By Jen Bakken
“He stood the watch so that we, our families, and our fellow countrymen could sleep soundly in safety, each and every night, knowing that a sailor stood the watch.”
A poem written by William Whiting in 1860, typically recited at Navy retirement ceremonies, is touching and holds special meaning to the Shaw family, of Watertown, who have for generations stood the watch.
Mike and Sharon Shaw have lived in Watertown for more than 30 years and their son, Christopher Shaw, was sworn into the Navy June 19.
Following in the Navy footsteps of his two older sisters, his father, grandfather, and grandmother, Christopher became part of a Shaw family tradition.
Three generations of the Shaw family have raised their right hands and sworn allegiance to the country and the constitution but that’s not all.
Mike and Sharon are proud patriotic parents who have welcomed their sons-in-law into the family two men who have also stood the watch.
Mike’s father, Francis Shaw, was a boiler tender in the Navy during World War II, and was on the Missouri when Japan surrendered. He returned to the Navy on a destroyer during the Korean conflict, as well.
Mike’s mother, Ida Shaw was a hospital corpsman, in the Navy, and Mike himself went down the same road, enlisting in the Navy and serving during the Vietnam War.
Working on the flight deck, a very dangerous job, Mike was injured when part of his foot, including four toes, were cut off by a chain.
Receiving a medical honorable discharge, Mike learned how to walk again.
“I fell in love with the sun, sand and sailors and he’s the sailor I ended up with,” smiled Sharon Shaw.
After two months in Florida, Sharon knew she wanted to move back to Minnesota, and told Mike he could either move there with her or remain in Florida with his mother.
“I figured staying with my wife, was probably a good idea,” laughed Mike Shaw. “And after all these years I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Mike attended a technical school for welding, and has been a welder since 1970. For the past three years he has worked for Applied Vacuum Technologies in Waconia.
Sharon has worked for Ridgeview Hospital in Waconia, as a health unit coordinator for the past 30 years and is also involved with the American Red Cross.
The couple’s oldest daughter Heather (Shaw) MacKenzie graduated from Watertown High School in 1989. She enlisted in the Navy where she was a Cryptologic Technical Administrator (CTA).
CTAs operate, repair and maintain electronic detection and deception devices. They are the first line of defense against inbound threats and anti-ship missiles for deployed units. They work with highly classified and technical material in support of national security.
Heather was honorably discharged in 1999, and currently lives with her husband, Lt. Corporal Doug MacKenzie in Seoul, South Korea. She works as senior acquisition liaison at US Forces Korea. The couple is expecting their first child this winter.
Heidi (Shaw) McGee, graduated from Watertown High School in 1992, and eventually followed in the same path as those before her. She enlisting in the Navy where she was a hospital corpsman, working in a variety of medical environments.
Her husband, Tyrone McGee, served in the Navy as a storekeeper for eight years, and then in the reserves for six years. Heidi is now a senior marketing coordinator and the couple resides in Bloomington.
“Heidi’s 12-year-old son has been talking about the Navy a bit,” beamed Sharon. “We might be making this four generations go Navy!”
The patriotism in this Navy family is obvious in many ways, from the American flag and Navy flag proudly displayed in their front yard, to bumper stickers and coffee mugs.
A room, in the upstairs of their home, has been named the “Americana room,” and is filled with Shaw family history, traditions, red, white and blue and an all-around love for this country.
The walls of their Americana room hold pictures from past Navy years and, soon, Christopher, a 2004 Winsted home school co-op graduate, will have a spot for his pictures, as well.
It was Christopher’s brother in-law, Lt. Commander Doug MacKenzie who swore him in June 19.
The whole Navy family was present to send Christopher off to boot camp, and wish him well as he began taking the same steps as two generations before him
“It’s a simple, traditional ceremony,” said Lt. Commander Doug MacKenzie. “It was a great honor to do that. To have Christopher swear in while we are at war is just a testament to his character. He’s a super American.”
When asked how he feels about his three children standing the watch as he and his parents did, Mike became choked up, wiped a tear from his eye, smiled and said, “Very proud, very proud.”
With Independence Day right around the corner, Mike has been thinking more and more about the young people, the freedoms they enjoy and how they should be more grateful.
“It’s a time of reflection,” he said. “And, once you’ve been there, done that, it means a lot more.”
Mike is a member of the Watertown Legion and Sharon is on the Women’s Auxiliary, and they worry that there aren’t many young people joining and these groups may not exist one day.
Both admit the United States is what it is because of the people who go above and beyond to serve.
“I think if I go to the Delano Fourth of July parade and somebody doesn’t stand when that flag goes by, I don’t know what I’ll do,” said Sharon. “I’m just a patriotic mush. There are people serving for your freedom. Why would you not be patriotic?”