AFRH-W Veteran Highlight – Susan Meckley
By Christine Baldwin, AFRH-W Librarian
Susan Meckley joined the U.S. Navy in 1952. After Basic Training and graduation from Radio School, she went to work in the Public Affairs. She served at a number of different duty stations including Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Key West, Gitmo, the Pentagon and Kansas. Once she even participated in a simulated salvage of a submarine laying on the bottom near Key West, FL. The USS Falcon (ASR) sent a diver down to attach a “down haul” cable to the sub. Next the Momsen Diving Bell came down for the simulated rescue. Susan and Chief Hooper were elected to ride the bell to the surface… “What an experience!” She then took a twenty year break and went civilian. During this time, she got her Captain’s License with the U.S. Coast Guard. She decided to rejoin the services and went into the U.S. Army 4 months before she would have been too old. Again it was in Public Affairs. One of her memories was being strapped into a Huey helicopter’s safety harness, while standing on the skids and videotaping the National Air Races aircraft at 5,000 ft. Again, “What and experience!”
Retiring from the Army in 1999, Master Sergeant Meckley sold her 46 foot sailboat and bought a Challenger 32 Sailboat to fulfill her life’s dream of sailing off into the sunset and cruising the world…. SOLO. Her five children weren’t thrilled with the idea. However, she sailed down the U.S. West Coast and all over Mexico, keeping in touch through her SSB radio email. Her kids finally agreed, maybe this Great-Grandma really did know how to sail.
When she proposed a solo trip to Hawaii, 74 year old Susan was the subject of the Puerto Vallarta Yacht Clubs’ actually taking bets as to whether or not she would get to Hawaii. About 400 miles out from Mexico, she had to use her 12 gauge pump shotgun to scare off two men who were in a large open boat banging against her boat’s hull, at 2 a.m. Another time, sailing close to a Boeing space launch platform and their control ship, Susan tried to make contact with them to coordinate their passing each other. Receiving no answer she raised some ham radio operators in Seattle, who then called Boeing, resulting in the Boeing Space Platform calling her. After spending 36 days and sailing 3,620 miles transiting the Pacific, she arrived at Hilo, Hawaii to a spectacular view of the snow covered Volcanos.
Susan came to AFRH-W in February 2015. She has been very active televising Resident meetings and the meditation room services. On February 12, 2016 (Lincoln’s Birthday), she and her friend, Don Jones, operated an Amateur Radio station from the Mary Todd Lincoln’s bedroom in the Lincoln Cottage. They contacted over 16 countries on four continents, all with Morse code. Susan and Don are also active with the National Park Service commemorating the 100th birthday. The Park Service is allowing ham radio operators to operate from various National Parks, contacting fellow ham radio operator’s around the world.
On June 18th Susan and Don participated in a “Kids Day” on the White House, using a ham radio to allow the children to talk with other kids around the world.