But the shy 4-year-old patient at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia was all smiles as Hussey handed him a blue hat and declared him an honorary submariner.
Hussey and other members of the Denizens of the Deep, the Aiken chapter of the United States Submarine Veterans, visit children at the hospital every Friday.
The visits are part of the national organization’s Kaps 4 Kids program. Veterans give patients baseball caps, a certificate proclaiming them an honorary member, a calendar and/or pictures of submarines, and other items relating to submarines.
“I’m really here on a recruiting mission, and I’d like to recruit this young man to be an honorary submariner,” Hussey told A.J., who was recovering from an infection in his legs, and A.J.’s mother, Shermain McGahee.
After listening to Hussey’s presentation and watching a DVD about submarines, Hussey saluted A.J., who was all smiles as he returned the salute.
The mission of the submarine veterans is to keep alive the memory of the 52 submarines and their crews who were lost during World War II.
During regular chapter meetings, the chaplain reads off the names of the boats that were lost that month during the war, the circumstances under which the boat was lost and how many men were on it, usually around 80 men, Hussey said.
“We lost 52 boats during the war, 22 percent of the force, over 3,000 men, and we want to make sure we never forget them,” he said. “We want the families to know that’s why we’re there. We’re there to give comfort to the kids, but also to remind them of the job the submariners did in World War II.”
Hussey served in the Navy for 22 years, 19 of them on submarines.
For the past six years, he has visited children at the children’s hospital.
The submarine veterans’ visits are very good for the children, said Child Life Specialist Katie Lawhead.
“It’s just something for the kids to look forward to,” she said.
The submarine veterans are one of several groups that visit the children and are a nearly constant presence in the children’s hospital.
Hussey said he makes a point of revisiting children who return to the hospital. He may not do a full presentation, but he wants them to know he’s there.
“It’s a ministry. It really is,” Hussey said. “If you bring a ray of sunshine, it’s kind of nice.”