“My Friend ‘Milkshake’” Ensign, Feb. 2002, 69–71
In February 1958, at age 17, I entered the U.S. Navy. After boot camp I was sent aboard an aircraft carrier, where I met Raymond Bruce Covington, from Provo, Utah.
I thought Raymond was a bit strange—no smoking, no drinking, no cursing, no nothing. I asked him what he did for enjoyment. He said he did a lot of things, but mostly what he enjoyed was either starting or ending his day with one or two big milk shakes. So Raymond was given the nickname “Milkshake.”
After the lights went out at night, Raymond would tell me about his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was really quite interested until he told me that if I joined his church, I could not hold the priesthood. That did not go over well with me. Seeing my agitation, Raymond expressed his feeling that perhaps one day the priesthood would be available to me.
As time went by I began to favor Raymond above all my friends because of the way he carried himself. After a while I found I had ceased to live the kind of life I had been living, and I wanted to do the right thing. He made me realize I didn’t have to curse or drink alcohol to be “cool.” I could make the choice to live a righteous life.
One day several of the guys were sitting on the deck gambling. One of them looked up at Raymond and said, “Milkshake! Say this curse word and you can have all the money in the pot!” I quickly counted the money and found the total to be $240. That was two months’ pay! I figured that since he and I were buddies, he would give me half. But to my dismay, Raymond would not curse. I pleaded with him, but he said, “No way!” He didn’t believe in that kind of talk.
What a guy he was! I knew then that to be a true Latter-day Saint was a sacred thing.
Raymond was discharged in June 1961, and I was discharged in October that year. I got married soon after and eventually became a merchant seaman. I sailed all over the world, often wondering whatever happened to my old navy friend.
One day many years later, in 1990, while looking out the window of my home in Washington state, I spotted two nicely dressed young men. They were missionaries for the Church, and I invited them in. After talking with them a little while, I found out that Raymond’s hopes had come true: a revelation had been received in 1978 directing that all worthy males could receive the priesthood. I was elated. After receiving the missionary lessons, a date was set for my baptism.
About this time I told a neighbor, also a member of the Church, about my friendship with Raymond Covington. I had no idea the neighbor would go to Utah and actually find Raymond. Two weeks later my old friend drove more than 1,000 miles to Gig Harbor, Washington, to speak at my baptism. He said he always knew that someday I would join the Church.
We both knew that many miles and many years could not separate two real friends and now brothers in the gospel.
In December 1997, I got a call from Raymond’s daughter telling me he had passed away. I was saddened by the news, but I smile now when I think of the reunion two sailor boys, Rocky and his friend Milkshake, will someday have on the other side of the veil.