

It is unknown how the virus got onboard, but the ship had a port call in Da Nang, Vietnam, a few weeks ago, where the virus had already struck.

In addition, new people and supplies are flown to the ship on a regular basis. New Naval school graduates, transfers and others, travel from many places to join the crew all the time.

“It could have come from anywhere,” Sarah said, ex- plaining how they sleep in very close quarters with bunks stacked three high.

Every day, she speaks with her grandchildren, 16 year- old Maeson and 13 year-old Kyleigh. Daughter-in-law, Jennifer, is still working at a local daycare. “So the rest of the Navy people not deployed can continue to do their jobs,” Sarah added. Her son frequently emails her while at sea, then calls her from ports when he can, but daily phone charges make it difficult to talk often.

“John is in good spirits, but worried about all of his family, including his sister Amiee Skykes, her husband Greg and two nieces, Lily and London.”

She said her son’s job is aviation electronics. “He works on F18’s,” she explained. “Wherever his plane goes is where he goes. This deployment was the south Pacific with great ports of call. John was promoted to 1st class during this deployment. If you are going to be stuck somewhere, Guam is a beautiful place to be stuck.”

Since joining the Navy after attending the University of North Carolina at Greens boro, the 1999 Hayesville High School grad has been deployed several times. He served in Operation Iraq Freedom and Operation En-during Freedom and has been

deployed on the USS Harry S Truman and the Nimitz. During his current deploy- ment, he received a MAP promotion, a meritorious promotion recommended by a commanding officer.

She is concerned about her son’s safety, now more than ever. “This virus can happen to anyone. My son lives on a ship for nine months

at a time,” the proud mom reminded. “I always try to remember what he told me. ‘Mom, think of it as Ground- hog Day, the movie. Every day is the same. You get up and you start over every day and do the same thing again.’ He tries to cheer me up, even though he is in it.”

Buckley said her coworkers at Union General Hospital know the situation and have been very supportive. “About 500 people are praying and that gives me great joy,” she said. “I believe in the power of that and it will keep us going.”

Note: As of Tuesday eve- niing, the captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier that has more than 100 cases of coronavirus wrote a stun- ning plea for help to senior

military officials. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our sailors,” wrote Capt. Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is now docked in Guam.

“Now I’m worried,” said Buckley.