By Whitney Anderson
NSAW Public Affairs Office
A gust of wind ripped along the coast of the Anacostia, enticing a chill into the crisp October air as voices from a former presence seemed to resurface on the deck of the USS Barry (DD 933). The display ship that had remained empty for so long gave off an almost ghostly glow in her final showing hours, with echoes from the past lining her once filled passageways.
Her old shipmates had traveled from near and far to send her off in style with one final hurrah. The ship that had loomed in the waters of the Anacostia in silence had come to life once more — life filled with shipmates and friends in and out of the service.
"I grew up with Gary," said former Barry sailor Tony Puccio, "Gary Schiappa from when we were five years old and we met again on the ship."
Puccio and Schiappa had grown up together in Bridgeport, Conn., and the destroyer, as it had for so many others, brought them together for one of the most memorable times in their lives and again on the dreary day in October when they would have to say goodbye to the vessel forever.
"We served on The Barry together for three years," said Schiappa, who served as a petty officer first class from 1964 - 1967. Schiappa had come a year after Puccio, who worked in the engine room from 1963 - 1966.
"I went from the west coast to the east coast and I served in Vietnam," said Puccio. "It was quite an experience, we did a lot of firing for the Army and Marines and we weren't hit, but we did come across some enemy fire. We must have fired for about two hours to clear the way for them to go in and fight."
Puccio said that of all his time he spent in Vietnam however, the part he most remembered was the sheer comradery and friendships he shared with his shipmates.
"We had Christmas together on our ship, dressed as Santa Claus and we had Martha Ray, who was a comedian, she came on our ship with a young guy who played the guitar and dressed like Elvis and it was a nice Christmas,” said Puccio. “It was over there [Vietnam] but it was nice. It was like a family; we functioned as a unit, a well-oiled machine. We did what we had to do, what we were told to do, and we came home, all together."
The USS Barry played an active part during crucial moments in United States history, spending her days along the Caribbean, Atlantic Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea, but the history books mostly note the role the ship played in Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Eugene Cody served as a machinist’s mate on the Barry from 1962-1965, and thoroughly recalls the hostility of that period.
"We went through the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was thinking to myself the entire time, ‘Is anything really going to happen here?’ So many people could have made the wrong decision," said Cody. "We were armed and ready to start shooting submarines."
To this day Cody credits the Barry in having a major hand in the way his life has played out.
"If it hadn't been for the Barry there's no telling what would have happened in my life. The Navy really changed a lot of my life and I still use the practices at 71-years-old," said Cody.
As Cody gave a somber look out onto the ship that had once served as home for him he smiled, recalling happier times.
"We would have cookouts out on the fantail, barbecue big slabs of ribs, and oh, it was just great," he recalled.
Former shipmates Joey Brady and Sam Peacemaker stood pier side along the Barry to bid farewell to an old friend who had taken them to war, yet brought them a world of excitement and adventure at the same time.
Brady related a story of visiting the Rock of Gibraltar when an unexpected visitor jumped aboard the ship.
“There were these rock apes on the Rock of Gibraltar,” said Brady, “And one of the monkeys came and stole [the executive officer’s] hat right off his head and disappeared into the bluff.”
It was just one story of many shared by old friends while they said goodbye to the vessel that had brought them together so long ago, and brings them together still.
Although the glory days of The USS Barry are long gone, one thing for certain is that her spirit will live on in the memory of its former sailors and those who saw it every day at the Washington Navy Yard.