OPINION: Geraldton businessman Dean Calver reflects on naval service

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Towns Football Club stalwart Dean Calver.
Camera IconTowns Football Club stalwart Dean Calver. Credit: Dean Calver/Supplied

Dean Calver has been a businessman in Geraldton for many years.

He came to the Mid West in the early 1980s.

I got to know of, and then got to personally know, Dean through the Towns Football Club.

It has only been relatively recently that I learnt from Dean that he spent part of his formative years in the navy.

He was first stationed here in WA at the tender age of 16.

Now, this all came to light a couple of weeks ago, when Dean received a phone call from an old navy mate he had not touched base with for almost 40 years.

“I just got this phone call out of the blue,” he said.

“The first words I heard were ‘How are you going ... you old salt?’”

As soon as Dean established who was on the other end of the line, the conversation built and lasted for almost two hours.

Although Dean only spent six years in service, he tells me they were years that really had an impact on his life and the friends he made during that time have been his friends for ever.

“We were all very young when we enlisted,” he said.

“It was a period when we transformed from teenagers to men.”

And what a challenging environment it was.

Dean served in the navy during the Vietnam War; although he never witnessed battle, he was on a ship which was initially sent into conflict.

“We were on HMAS Brisbane but just before we were supposed to join a flotilla ready to engage, the Americans decided to send us home.”

Dean went on to serve on several ships and visited ports all around the world.

“I visited Hawaii often, when Australia would venture into war games with the Americans,” he said.

After a six-year stint, Dean decided he needed to move on.

“When you are a young bloke, the world seems a different place,” he said.

“As you mature, you begin to have another perspective on life and what you want to do with it.”

Even so, Dean believes his time in the navy was a great grounding for life, and a time he will never forget.

He tells me the recent chance phone call with his mate brought back a lot of happy memories.

“We’ve decided that once this COVID-19 business is behind us, we’ll definitely catch up,” he said.

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