What better reason for joining the Navy than having a great uncle who served directly under Admiral Nimitz in World War II?
That’s what motivated Commander Larry Mason. “My great uncle was a Chief Warrant Officer,” Larry says. “He was on a first-name basis with Admiral Nimitz, working with him in intelligence to decipher Japanese code. He retired as a CWO3, and he was an engineer. He was my inspiration.”
But before the Navy, there was college. Larry studied engineering at Cal Poly – California Polytechnic State University. “I wanted to be an electrical engineer,” he says, “but the Navy types at Cal Poly who’d already had Navy training were very tough competition. I was right out of high school, and they’d put together a circuit, and I’d say, ‘how did you do that?’ I had a lot of respect for their capabilities.”
Larry ended up switching to industrial engineering at Cal Poly, but he remained interested in electronics. So, after he graduated in 1962, remembering how skilled the Navy students had been, he enlisted in the Navy. Instead of going in as an officer, he wanted to be a technician. As an E1, he attended the 18-week Electronics Training Program based in Millington, Tenn. “I knew I’d have a better chance of competing with students with Navy training in the field of electronics.”
This was also where Larry got his lesson in Navy protocol. “It was an unusually cold day in Millington, and I was walking along with my hands in my pockets to keep them warm,” he says. Unfortunately, Larry failed to notice the officer in his path, and neglected to salute. “He read me the riot act. So I apologized, saluted him, and he went on his way,” Larry says, laughing.
With the training Larry received, he became an Aviation Electronic Technician in 1963. He was attached to an S2F squadron. But he wasn’t getting the opportunity to repair electronic hardware, the thing he really wanted to do. His duties were flying Anti-Submarine Warfare missions as a radar operator, along with refueling planes.
Larry decided to take the test for direct deployment to the Officer Training Program as a 1405 (engineering duty) officer. He passed the test, and went from E4 to O1. “Then I got to affiliate with ship repair for the rest of my naval career,” he says, “working in the two major shipyards in California – Long Beach and San Diego – managing repair operations.”
All told, Larry devoted 20 years to Navy service, with 4 years enlisted and 16 as an officer. But during his service, he wasn’t involved with the Society. His support came later, after a successful civilian career as an engineer. Just recently, he has set up four charitable gift annuities for the Society to take care of our own. “It was my affection for the Navy,” he says, “that led me to give these gifts to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.”
The gifts that Larry has given will provide significant tax advantages, in addition to regular payments for him and his wife. But tax savings and income are just a side benefit.
Larry gave these gifts to help Sailors, Marines, and their families in need. You see, Larry’s fondness for the Navy has never dimmed. In fact, when he retired from the Navy in 1982 as a Commander, he hadn’t sewn his full Commander stripe on his Navy blues. “So as part of my bucket list, I had my uniform correctly striped just this past year,” he says. That’s how much the Navy means to him.
When Larry gave his gifts to the Society he wanted his money to be used where the need is greatest. He’s thinking about what’s best for Sea Service members and their families. “What I want my gifts to accomplish is to help Sailors, Marines, and their families for years to come,” he says. “Simple as that.” Larry’s story says so much about Sea Service members, their families, and serving our country. He’s happy to give and happy to help. In the end, that says so much about him.
By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso