Today is Armed Forces Day. It is a day to remember all those who have gone before us and those who are serving our nation today - with some being in harms way. But in all the writings and videos and television coverage, the focus is on the Army, Marines and Air Force who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are two other branches that do not get much coverage (unless it is to show jets being launched or recovered on a carrier) and they are the sea going US Navy and US Coast Guard.
One owns the oceans of the world, the other owns the coast lines of the US. And let it be know that some of the bravest men and women in the world are those sailors of the US Coast Guard. When the weather is foul and small vessels are called into port, the USCG is heading out to make sure they get in safe. They patrol our coast searching for drug runners, for boats and ships in distress, for illegal aliens trying to sneak into the country. And the sky’s are full of choppers pulling people out of rough seas, sinking ships and off stranded boats. Rock on Dudes.
The other is the US Navy. We didn’t get shot at like the Army, Air Force and Marines, but the duty at sea is just as dangerous. And interesting. It is a way different life style than the dirt pounding, sand scraping, dust eating, bullet dodging dudes we revere who are in harms way. In ’06 I posted the below and though I would bring it back today in honor of the dudes and dudettes on the sea and serving at Naval Stations across the globe. And to give you a little look at my fellow shipmates who ride the waves of the world.
Life At Sea I was watching an old movie about the US Navy and life at sea. It is amazing how they depict life on a Navy ship. And for you landlubbers (except for a submarine) large surface vessels are called SHIPS. A boat goes on a ship or taxies sailors from a ship to sore. A submarine, though, is called a boat from tradition. Anyway, I watch the movie and noticed that everyone walked normal. No one swayed, staggered or held on to objects as they move around the ship. Coffee cups sat on the tables and desks without support. Curtains (on a Navy ship?!?) did not swing to and fro. The only time I ever saw conditions like that was when we were in dry docks.
There are two things that are constant on a ship; movement and noise. Even on a calm day, which is rare, the ship is still moving up and down and left to right. With three foot swells you are walking up hill leaning to the right then down hill leaning to the left. During a storm or typhoon (especially a typhoon) a wise seaman will go from uncomfortable to petrified in a matter of seconds. The ship I was on (USS Frank E. Evans DD754 seen above) could take a 45 degree roll and still recover, but if a wave hit her again while at this angle, she could role on over. Many have. So, as a cocky 18 year old, sitting on a radar scope having fun like I was at Six Flags on a roller coaster and I see a man with many years of sea experience turn white and swallow hard, it is pretty obvious that I should rethink my situation and be concerned. But those were the extremes. Mostly it is just movement.
On normal sea duty you eat, sleep, work and relax with constant noise and movement. You learn to eat with one hand while holding the food tray with the other, trying to keep it level. You stand with your legs spread wide and knees slightly bent to absorb the jolts and swings. If for some reason you wake up and it is totally quiet, you don’t ask what’s going on. You get you ass topside and on the main deck as soon as you can. If everything is okay, you can go back for your clothes later. If not, then you have a better chance of survival than being trapped blow deck (like 74 sailors, one my friend, when the Evans was cut in half in 69’ and the front half went down in under three minuets.)
Despite the danger and all, it was still a pretty good life. There’s danger in everything we do, so you don’t dwell on that aspect. You just stay aware of what is around you at all times. So the next time you watch a movie about the Navy, remember it’s just a movie. If you want to know what it is really like, talk to a sailor (and thank him/her for serving while we slept safe and comfortable.)
As the saying goes, "If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a vet."
Thanks, guys and gals, for being there and making our country a better and safer place to live (regardless of how much Obama is trying to screw it up) and for giving of yourself of much less pay than you could make in civilian life. You are truly my heroes.. .