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Navy trainee follows in wake of his merchant mariner grandfather
Nathaniel 102612 Bootcamp Graduation 002
Nathaniel Simon, Charles Bishop’s grandson, poses for a photo after graduating boot camp last month. Simon is following his grandfather with a career in the U.S. Navy.

Nathaniel Simon grew up listening to his grandfather’s war stories.

His grandfather, Charles Bishop, 89, served in the Navy during World War II as a merchant mariner and seaman in the Navy Armed Guard.

While a lot of young people might be more intrigued by the tales of heroic deeds and unexpected enemy attacks, some of Simon’s favorite stories are the ones that involve his grandfather’s daily life rather than the excitement of battle.

"Like when he was on the ship and he would clean his guns and he had the cleanest guns out of everyone because everybody else would slack off and stuff," Simon, 19, said. "And he would be the guy who always tried to do his best in everything he did. I like that guy. I admire that."

He said he particularly enjoyed hearing about the friendships his grandfather made while in the service.

"I kinda wanted that to get close to people and have friendships like that," Simon said.

Thus, after graduating from North Hall High School in the spring, Simon enlisted in the Navy. He is currently in Basic Enlisted Submarine School at Groton, Conn., where he is training to become a machinist’s mate.

Though Bishop’s Navy legacy may have skipped a generation, the desire to serve the nation has been present in his family all along.

Melissa Simon, Bishop’s daughter and Nathaniel’s mother, was 19 herself when she tried to join the Navy, but was turned away for health reasons.

"I just think I was trying to do exactly what my son is doing now and trying to get into the service and follow in my father’s footsteps," she said. "I guess it wasn’t in the cards for me, but it seems to be working great for Nathaniel."

Nathaniel Simon said the motivation to become a submariner was largely based around the idea of forming close friendships like the ones his grandfather made aboard the liberty ships.

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day and all who have worn the uniform, Bishop is proud of his grandson’s decision to join the Navy.

"It’s great for him and I’m glad that he chose it. These submarines are very different from what I was on," Bishop said.

Bishop worked on liberty ships in the Mediterranean during the war. He was a midship, port-side plane gunner.

Bishop said a lot of other things have changed since the days of his service as well.

One night while Simon was filling out his enlistment paperwork, Bishop said he noticed how much even the basic things have changed since he served more than 60 years ago, the pay is certainly better these days.

"I said ‘Good gravy!’ I didn’t make $50 a month back then," Bishop said laughing.

Bishop’s Navy story started when he was 20 years old, just one year older than Nathaniel Simon is now.

He was working as at an aircraft factory in Paterson, N.J., making cylinder heads for planes in the early 1940s.

He used the money he earned to support his grandmother, who raised him since he was a baby after his parents and brother died.

He said he didn’t have any intention of joining the military and leaving his grandmother by herself. But his friends at the factory urged him to join the Merchant Marine before he was drafted and didn’t have the option.

"My main concern was my grandmother. And lo and behold, they said that they were calling up the next number of drafters to fight in World War II," Bishop said.

The next day he went with a friend to Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., near Brooklyn, and joined the Merchant Marine.

Bishop said he’d seen his fill of war be the time it was over. And though he was able to see parts of the world he never would have without the Navy, "it was in shambles because of all the bombings."

"We got some credit for (action) on the ship that I was on," Bishop said with a heavy sigh.

He recalled a fight his ship was in one evening. His ship was sailing toward Italy in the direction of the setting sun when a group of low-level bombers started shooting, hidden by the light behind them.

He said he’s glad his grandson’s experiences won’t be the same as his.

"We had to worry about those planes coming at you all the time. So there is a big difference," Bishop said.

Simon said hopes his own Navy stories, whatever they may be, will inspire his children and grandchildren one day in the same way Bishop’s did for him.

"It makes me feel proud. I’m going on with the legacy of what my family has started and hopefully my son might do the same thing or my daughter," Simon said.

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