“We, Old Joes are well aware that you, Chaplain R.R.W.F. Pereira, have been doing Marine & Navy Mission’s chaplaincy work in the Port of Colombo for many years. I came to know that you have been in this honorary voluntary ministry for about 40 years,” said Chief Engineer Abeyesekera. “You are right, Chief, it would be 40 years on March 30, 2016.. The documentary evidence I could produce to substantiate this historical fact is a call card that Warden Mr. Felix Abeykoon gave me when we went to the Port 40 years ago. Though I am not from the Missions to Seamen Club, I accompanied its warden to the Port that day as it was very necessary for him,” Fr. Pereira said.
“ Father, could you, please, like to elaborate on some important happening that took place during these 40 years, I asked. “I have this young naval officer from the Sri Lanka Navy with me today and I think I have got something very interesting and appropriate to tell you which would very much be of interest to him and the people of Sri Lanka” responded Fr Pereira and then went on saying.
“One morning in the mid eighties I went along the Queen Elizabeth Quay from ship to ship on my usual ship visits. The last ship I boarded was the USS naval vessel, Samuel Gompers. I walked up the gangway with my identity card held up in my right hand. I heard an officer say “He seems to know how to identify himself.” I received the usual salute. After which the duty officer asked me what I needed. I said that I’d like to meet the chaplain on board. The chaplain then came and took me to his office. We had a quiet and friendly introductory talk. As far as I could remember he was Chaplain Fr. Bob N Feagle, US Navy. When we finished our talk he said, “Thank you for your visit”. I then left the vessel.”
“When I came to my office that day I heard the office secretary say that there was a lady who was in tears because her son has been bitten by a dog and the Pharmacist at the General Hospital had the anti-rabies serum for dog bites but would not give it to her son unless he was paid Rs.4000 for it. I did not pay much attention to this as I knew that I was not in a position to do anything to get it for her nor to get the Rs.4000 commission needed.”
“The next day as I did the previous day I went along the QEQ and finally ended up in the USS Samuel Gompers naval vessel. We, the two chaplains, the one on the vessel and I the honorary voluntary service chaplain for the US Navy by the invitation of the Pearl Harbor Fleet Chaplain in Hawaii, sat down once again to talk matters over. When our conversation came to a finish I just mentioned about the Sri Lankan mother who was desperately looking for the anti-rabies serum for her twelve year old son.”
“As I was about to head to the gangway Chap. Bob N Feagle said looking at me “Wait a minute Chaplain Pereira.” He then went up to his telephone and gave a call to Chaplain Fr. Gallagher who was at that time on USS Super Air Craft Carrier Kitty Hawk which was anchored at Panadura and asked him if the Doctor on that Air Craft Carrier had the specific anti rabies serum needed. The response was positive. Chaplain Gallagher then told Chaplain Feagle that he would have the anti-toxic serum sent to the Sri Lankan Air Force Grounds. That was to the Saracens grounds where we had watched many a match and had seen Old Joe Captain Keerthi R Caldera keeping wickets for the
Sri Lankan Air Force Team.”
“We, the two chaplains disembarked,got into a car that was at the QEQ. It sped off to the Air Force Grounds. We got off the vehicle and waited. It did not take ten minutes for me to spot the USS Air Force Helicopter coming our way. It landed with the wind blowing up my hair and cassock. An officer jumped off the Helicopter with the required serum in a polythene bag filled with ice cubes. It was given to Chaplain Feagle who handed it over to me. We then got into the car and came back to the Port where my bicycle had been parked.”
“I rode to the church where our secretary a Miss Carmichael worked. I handed over the ice packed bag with the serum to her. She put it into a flask with ice and got it in quick time to the child’s mother.”
“The child was then given the serum by the doctor at the General Hospital. I then looked at the Naval Officer who was with us and said “Well son, you were that boy the dog had bitten and today you are Lieutenant Commander S N Dias of the Sri Lankan Navy, whom Chaplain Fr. Gallagher of Super Air Craft Carrier, USS, Kitty Hawk had saved. I concluded saying to the young Sri Lankan Naval Officer, “As we all thank Chap. Fr. Gallagher of the US Navy please remember to Praise and Thank God for making all the connections and timing to fit into place so perfectly well. God’s timings are perfect timings. ”
“Dear Chief Engineer Sunil Abeyesekera you seem to come in at the correct time to write the right thing worthwhile at my 40th anniversary. If you had not come the People of the US and the people of Sri Lankans would not have known what the US Navy did for the Sri Lankan Navy. Thank you.”
Chief Engineer Paul Sunil Abeysekera, OBUSJC