By Seth Daniel
Years ago, while climbing across the deck of the USS Constitution time after time, E-7 Navy Chief Torpedoman Neil McLaughlin developed a certain respect for the Navy – something that always stuck with him as he observed the sailors and officers staffing the ship while growing up in the Town.
He took that respect and made a 24-year career out of manning submarines in the Navy, and this Friday afternoon, the underwater Townie will return with his family to the deck of the USS Constitution for his official retirement ceremony.
“It’s going to be pretty awesome for me,” he said by phone last Friday from his home at the Naval Sub Station in Connecticut. “When I grew up, I’d go to the Constitution routinely. They took us there all the time. The Constitution was a pretty big deal to me and I guess I probably learned a lot of respect for the Navy because of it being there. I get to do this important ceremony in a pretty cool place. All of my family is going to be there. It’s where I grew up. It’s just exciting to end it on the boat that made me think the Navy was pretty darn cool in the first place.”
The special ceremony on Friday, May 26, will include an invocation by Father Dan Mahoney – and homage to St. Francis de Sales School where McLaughlin started his academic career while in Charlestown. It will also include hundreds of family members as support, and key note speakers Commander Orville Cave and Master Chief Jason Avin.
McLaughlin, 44, has spent 24 years serving and working on submarines, taking his wife, Nicole (Campbell) McLaughlin, and their three children – Nathan, Ashley and Phoebe – to places as far away as Guam and as close by as Connecticut – where they now live on the Sub base.
He said it’s time for something new, and he will continue working on submarine design with a private company in Connecticut. However, the days of serving in tight quarters under the sea and traveling the world teaching others are over.
“I served 24 years and made it to E-7, so I had a good run,” he said. “It’s a young guy’s game. You get older and it gets harder. After all day, your knees and back pay for it. It’s time for someone else now.”
McLaughlin grew up on School Street and Walker Street and attended St. Francis de Sales School until sixth grade. After one year at Boston Latin Academy, he returned to St. Francis for 8th grade. His first two years of high school were spent at Don Bosco until the family moved to Somerville, and he graduated from Somerville High afterward. After spending one year at Penn State University, McLaughlin returned to Charlestown and ended up signing up for the Navy when he was 20.
“I’ve gotten a lot of education, and they’ve taken care of my family pretty well,” he concluded.