Pontifications: Observing Veterans Day

By Scott Hamilton

Nov. 11, 2019, © Leeham News: Today is Veterans Day observance in the USA. I’m going to make a rare departure from discussing commercial aviation issues to talk about the military.

I never served—my lottery number during the Vietnam era was too high and, with this unpopular war, I didn’t have a desire to join the Army. My brother had been drafted and received orders for Vietnam. On the day of his departure to the Southeast Asian country, which also happened to be his birthday, his unit’s orders were changed. They went to Stuttgart, Germany, where he served the remainder of his two year duty.

Our servicemen of that era were frowned upon because of Vietnam. I can truthfully say I did not join this view, reserving my disdain for the leadership in Washington DC.

But I did notice that as I got older, my respect for the military grew and grew.

Three hour tour

In 2000, I had the privilege of taking a VIP tour on the USS Alabama, a Trident nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, returning from patrol to its base at Bangor (WA).

It was a three hour tour, but it was no Gilligan’s Island. We met the sub in the middle of Hood Canal by tug, walking across the missile hatches and descending into the bowels of this 18,000 ton boat. The Alabama submerged into Dabob Bay and ran through some drills.

The group–10 of us—talked with the officers and the men. The enlisted men—some of them were just 18-20 years old—had enormous responsibility, with 24 MIRV nuclear missiles in the charge.

To this day, I will never forget what the captain said. The mission of a US Trident nuclear missile sub is deterrence. If they ever had to fire their missiles, this mission failed.

In 2009, I had the good fortune to be invited onto a two-day, two-night cruise on the USS Maryland, another Trident sub.

This was the USS Alabama experience magnified. Here is the account I wrote at the time.


The experience I had that forever elevated the level of respect I have for the military was visiting Normandy in 2006.

Omaha Beach. Sainte-MèreÉglise. The American Normandy Cemetery and Memorial. Arromanches.

Unless you’ve seen these and other places in person, you can’t adequately describe the feeling you come away with, the feeling of bravery and sacrifice the Americans—and the British, Canadians and French Resistance—endured.

The American Normandy Cemetery is hallowed ground to me. And every grave is facing West, toward the US. Where known, the Star of David is on the cross for the Jewish soldier resting forever there.

I speak above from an American viewpoint, but the sentiments apply to the men and women in Armed Forces everywhere, in every war.

Just last week, Donald Trump Jr. recounted how he was changed by seeing Arlington National Cemetery and it made him realize the financial sacrifices his family made when Daddy won the presidency. To equate this debatable point with the sacrifices these brave men and women made for the United States dishonors them.

Tom Brokaw, the long-time anchor of NBC News, wrote a book in 1998 about the USA’s World War II soldiers, The Greatest Generation. He wasn’t kidding.



7 Comments on “Pontifications: Observing Veterans Day

  1. Scott, “The mission of a US Trident nuclear missile sub is deterrence”, this is exactly the point.

    I served in an active war zone, a true soldier trains, and serves to preserve peace!

    War is not glamorous, war is not noble, it is utter stupidity, unfortunately sometimes it is also necessary.

    I attended a service yesterday to honour the fallen.

    Today, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, I will observe a 2 minute silence to remember all those who died so that we might enjoy the freedom that we have, as well as those who currently serve to maintain our freedom.

  2. I grew up in Australia under the dreadful pall of the draft for Vietnam War but by the time I was 12 the draft had ended. I actually thought the war was just, probably would have idealistically gullibly gone, but eventually realized that everyone was lying, politicians media, ours, theirs, making up vents and sending young men to spill blood with terms of engagement and moral judgment that prevented them from winning was unspeakably wrong. Before I went to university I worked a year in the Department of Veterans Affairs paying medical invoices for veterans and met many that had burns or lost limbs. As a young boy with two German patents I often experienced taunts for being nazi etc but I was always treated respectfully and kindly by veterans. I always felt overcome at ANZAC day. As far as Donald Trump Jnr goes I will go into bat for him. First off all kudos for visiting Arlington. It took me a long while to find his words in context since the MSM now dominates search rankings. My immediate unequivocal impression, and it is my genuine impression, is that he is not comparing his families sacrifices in any way to that of fallen soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. His sentiment is being misrepresented uncharitably. He is saying he feels that the sacrifices his family is making for the Presidency is about honoring the legacy of sacrifice the fallen men had made. He might have chosen words less easy to misuse but he said he was overcome. We get many articles from US media reposted in Australian media and of recent I have to say I have never seen a period which has been so viscous in 40 years in terms of hack jobs and media rants. Our Aus media is not any better. The Trump family has been hauled in front of inquest and inquiries whose primary purpose is not the terms of the inquiry but to find minor contradiction under oath that can be criminalized. The young Trump boy Barron has been threatened and ridiculed, marriages put under pressure, slanders spread. If the truth was outed there would never be a war again.

    • We must be about the same age. A couple of people I know who went to Vietnam found the hard part was defending an undefandably bad government.

  3. Scott. I mean no offense, but to even bring politics into the conversation about my brothers whose names rest on a wall in DC does not do them the honor they deserve.

    Viet Nam 1967-1968

  4. My brother served on the boomers. I still don’t know that they have the recognition they deserve for what they did in the cold war and continue to do as the most viable deterrence we have (you can’t get to them)

    I could not be more envious of Scott and a ride on the boat.

    I did get to spend 5 months total with my brother on two of his off cycles so got a lot of in depth on what they went through.

    Keeping those early boomers working was a rough job. The Plants always were solid but the support system like water and air conditioning were in their infancy.

    His worst was the Air Conditioning as they elected not to overhaul the two main unit during their refit.

    They ran about half capability as they were worn out, so they had to run two of them in port. Huge balancing act and blowing the baloney cables due to excess power draw that were intended for only one.

    My dad served in Gunboats in the Pacific LCI(R) and LCI(G) , my Uncle on his side served in the 101st – both high rates of casualties.

    I asked my Uncle one time how they got through at Bastogne, he said I don’t know and I don’t believe we did it now

    Sadly my dad died when I was 11 and only some memories of him talking about the Kamikazes attacks.

  5. I have no issue with your feelings nor expressing your thoughts.

    I thank you for the service to the ideal of the United Sates even if we often fail in a great many ways the men and women who serve.

    For the shakers and movers its about money and power and the minerals, for most of us its a quiet street to live our live on that is where the heart is.