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Couple meets while serving in the Navy PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 11 November 2017 11:04

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ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times



Many would consider the U.S. military an odd sort of matchmaker, but in the case of local couple Jim and Mary Bloomer, it was perfectly normal. 

“We were stationed at the same base, and we met through mutual friends at the base club,” Jim said. “I had a vehicle with my roommate and Mary and her friends were walking back from the club, and I stopped to pick them up. Mary sat in the middle, so that’s how I met her.”

“The Navy’s a pretty unique family, it’s a small world, and because everyone’s in similar situations, you become friends fast and find a lot in common,” Mary added. 

Jim and Mary, who are both from Kansas, were serving in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and were stationed at the base in Bainbridge, Md. Mary was working for the Naval Investigative Service when she met Jim, who was in the nuclear power training program in the nuclear power school in Bainbridge. 

“After we knew each other only a few weeks we decided to get married. Then we were married in May 1970, and we were apart for a bit of a time while I went to New York for part of the nuclear power training while Mary stayed in Maryland for her job,” Jim said. “Then shortly after that, she found out we were expecting our first child and at that time, they wouldn’t let women stay in the Navy if they were pregnant. So she got out of the Navy about a month before her enlistment expired. When she got out, she joined me in New York and we’ve been together ever since.” 

The family moved 19 times in 21 years, and some of the places the Bloomers called home included Hawaii, cities in California, Panama City, Fla., Washington, The Philippines and then back to San Diego, Calif. The couple’s three children were all born in different places including New London, Conn., Albuquerque, N.M. and their youngest was born in the Oakland Naval Hospital. In total, Jim and Mary have been married 47 years.

So what drew them each to the military branch that would eventually bring them together?

“I had graduated from high school, and I wanted to do something different than everyone else,” Mary said. “My dad took me to see a Navy recruiter, and I liked what he had to say about the education and travel. My dad had to sign the papers for me since I wasn’t 18 yet and then I joined the Navy the fall after I turned 18.”

“I was classified 1A at the time for the draft, it was the Vietnam War at the time in 1967-68, that time frame,” Jim added. “I decided instead of taking my chances with the draft in the Army to see about the Navy. My dad knew a young man who had grown up in the country in Franklin County who’d been successful in the Navy, and he was a local recruiter there so he came to the house and visited with me and the family. I agreed in Oct. 1967 to go in and then went on active duty in Feb. 1968. I left the Navy in 1989 after serving 21 years.”

Both Jim and Mary admitted their time in their respective posts in the Navy was very intense. 

“The nuclear power training was pretty intense, so I was concentrating pretty much on my studies and didn’t have much time for other things,” Jim said. “You were focused to complete your training and then sent to a sub or nuclear service ship or something like that to work. That’s what I was concentrating on and Mary had her job there on the base with the Naval Investigative Service. We just spent our free time like meeting for a sandwich or for lunch when we could – any spare time, we would try to spend together.”

“Our jobs were very dissimilar,” Mary added. 

Serving in the Navy also brought about some very important life lessons. 

“Honor and pride in particular. I never regretted a minute of my service, it was amazing the time I spent in the service and with Jim being full-time military when we were in The Philippines and seeing third-world country situations, that makes you proud to be an American,” Mary said. 

“You appreciated what you had. That was something I learned because on the ship we traveled and I was gone seven and a half months from home,” Jim agreed. “Some of the ports we traveled were, like Mary said, third-world, and it really gave me an appreciation of what I had at home.”

Both Jim and Mary were honored with Quilts of Valor during the OzFest festivities back in October and both expressed great appreciation for the honor of receiving them and said that was part of the pride they felt as veterans and Americans. 

“We just talked to one of the ladies who helped make these quilts and she was telling us how if a veteran will accept it, it sometimes starts the healing process for them,” Mary said. “It’s a tremendous honor for someone to put all that time and effort and love into it and give it to someone deserving. What freedom means, it’s liberty and respect for one another.”

“It’s a tremendous honor, I was surprised and didn’t know that was going to happen,” Jim added. “From the standpoint of honoring veterans, and this may be kind of cliché, but a veteran is someone who, at one time, signed a contract with the U.S. military up to and including their lives for protecting the people of the U.S. against all enemies foreign and domestic, so that’s why they deserve respect.”

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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