For many young men and women, joining the Navy means leaving family, friends, and home for the first time. New friends and new routines replace the old, but some things just aren’t the same. This is especially true around the holidays when decorations in the barracks and a galley holiday menu can’t replace putting up the Christmas tree with family ornaments as tempting aromas waft from the kitchen while a Bowl game plays on the television.
For some lucky ones, leave is approved. For most, the holidays will be spent at the barracks and in the galley. But not for all…
A recent donation to NMAS revealed the curious case of Walter Joseph Hrbaczewski. Hrbaczewski joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in February, 1946 at age 17, getting his parents to sign him up as a minor. He completed boot camp at Great Lakes, Illinois and then attended service school in California. After six months on active duty, he became an inactive member of the Naval Reserve.
All was normal for Hrbaczewski for a few years. But then things got weird.
What’s up with this jacket? I came across it during an inventory of the NMAS uniform collection. The three stars above the rating insignia told me this was no ordinary Chief’s jacket. But then what is it?
A quick search taught me that three stars above the insignia are only worn by the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON), the senior most enlisted member of the U.S. Navy. Problem solved, right? Not quite.