Over the centuries, the phrase “last man standing” has taken on myriad associations – the sole survivor of a battle, the winner of a competition and more recently, the title of a network television sitcom starring comedian and actor Tim Allen.
For Navy Cmdr. Keith Morris, however, last man standing takes on a personal as well as historic significance. One that only he can claim.
The Georgia native owns the distinction of being the last person to serve on the USS Midway who is still currently on active duty.
“It makes me feel old,” Keith said with a laugh. “Honestly, I’m honored to carry that distinction.”
Keith recently took command of the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facilities (FACSFAC) Jacksonville, the capstone of an illustrious naval career that began as an air traffic controller on USS Midway in 1988.
“This is another amazing Navy experience,” said Keith of his new position of leadership. “The opportunity to lead and develop young minds is an obligation I do not take lightly.”
Thinking back three decades, however, Keith never imagined he’d rise from the humble beginnings as a Navy airman to become a commanding officer.
“My intention 34 years ago was to stay for one enlistment then get out and go work for the FAA as an air traffic controller” said Keith. “It is funny how men plan and God laughs.”
Reporting aboard Midway just before the Gulf War, following completion of air traffic control school, his experiences on the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier were beyond his wildest expectations.
“My time on board the USS Midway was magical,” said Keith, who also met his wife while he was stationed in Japan. “I was a recent graduate from high school and on my own for the first time. From talking to my first aircraft as an air traffic controller to riding an elephant while on liberty in Thailand, every experience was amazing. I was doing things I never imagined I would.”
During his more than 30 years in the Navy, Keith has seen it all. Nearly 15 separate tours of duty have taken him all over the country and around the world from Pensacola to Point Mugu and from Afghanistan to Africa.
He may now be the oldest former USS Midway crewmember still serving in the Navy, but memories of his first tour on Midway keep him young at heart.
“I am proud to have been a part of something so great,” said Keith. “When I was stationed in San Diego, I would take every opportunity to visit the Midway Museum. Walking the passageways and sitting in Air Operations would always pull me back to my youth.”