While flying the P3 Orion aircraft, Tom Jarvis, of Lisbon Falls, had his eye on one thing—Soviet submarines.
As an aviation anti-submarine warfare operator for the Navy, Jarvis had the duty of locating and tracking Soviet submarines, a vital mission during the height of the Cold War against Soviet aggression. Through the aircraft’s detection systems, Jarvis was able to identify any magnetic anomalies on the earth’s surface caused by a submarine in the waters below.
“Have you ever seen the movie, Hunt for Red October?” asked Jarvis. “I think there was a character named Jonesy. Well, that’s what I did in the Navy.”
Originally from Port Angeles, Washington, Jarvis’ Navy career totaled 26 years after retiring in 1993 with the rank of chief petty officer. Like many young men in the 1960s, Jarvis was drafted to service and his brother convinced him to join the Navy.
“I expected to be in for two years of active duty and four years of drilling,” admitted Jarvis, never realizing that the military would become a career.
During his time in the Navy, he was stationed in many stateside bases including the former Brunswick Naval Air Station in Maine. One overseas venture took him to Iceland, where he spent three years.
“The people in Iceland were friendly and there was a lot to do in fishing, travelling, and activities on the base,” said Jarvis. But with a northerly location that borders the Arctic Circle, the yearly cycles of midnight suns and very dark days could take its toll.
“We had midnight baseball leagues followed by times with only four hours of daylight,” said Jarvis. “I even worked in windowless buildings,” he added, noting that it was fine considering the drastic change in seasons.
Today, Jarvis maintains his military ties by volunteering for the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1044 in Sanford, Maine. He’s particularly proud of the organization’s slogan, "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."
“Vietnam veterans were not treated particularly well when they returned from service,” said Jarvis. “Our goal is to help those veterans who may need any kind of assistance.”
While there are many agencies that offer help to veterans, Jarvis said that the Vietnam Veterans of America can offer more immediate and personal help with financial issues for veterans and their families. And while its members are Vietnam veterans, help is offered to any veteran regardless of their service.
A key project of VVA is to provide information about Agent Orange, the blend of herbicides used during the Vietnam era, that are linked to certain cancers and related diseases.
“Many don’t realize that there were ships in the path of Agent Orange that could have affected their health,” said Jarvis.
With the approach of Veterans Day 2011, Jarvis believes it is a perfect time to thank veterans for their service.
“One of the nicest things to ever happen to me was the time when someone came up to me and shook my hand and thanked me for my service,” said Jarvis. “It really touched me.”