I remember some distinct moments serving aboard the USS Aspro. She was a Sturgeon class fast attack submarine out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The boat had just finished a refit at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard and needed a shake down, so we headed out to sea to punch holes in Neptune's garden to find what was still broken or overlooked. Unfortunately we had to come about right away and add some weight since she wouldn't submerge--obviously not a good thing for a submarine--but once that was fixed I got my first ride under the waves.
My post was in Ops upper level in the aft section of the Control Room, next to the RADAR and electrically suspended gyro nav system. When my watch ended I had some chow then headed aft to find someplace quiet to draw. I made my way to a place in the Engineering Compartment next to the boat's shaft, which spins the screw. BTW "propellers" are on airplanes and please don't ever refer to a submarine as a 'ship' to some... one who's served aboard one. They are 'boats'.
I fully understood these marvels are engineered for stealth, but it's still amazing so much metal and machinery can rotate so quietly. In addition to this beguiling atmosphere, the lighting was rigged for red since it was after-hours. It's common while underway to imitate the lighting of the real world, so keeping the boat on Zulu time kept us all on a somewhat reasonable daylight schedule ... somewhat.
As I sat and drew pictures of interstellar space craft, aliens, fusion-powered armor and such, it dawned on me that over 100-years ago, Jules Verne dreamed of the world that I was experiencing everyday. He wrote it down in a story called 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Submarine crews worldwide were all living his dream and I wondered if anyone would ever live mine. I looked down at the heavily clawed extra-terrestrial smashing an anti-grav tank and hoped (in this case) no one would.
My service was never one of distinction or notoriety. I was a junior ranked forward Electronic Technician who gave far too much thought to girls, cars and movies than to my own job, but even in my vapid youth I was still aware of a few things; First was the astounding technology our nation had created, and secondly that our country was trusting us with it to protect her. It's an honor that still humbles me to this day. Most importantly though is how amazing some moments are when you suddenly realize them.
To all American veterans from every branch, past and present, "Thank you".