By Military Connection Staff Writer Joe Silva.
Anyone who has ever put on a uniform, regardless as to which one, has had that one role model. That one person who epitomizes the uniform, and all it represents. For the thousands of sailors who served with John Regelbrugge, he was the Navy; and everyone aspired to be as hard-core as John was.
His voice was strained and gravely, the result of barking orders in the salty sea air for over thirty years. He had the trim build of the ideal military man, and he possessed the type of confidence that only comes from being the best at what you do.
John climbed the ladder in the Navy twice. He enlisted as a Seaman Apprentice (E-2) in 1982, and rose to the rank of Senior Chief Petty Officer (E-8). Then he was commissioned as a Limited Duty Officer (LDO). He went from Ensign (O-1) to Commander (0-5). Reaching either height in rank is a lifetime achievement for many service members. John accomplished both. Earlier this month, he was named Officer in Charge for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility Detachment in Everett, Wash.
I served with John Regelbrugge on the USS Ogden (LPD-5). He was the ship’s 1st LT (Navy position, not rank). He was larger than life. He had an answer to every question, a story for every port, and a joke for every occasion. I will always remember John leading his men in some of the most tasking, most dangerous seamanship evolutions in the modern Navy. I will also remember standing watch with him in my work center. On quiet nights, while watching my radar screen, I would hear the toughest man on the ship singing peacefully to himself, in his officer’s chair. I will always remember CDR Regelbrugge as the first person to correct you if you were wrong, the first person to take the time to teach you how to do something right, the first the first person to pat you on the back when the work was through, and the first person to crack a funny joke… usually at your expense.
On Saturday, March 22, 2014, CDR Regelbrugge was at his home on Steelhead Drive in Oso Washington, when a catastrophic mudslide overcame his neighborhood. He and his wife Kris were home. For days the two were among the dozens missing and unaccounted for.
John’s Facebook page was filled with hundreds of prayers and well-wishes from his shipmates, family and friends. The majority of the posts, including posts by his children, were so confident that this tough-as nails sailor would find a way to climb out of the mud and muck with Kris, and probably a few neighbors along with him. But the earth claimed what the sea couldn’t tame.
On the morning of March 25th , John’s two brothers and two of his sons found him, dead, in an area that had previously been flooded over. The Regelbrugge home had been completely destroyed, and John’s wife, Kris, was still missing. On March 26th, Kris’ body was found.
The U.S. Navy has lost one of its great leaders. John and Kris are survived by their five children. In addition to their two daughters, two of their sons are currently serving in the Navy, and another son is a Veteran of the U.S. Army. Our sincerest condolences to the Regelbrugge family.
Fair winds and following seas, shipmate. You will be missed.