Local man’s service is a distant memory


Robert Strombeck set out looking for answers.

An 18-year-old boy who lost his uncle decided he would best seek the answers he was looking for by serving his country in the U.S. Navy.

Little did he know he would later find them within a greater power.

“Maybe I thought it was my uncle because he died swimming on the ship he was on and all I wanted to know was what happened and I never really did find out,” said Strombeck.

Strombeck remembers being the first one in this family to serve his country and arriving at boot camp in Chicago. He said he remembers a soldier telling him as he signed on it was his last chance to get out.

“Me and my best friend both went to grade school and … I was a kid and I didn’t understand this stuff so I went into the Navy,” said Strombeck

He held his hand up and stepped forward without taking a look back.

“Boot camp was rough but I learned respect from that. People in this world need to go to boot camp now because they need it and they are going to teach you and it will change your life,” said Strombeck.

Strombeck served from 1963-1969 and was on reserve duty for two years after that. His duties varied from day to day whether it be helping mopping the deck or one time helped shoot a shark that was getting too close to the ship.

He served on a ship called the U.S.S. Minesweeper and primarily lived on the ship throughout his tour.

He remembers getting to travel to different places with his favorite port of call being Cuba. At times the sea got so rough that waves would crash and hit the so hard they would come over deck.

According to Strombeck he actually didn’t mind the ship rocking back and forth and would actually enjoy the thrill of the ride because he was so young.

After Strombeck got out of the service he sustained permanent memory loss in a logging accident when he was 25.

He was in a coma for 30 days and when he woke up e had to learn to walk, talk and regain an awareness of his surroundings and the people in his life.

Strombeck explains the path to recovery was not an easy one especially as he struggled to remember who his family members were.

“My first wife told me that I was in the Navy and little by little my mind started thinking…Navy… Navy… and I started thinking ‘I remember that Navy’ and little things started coming back,” said Strombeck.

Though the accident robbed Strombeck of much of his memory, he has plenty more to live for.

“After I got hurt things changed. I learned what God has done for me, not what I am doing for me. Thank God he loved me that much,” said Strombeck.


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