|by Gil Raynor October 2000
Originally written for the AMERICAN SUBMARINER magazine.
It all began after I received my new computer. I had never been "on-line" before, but now I had a modem. Within days of connecting to my phone line, I began to "surf the net". First I entered my dadís name and found a paper he had presented at a conference many years ago. So then I entered the name of the "Boomer" I had served on and there it was in front of me, several references to the USS JAMES MADISON, SSBN 627.
For me, the only times I had thought of the Jolly Dolly was when I thought of the accident that had resulted in my being retired from the Navy on a medical disability.
I had moved on with my life, raised a family, moved across country and put the Navy and submarines into the deep recesses, seldom to be thought about.
However, this new computer caused me to begin to think about the Submarine Service once again, for in my surfing, I found a home. Almost every single link I explored took me to the same source, some fellow who lived in the middle of nowhere in Sheridan Wyoming. His site showed some pictures of beautiful country, and he had this page called a BBS. So I clicked on this picture of a submarine and ended up at a place called Rontiniís Submarine Bulletin Board. For a long time, I lurked in the shadows, reading posts by these former submariners and deep within me something stirred and I found myself remembering the friendships, the dependence and the trust that we as submariners had for each other. In the 30 years that had passed, I had not experienced this same sense of belonging as existed with those on my boat. But here it was tugging at me again. The stories, the experiences, knowing that others went through the same things drew me back into the fraternity.
Ron Martini and his SUBMARINE WORLD NETWORK have had this very same siren call to many other submariners and this has resulted in a spurt of activity that would have occurred in no other way.
Ron, living in Sheridan Wyoming was the president of SMUG, the Sheridan Microcomputer Users Group in 1994. A local computer store owner decided to bring the new technology of the Internet to Sheridan and asked Ron to write a page to help show folks what the internet could do so he could market the service to local advertisers.
Ron decided to write a page about submarines. At that time, there were only 4 other pages on submarines on the internet. This page was to present some graphics about submarines, some information of value to veterans and to try and bring back some of the camaraderie he remembered from the boats.
The submarine page turned out to be a great success and Ron started the Submarine BBS, or bulletin board system. It was the BBS that first caught my attention, because there was a string of messages about the James Madison, it seemed some former crewmembers were trying to have a reunion. As circumstances turned out, the reunion has not materialized yet, but I was hooked on the BBS.
For myself and many others, this Submarine BBS has been a gold-mine. I have found many old friends and made many new ones.
Ron Martini and his efforts to bring Submariners together and provide a "sandbox" for them to play in has had amazing results. Over 110, 000 individual messages have been posted. The BBS and the Submarine page have been recognized nationally in the NY Daily News, The NY Post, Navy Times, New London Day and the Houston Chronicle.
ComSubLant, ComSubPac, The Naval Academy, the office of the CNO, the MCPON, the Postal Service and many others have been influenced and made aware of the former submarine sailors thru these many pages now on the net.
Many individuals have created submarine pages as a result of what Ron began and there is now a strong presence for most boats on the Internet. Ronís SUBMARINE WORLD NETWORK has well over 1000 links to other pages on submarines and veterans affairs..
But perhaps the most important outcome of all this ĎINTERNET ACTIVITY" has been its influence in the submarine community. There has been a resurgence of recognition of the United States Submarine Service. It was on this site, that I, along with many others came to realize there was an organization of Submarine Veterans. As soon as I learned of the United States Submarine Veterans, I joined as a life member. But I was not alone. Many new members came into USSVI because of this one individual and his efforts to provide a place for submariners to meet and to tell their sea-stories and renew old acquaintances.
New activities sprang up, one submariner, Joe Most, who could not make it to the USSVI convention held a "submarine bash" at his place in Florida. Folks who learned of this from Ronís BBS traveled across the country to attend. Now several "SUBMARINE BASHíS" are held through out the country.
The Submarine Bulletin Board has affected national policy on several matters, including awarding the ENLISTED silver dolphins to midiís for a summer cruise. As a result of the public outcry from enlisted submariners who EARNED their dolphins the hard way, this practice was addressed and stopped. Likewise, the submarine stamps came into fruition because of the public support and voice that was raised after the issue was made known to the BBS. Indeed, if you look at the commemorative booklet, you will note the credit given to Ron.
