It’s Been A While

Sorry for the long absence. To say I’ve been busy wouldn’t cover it. Family issues, work issues, yard stuff, some good, some bad. But all have kept me from the blog. Today I try to make ammends.

The entry below was published ten years ago, I’ve modified the dates to make it work. I still miss my friend Pete. But with all the chaos in my life at the moment the anniversary slipped by me yesterday. Someday you get to hear about the chaos. But not today. Today we remember Pete.

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Seventeen years ago yesterday I wasn’t sure about the whole “made it out alive” thing regarding winter. It was the tail end of another long winter and I was working nights back then as well. Part of that night shift meant waking up in the middle of the afternoon and dealing with all the things that had transpired earlier in the day. On April 28th, 2006 I awoke to the worst email of my life.

I started reading an email from my friend Peter Craig. Peter was my hero. He took me to sea on my first submarine operation and we spent a month doing stuff right out of a Tom Clancy novel. No details, but we burned up some serious miles and had some exciting times doing what we did best – classified. Pete had a bizarre sense of humor on occasion and the email was no doubt the prelude to some elaborate joke that he was foisting on a select group of his friends. There were about a dozen of us that he’d sent the email to that day and only when I got to the bottom of the page did I realize that my life had just changed forever.

Peter, you see, had written his own obituary in an email and then sent it to his closest friends. While I’m honored to be in that group it was an awful way to wake up that day. I read it again, not sure if it was a joke or not. The closing line was that by the time we read the email he’d be dead by his own hand.

I found out that day that it’s really hard to get in touch with local law enforcement unless you dial 911 in most places. When I finally got through to the Reno Police a very nice dispatcher calmly asked me if I would mind holding for the Coroner’s office. My heart sank through the floor and I started to weep. I was no longer frantic to try and save my friend. I knew there was no chance to beat the bullet that he’d aimed at himself.

The coroner was kind. It seems that he’d gotten calls from Peter’s friends all over the world (we were all either military or ex-military and covered four continents.) He told me that Peter had died right after sending the email. The coroner was kind enough to provide me with a number where I could reach Peter’s wife, Tami. I hung up in shock. It is all still a bit of a blur. I have been weeping while writing this blog post and the whole world is stained with tears.

Peter didn’t live to see the beautiful memorial service we held for him. We even hired a bag piper to play Amazing Grace because Peter was a Scotsman, and Anchors Aweigh in honor of his 20 years of service to the United States of America. It took me over two years to make it all the way through Amazing Grace without choking up as a result of that day. His friends had assembled from the four corners of the earth to honor a man we knew and loved. And we were greatly diminished with the loss of one of our brothers.

Peter was a fantastic Cryptologic Linguist and one of the sweetest people I ever knew. He may not have been number 1 on the language test each year but his encyclopedic knowledge of the Middle East and North Africa was beyond what anyone else even dreamed of back then. He’d been around so long that he’d done special operations on the U.S.S. Nautilus and almost every ship and submarine that had been in the Mediterranean in the 18 years prior to his retirement. Everyone that knew Pete knew he was the only one of his kind.

Seven years later much has changed in my life. I found Christ again. He’d never lost me, but I sure turned my back on Him. Dumb. I still work at the same place and do the same thing. But other events have happened that Peter wasn’t around to witness.

Peter missed the greatest years of his son Brenden’s life. Brenden is all grown up now. He’s a fine man and I’m privileged to have attended his high school graduation as the surrogate father figure. I held him when he was just a baby. And this past week he had a son of his own. Peter will never get to know his first grandchild and play with the lad. And that’s the real tragedy of this whole thing – the things that he could have done if he’d made it past that depression.

Peter was depressed the last few years of his life. And like a lot of people with mental health problems the rest of us missed it happening. I would occasionally instant message him and chat on the internet but I had no indications that he was in trouble. When all of his friends got together we agreed that if we’d known he was in trouble somebody would have hopped a plane and been with him in hours. That’s how spooks do things – it’s as tight-knit a community as the special warfare guys. At least it was back in my day.

In hopes that this sad blog will do some good, and I’m an optimist, please take a moment to inventory your friends. Think about any with depression and give them a call. Let them know you love them and are there for them. And look to the bottom of this blog if they, or you, are suicidal. Help is just a click or a phone call away at 1-800-273-8255. I don’t want to lose any more friends. At a minimum, pray for them and all those who are contemplating suicide this moment.

