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.
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-Mère–Église. 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.