Veteran Spotlight - Dick Lucier
In the Spotlight: Dick Lucier
For the past 42 years, Dick Lucier has served as an independent insurance broker, with nearly 15 of those years as the owner of Diversified Benefits Agency in Burke, Virginia. As an independent agent, he works to help business owners, families and individuals develop insurance plans to best fit their needs and goals. In addition, Dick has been an active member of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce – most recently serving on the board of directors (and as a past president) and as the veterans committee chairman.
For my March veteran spotlight, Dick graciously shared thoughts on his time in the military (Go Navy!) and what it means to serve:
“Anchors Away” is a song I proudly enjoy hearing. Having grown up near the coast of Southern New Hampshire, I found the power of the sea fascinating. In Kittery, Maine near the NH line is the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Submarines were built there and many folks I knew worked there. You may have heard of the Thresher which was lost at sea and found many years later. It was built in Portsmouth.
After graduating from high school, I joined the Franciscan Brotherhood at their facility in Rye Beach, NH. It was located a few blocks from the ocean. While I did not pursue this lifestyle for almost a year, I enlisted in the Navy. Even though Vietnam was in full swing, I would have enlisted in any case.
In June of 1968, I arrived at the Great Lakes, IL boot camp. Of course, the naval welcome mat was blunt orders with colorful language and a nearly 24 hour orientation of hurry up and wait until we finally got a bunk to crash in. Looking back, boot camp was just the means of shaking the civilian out of you. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, just the expected drills, inspections and stuff seen in movies.
My first orders were to report to the USS Saratoga (CVA60) dry docked in Philadelphia for routine overhaul. I was assigned to the Weapons Division responsible for all weaponry on board and the 5” guns. My first job was chipping paint off of those gun systems and painting the familiar battle grey paint. It was tediously boring work. Fortunately, the unit to which I was attached had an administrative office in which the sailor doing the daily paperwork hated his job. He wanted out and I volunteered. I was so happy to be moved into that position and later promoted into the Weapons Department Head Office. Yeoman was my title.
“Sara,” as she was known, was a Mediterranean carrier in the 6th Fleet. I spent two tours in the Med visiting many cool ports of call including Athens, Naples, Barcelona and many more. The ship’s home port was Mayport, Florida. During the two years I was on board, there are many great memories and a few not. Among the best ones was the visit by Bob Hope, Connie Stephens and his troupe to do a Bob Hope show which he did for many years. We were in Naples at the time. Another was a visit by President Nixon and many dignitaries while off the coast of Egypt. We were to do a live ammo demonstration for the president, but President Nasser died the day before. Out of respect for President Nasser, Nixon ordered no live ammo be used, but the show went on.
Eventful situations arose. The U.S. was in the middle of the Cold War. Vietnam was going full blast as well. Soviet trawlers and destroyers would shadow us all the time at sea. Often the Soviets would taunt us by crossing our bow forcing course changes to avoid collision. They liked doing this during refueling operations where transfer lines between a supply ship and the carrier making the delivery would have to be cut to make an emergency break away to avoid collision at sea. What a mess! Sailors would be cleaning the ship’s side for a long time to remove the grime. Well, one day, one of the Soviet destroyers decided to cut in front of our bow to force course change. Our captain had had enough. We were not in a refueling operation. He cranked up the speed of our ship and headed straight toward the Soviet vessel. He blew the at sea collision warning of five very loud whistles. Everyone rushed topside to see what was going on to see the Soviet sailors on their rail with consternation that we were about to collide. You never saw a destroyer move so fast. We missed them by not more than two feet. No kidding!
There were some difficult moments such as when a pilot needed to abort a landing. If the jet engines would not restart for a fly off, they are shut off and the pilot is trained to ditch the plane in the sea so as not to crash on the ship. I witnessed pilots who lost their lives doing so. I’ve known sailors who came back from Vietnam who patrolled waterways there. They too had extremely difficult experiences to live with. After all, we were doing our duty to protect democracy and our way of life. It is serious business.
I was transferred to Washington, DC to the Bureau of Naval personnel for my remaining two years working in the Naval Annex. This building has since been taken down. I decided to stay in Northern Virginia for career reasons. I can say that my stint in the military gave me a perspective in dealing with life issues that cannot be learned in any other way. The values you develop are lifelong and the experiences are invaluable.
Today and for the last 42 years in the insurance business, helping others is what I do. Everyone should do their share to serve their God, family, country and community. I work at it every day.
As Dick and his wife prepare for retirement, we wish them "Fair Winds and Following Seas."
Our veterans committee is always considering new ways the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce might support veterans in our community, our workforce and as entrepreneurs. So in 2016, we've introduced “In the Spotlight: Veteran Business Owners." Each month I will feature a new veteran business owner – highlighting the diversity, creativity and community service of veterans who continue to strengthen our country with their small business endeavors and entrepreneurial spirit.
Want to be in the spotlight? Please send me an email with information about your veteran-owned company and your service to our country.
Charles McCaffrey is the volunteer chair of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Veterans Committee. His fulltime job as director of the Veterans Business Outreach Center at Community Business Partnership pays the bills.