Suicide isn’t painless. It almost kills the ones left behind. Nobody ever taught anyone a lesson by taking their own life. They’re gone and we’re left empty. All the deceased gets is a little box on a marble wall with their name taped up until the bronze plate arrives. I searched the internet and couldn’t even find a picture of the old scoundrel. So I’m going to put up one of my favorites instead.

Peter C. Craig


I’d hope that God has taken Peter in to His Kingdom and soothed that ache in Pete’s heart. I know that if I could do it across the voids of time and space I would give it my all.

I wrote the following item for a website dedicated to Pete just after his memorial service in May of 2006. It’s how I felt that day, and it reflects my growing (at that time) awareness that God was working in my life. It is full of naval jargon, some of which I need to explain:

Tech Kit – a case of classified documents we carried with us. We could never let anyone else carry it for us. It’s the stuff they handcuff to the courier in the movies.

Admiral’s Barge – the really fancy boat that the admiral rides in back and forth to the big ship.

White Hat – slang for enlisted men who wore the “dixie cup” white hat. E6 and below.

Arling – Arabic Linguist.

When a significant figure of authority, or an honored guest, boards a ship the Watch (sentry) rings a bell. When a really big shot shows up, they get four bells and a Bos’un (Boatswain’s Mate) blows a special pipe. Probably sounds closer to a dog whistle but that’s what we called it in the United States Navy.

The tribute appears as it appeared on the website. There is a photo montage just below it for his friends to look at and remember. The pictures without Pete are from our gathering in Reno to remember him.


As he trudged down the long quay the fog started to lift. He wasn’t sure where he was, just that he was really tired and he somehow knew he was cross-decking yet again. It never seemed to end. His bag was heavy and his feet blistered and sore, and he was as thirsty as he’d ever been.

A man came out of the fog and held out his hand to take the tech kit and the sea bag. He handed over the sea bag but held on to the sturdy case, saying “Appreciate the hand, but this one I’ve got to keep with me.” The other man nodded silently and beckoned him to follow.

When they came to the end of the pier there was an Admiral’s Barge waiting with a full set of deckhands in jumper whites. Requesting permission to come aboard, he stepped down into the cabin. The silent man handed him his bag and rendered a salute, saying “Could have used you on my cruise. I hear you’re a fine sailor.”

Our boy turned to one of the Boatswains Mates and asked, “Who was that?”

“I believe his name’s Noah,” responded the sailor. Peter nodded and decided to take a nap while they motored away from the pier. It seemed he couldn’t possibly sleep too much lately.

When he woke, the seas were calm and the cry of gulls was like song in the air. As he stepped on to the accommodation ladder, he heard a pipe shrill and a bell ring four times. When he reached the quarterdeck of the largest ship he’d ever seen a brilliant figure reached out a hand and took the tech kit and sea bag from him. This time it seemed right to hand them over. After saluting the colors at the fantail and requesting permission to come aboard, he stepped down on the deck and felt much better. His thirst was gone and his weariness lifted.

The figure who’d taken his tech kit welcomed him and said, “Chief, I’ve been waiting for you. We’ve got a lot of work to do with your youngsters. Seems Arlings haven’t changed and they need someone to watch over them.”

“Sir, I’m not a CPO, I’m a white hat and work for a living. I appreciate the honorific, but it’s not appropriate.”

“Well, I’ve got the authority to promote based on merit at this command, and you’ve earned it. As a matter of fact, I’ve got a set of wings for you as well.”

Peter started to laugh and said, “Fish, maybe, but never wings. Real CT’s don’t wear fish and I was never a flyer.”

“Come here, Son, and look in the mirror.”

Peter looked into a mirror mounted on the bulkhead and was surprised to see himself at 20, all of the gray hair gone, no more glasses, skinny with a tan and a smile that would dazzle the sun itself. And at the edges of his vision were two of the largest wings an angel had ever sported.

Peter drew himself to attention, snapped a salute and said, “Sir, Cryptologic Technician Interpretive Peter C. Craig reporting as ordered. When do I begin my new duties?”

“I expected that question from you, and the answer is soon, Chief. But first, there’s a whole bunch of people who’ve been waiting to see you again and you deserve a rest before we get to work. Stand easy, Sailor. Welcome aboard your final command.”

A young Pete Craig.

Thanks, Peter, for being a great friend and a superlative “sea daddy.” I miss you terribly to this day.

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Joseph Courtemanche

About Joseph Courtemanche

I'm a conservative Christian author who's been happily married for over 30 years. I am a Veteran of the United States Navy, Naval Security Group. I speak a few languages, I have an absurd sense of humor and I'm proud to be an American.


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