Nine years…

Nine years ago today, I was sitting in a classroom in Charleston, SC, learning about net positive suction head and chloride stress corrosion cracking.  Around 10am EDT, we heard about the first plan via a public address system.  A couple hours later, during  a break, some of us were down in the staff lounge and saw the replay of the second plane.

My immediate thought, naturally shared by the other newly-minted Ensigns, was, “We’re going to war.”  At the time we were guessing the toll was 10,000 or more; thankfully we had guessed to high, but even as the true sums came out, it was still too much to even comprehend.  The sixty or so of us headed out into the submarine world over the next year or so, and saw our prediction come true, and it has continued to drain our national resolve.

There are those in our country that would mimic the high school kids that we later heard out on the town (“Let’s fine us some A-rabs!!!) by using their religious position to offend and belittle our fellow citizens.  You can almost excuse teenagers from not understanding a wider worldOne would hope that those people who have advanced theological degrees and earn their livelihood espousing supposedly Christian beliefs and guiding the moral, ethical, and spiritual consciousnesses would have a better grasp of the world’s minimum accepted moral standard.  Apparently morality and ethics aren’t part of ALL seminaries.

Nine years later, I’m sitting in a 20 by 20 barracks room with a microwave, a Keurig coffee maker, cable TV, and wireless internet.  I will spend this weekend, along with one every month, studying how to employ far reaching, intelligent, and powerful weaponry; how to bring wide ranging equipment, people, and capabilities to bear; and how to destroy the various enemies our government has declared.  I have just come back from almost three weeks in one of our allies’ homelands (one who was our mortal enemy less than a century ago).  I have deployed, fired in anger, returned, rebuilt, loved, hated, earned and lost.  I bought a house, got engaged, bought and sold vehicles, and learned new food, new hobbies, new sports.  I got a passport, and have put it to fantastic use.  My opponents are still hiding in caves and behind children, or alternatively letting their people starve to death to power their nuclear ambitions.

Americans appear to be more afraid and less trusting of foreigners and our own government (both sides).  Hopefully, that appearance is only an appearance, and we have made progress in improving the world in the last nine years.  Hopefully, at ten years, we’ll have made even more.

Today, I attended the retirement of a Navy Chief of twenty one years.  There was nothing unusual about the retirement; they’re mostly canned scripts.  Today, however, the “passing of the flag” meant a little bit more.  The acknowledgment of the sacrifices of the Chief’s family had a little more impact.  Today, seeing a vital shipmate in this war turn a corner of his life, hearing him piped ashore, I realized how important it is to say to him, “Shipmate, we relieve you of the watch.”  He now gets to enjoy those freedoms he has defended and sacrificed for over twenty one years.  Those of us who remain will continue to stand the line, and we will never forget that which you have given us, as we will never forget that day nine years ago.

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