The loss of the Kursk has drawn the submarine community together thru the bulletin board and the concept of women on subs has been thoroughly discussed as well as many other issues dear to the heart of the submarine community.
Ron Martini also worked closely with the Centennial Committee to help promote and advertise the 100th anniversary of the Submarine Service.
It was Ron Martini who suggested setting up an internet site for USSVI, and when he got no real interest from National at that time, Ron set it up as a demonstration site to show what it could do. Today the presence of the National USSVI website serves to deliver a great deal of information to all the members. It points the way to base locations, provides convention news, links to officers, a listing of submarine memorials and other organizational information.
An open on line USSVI base was another dream of Ronís that he put into motion, creating the Lockwood Internet Base. Here was an on line base where individuals could meet, discuss and promote USSVI. A place to participate in USSVI when one could not attend a local base or did not live near one. The Internet Base provides an open forum where any member, whether of Internet Base or any other, can discuss any subject that affects USSVI. Questions can be asked of the National Board in an open forum where all may participate and have a voice.
Perhaps one of the biggest benefits that USSVI has reaped from this dedicated submariner has been a listing he calls DOS. The Directory of Online Submariners has been a key to the growth of the United States Submarine Veterans. Although time consuming and exasperating to deal with at times, Ron has persevered to create a searchable list of submariners who are on line. This system is free to all users and is used to plan reunions, meetings, form new USSVI bases and to find lost shipmates. Because of this nucleus of information, it has been instrumental in providing contact for those who wish to form new bases. Bases have begun in Arkansas, Utah, Idaho, No. California, Sacramento, Reno, So. Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Eastern Pennsylvania, N. Central New York, Delaware and Fresno drawing greatly on the information from the directory. Existing bases also use the information for recruiting for their bases.
To encourage bases to put our newsletters and to recognize the efforts of those who do, Ron began a Newsletter of the Year Award for the USSVI base with the best newsletter.
Ron still has many ideas to draw submariners together, to increase membership and to ensure that the creed is foremost. He dreams of a USSVI Submarinerís Library that will provide a research center and preserve the books so important to our heritage.
One of the other important results of this one man, Ron Martini, and his internet pages has been a new effort formed to restore and preserve our history. One of the first beneficiaries of this effort was the USS TORSK. She has benefited from interest across the country, where individuals travel to conduct Work Days and restore her. Cavalla is another example, part of our heritage rescued from the very brink of the scrap pile because of the power of the BBS reaching out to the submarine community. Ron has also held auctions on-line to benefit Cavalla, Croaker and Torsk. He has done all of this on his own time, and at his own expense because he does more than talk the talk, he walks the walk and understands that "Once a Submariner, Always a Submariner."
Ron understands the USSVI creed :
" To perpetuate the memory of our shipmates who gave their lives in the pursuit of their duties while serving their country. That their dedication, deeds and supreme sacrifice be a constant source of motivation toward greater accomplishments. Pledge loyalty and patriotism to the United States Government."
Indeed, one of his favorite taglines is: "ALL GAVE SOME . . . SOME GAVE ALL"
Ron does have one commercial venture, with the Submarine World Network growing at a dizzying pace, he now has added an on-line store that provides custom submarine merchandise and memorabilia. The proceeds from this store have provided the financial means to continually expand the Submarine World Network, while at the same time, helping his shipmates find items that honor and promote the submarine service they gave their country.
As a result of finding Ron Martiniís Submarine World Network, I, like so many others, have become a member of USSVI, NSL and an associate member of Subvets of WWII. I have rediscovered one of the most important times in my life and now participate in some of the most enduring and meaningful endeavors.
Without Ron Martiniís effort and dedication, I would not have returned to the submarine world. I would not be a member of USSVI and I would not be working to restore the USS CAVALLA. But I am only one of many who owe their membership in USSVI to Ron Martini. We have grown tremendously, as an organization, because of the dreams and efforts of one individual who has caused us to once again reflect upon perhaps the most significant part of our lives.