Lifestyle & Human Interest

After 31 Years of Service, Navy Veteran Stunned When Community Surprises Him


People who have had birthdays during the past two months have had to modify their celebrations. People who graduated this year after putting in years of work have had to deal with the disappointment of canceled commencements.

And for Navy Command Master Chief Gregory Williams? After 31 years of service, a retirement ceremony aboard the U.S.S. Lexington was taken from him thanks to the virus.

But his wife saw him quietly mourning the loss of the celebration and knew she had to plan something.

“Watching him those next few days just not being himself, I got to do something,” Cynthia Williams told KIII.

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Neighbors and family were happy to help.

“He’s a family man, takes care of his children, you know makes sure they have everything they need,” neighbor Gordon Means said. “He is a humble man, but he’s a very strong man.”

“A lot of the stuff that he does we don’t see I know that he’s still doing everything for us and his country,” Williams’ son Isaiah said. “It means a lot to me.”

Cynthia had her sights set on even more participants, though.

“Well maybe I can get some of his chiefs involved,” she recalled thinking.

The yard was decorated, the neighbors assembled, and an automobile parade waited just around the block. Cynthia asked her husband to step outside, and he walked out to “The Star-Spangled Banner” being played on a trumpet.

“After 31 years of honorable service to our Navy and this Great Nation, NAS Corpus Christi CMDCM Gregory Williams was cheated out of his retirement ceremony today due to the coronavirus pandemic,” Ron Gunner Retzlaff shared on April 24 along with video of the surprise that has now gone viral.

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“His wife Cynthia jumped into action and brought together the neighborhood, the Chiefs Mess and the CO/XO to do a make shift drive-by ceremony. He was humbled and thankful to know that we appreciate his many years of service and sacrifice.”

“I got him, he DID SHED A TEAR OR 2!!” Cynthia posted on Facebook. “CONGRATULATIONS BABE!! We had to cancel your real retirement ceremony for today but I COULDN’T let today go by without recognizing YOU!!! Here’s to serving 31 years in the US NAVY!!”

He even shared the “gotcha” video himself, admitting that he was deeply moved by the show of love and support.

“I had to cancel my retirement ceremony that was scheduled for today,” the man of the hour himself wrote. “However I was surprised by my family, friends, shipmates, and neighbors! I feel so blessed!”

“Initially just blown away,” he elaborated to KIII. “Not knowing what I was walking out into and what was going on.”

“My brothers and sisters in arms and my chief’s mess and my commanding officer you know drive by it kind of meant a lot to me. It kind of choked me up.”

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