you are never forgotten, my friend
One person comes to our mind when we think of September 11, 2001. Dave’s roommate and Department Head aboard the USS Richmond K. Turner, CG-20 in the early 1990s was Robert E. Dolan. He was special both professionally and in his personal life. It was our honor to know him. Please take a moment to think about his family and the loss of a special life on this five year anniversary of the terrorist attack.
The following is a piece written by Bob’s wife, Lisa, commenting on her special memories relating to the Navy class ring.
September 11th Reflections
by Lisa T. Dolan
It was 1979—graduation week for my brother, then-Midshipman First Class Mark Tempestilli. He “set me up” with a few midshipmen for the week’s activities. I met my Mid on that hot, hazy Friday in May. The Plebes were making their way to the top of Herndon Monument. I can still remember the smell of the surrounding air—a strange combination of sweat and Crisco, with both ingredients dripping from the monument and the horde of eager Fourth Classmen. I had seen this struggle before, and I decided to cool off in Dahlgren Hall instead.
Midshipman Third Class Robert E. Dolan Jr. had the Dahlgren watch that day and was sitting in his whites behind the circular desk just at the top of the stairs. My brother introduced us. Mark had asked Bob to escort me to a dance on Sunday evening. Bob’s watch was ending, and he asked me to wait a few moments. My heart was fluttering like the wings of a hummingbird. I immediately fell for Bob’s beautiful blue eyes and his dimpled chin. Bob asked if I would join him at the concert that evening. I quickly accepted the invitation.
Commissioning Week ended too quickly. My first two dates with my future husband are etched in my memory along with the memories of more than 21 years together. I knew I was in love with Midshipman Robert E. Dolan, 20th Company, the minute he smiled at me. One full year later, I wore Bob’s USNA class ring around my neck at his Second Class Ring Dance. I already had been wearing his class crest, and now his ring hung around my neck on the traditional blue satin ribbon. I proudly dipped his ring in the water from the “Seven Seas,” being careful not to stain my gown. We stood inside the giant replica of the ring and kissed. I didn’t know then how much that ring would come to mean to me.
We were married on a beautiful Saturday in April 1983. There were all the trappings of a Navy wedding—starched choker whites, shiny swords in an arch. Vows were taken and promises made; bands of gold exchanged on our special day. Thereafter, we moved many times like most military couples. In between deployments, we had two beautiful children, Rebecca and Beau. They were his pride and joy. They were like most Navy children—outgoing and resilient, proud of their country, and prouder of their dad. Bob was a brilliant naval officer with a solid career. And, for 21 years, he always wore his Academy class ring.
In the summer of 2000, Bob completed a successful tour as commanding officer of John Hancock (DD-981), homeported in Mayport, FL. Bob’s orders were taking us all back to the Washington, DC, area; him back to the Pentagon. He was selected for captain in June of 2001. We were anxiously awaiting the upcoming Major Command Board. Bob never had the opportunity to put on his captain’s shoulder boards. He never knew he had selected for major command.
Bob woke up a little late that morning. He showered then dressed in his khakis. I lay in bed and watched as he opened his night-stand drawer. Like he did every morning, he pulled out his wedding ring placing it on his left ring finger, and then he took out his Naval Academy ring and put it on in front of his wedding ring. Bob kissed me lightly on the lips. He said he’d see me later.
It was a gloriously sunny day in Metro DC as I began my drive to work. Bob and I spoke each morning via my cell phone after I dropped the kids at school. It was 8:55 a.m. when Bob called to tell me a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I didn’t know what to say. He also told me he had no meetings scheduled that day. If I needed him, he would be in his office. He ended with, “Have a good day. I love you.” That was the last time I spoke to my Mid. After learning a second plane hit the Twin Towers, I tried franticly to reach him at work, but couldn’t get through to his office. As I continued to try and call him, I learned a plane slammed into the Pentagon. A pain surged through my stomach like a knife. I didn’t know where his office was located. He and the rest of his department had just moved into a newly renovated section of the Pentagon. It seemed like an eternity before we received any official word.
On 16 September, an FBI agent contacted my brother. The agent told my brother he too was a 1989 graduate of the Naval Academy. He was part of the search and recovery efforts at the Pentagon. He had some news for us. He had seen something shiny among the ash and gravel and immediately recognized it as a USNA ring. He pulled the ring out of the debris and stuck it deep into his pocket, knowing later he would be able to track down the owner using the inscription inside the ring. He knew it belonged to a shipmate. He knew the tradition: Midshipmen should inscribe the inside of their ring with their name, because if lost, that is how the ring will find its way home. Bob’s ring did find its way home to me. My brother picked up the ring on Sunday, 17 September, weeks before Bob was officially declared dead. When the ring came home, I promptly put it on a gold chain that Bob had given me and placed it around my neck. I wear it proudly each day just like I did for the Ring Dance 21 years earlier.
Now, each night when I go to bed, I place it on his night-stand like Bob had always done. The ring means all the love and the memories of our happy union—and more: To me, his ring personifies Bob’s life.
I received no other personal effects of Bob’s. His remains were buried at sea in January. I never saw his wedding ring again even though he wore them on the same finger. But, thanks to the tradition of the Naval Academy ring and a patriotic grad named John Guandolo, Bob found his way home. Bob remains in part with me—through his USNA ’81 class ring.