Oh say can you see?

Baltimore City is just a short drive from Central Pennsylvania. The Inner Harbor is both beautiful and inspiring as a testament to what man is capable of doing when there is a positive reason to do so. High rise hotels and gleaming offices with mirrored exteriors compete for space in the skyline. Large corporations have found a home here or at least have a large representation. Commerce seems to be very much alive even in the shadows of the recent “Great Recession”. Baltimore 2011 059Baltimore 2011 160

You can find all kinds of people in the Inner Harbor area. People from every corner of the world came here and still come to enjoy a unique lifestyle. The neighborhood food choices are only as limited as your time to find them. Water taxis scoot all around the Harbor to the various historic points for a low fee and if you can’t find something there you like, you might just be a little too picky.

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In the center of the Harbor is a maritime museum which has so much to offer. The USS Constellation lies in state and serves as both an education tool for and a means to celebrate her history with catered dinners on deck. The Boy Scouts camp on her as well as the nearby vessels of interest. One of those vessels is of course the World War 2 submarine, the USS Torsk

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I don’t want to spend a lot of time on the history of this fine boat since it has been done by so many writers that are better than me. For those of you interested, here is the volunteer organization’s web site : http://usstorsk.org/

I do have to complement the people who have done so much work on her and have to say that she stands very well through the test of time thanks to their hard work. You owe yourself and your family a trip if for no other reason to pay homage to one of the greats. She is credited with the last sinking of World War 2 which capped off a very successful war record. She played a few important roles in the Cold War and finally ended up being given to Baltimore city in September 1972.

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The men of Torsk are a good example of the finest generation. Ordinary guys with high school educations led by individualistic officers who may have come from any of the thousands of colleges in the country at the time. Together they went on long patrols into unknown dangers from the sea itself and the many weapons the enemy had waiting for them. 52 boats never came back.

There was limited fresh water, food was better than most of the services but still limited by the time away and the minimum amount of storage for the good stuff. The Tridents of today with their modular food systems would blow the old guys away. But these guys knew that sacrifice was part of the game. If a boat was going to have a successful patrol, it had to have a smart crew with guts and a willingness to sacrifice whatever it took to get the job done. I have done a number of things in my life but being a part of a fraternity that exemplifies service to country is one of my most cherished.

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We were lucky to have a room facing the harbor on the eighth floor. The weather was unseasonable for fall and there were little to no clouds the entire time we were there. That’s why it was so amazing on the second morning when I woke up before sunrise, I could look in the direction of Fort McHenry and imagine the sight that morning after the British tried to destroy the fledgling country.

The night before must have been terrifying as the British threw everything they had at the fort. Capitulation was widely expected by the Royal Navy so it must have come as quite a shock to see that large banner still flying. The fort had held How tough do you think the people in that fort had to be? How many sacrifices to keep the new country in one piece while it struggled to grow?

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I have to tell you I got chills looking out over that cloudless morning as the sun came up. It gave me some hope. The people who gave these sacrifices must have passed on some of their DNA to today. I see it in my nephews who volunteered to serve their country after 9 11. I see it in people who go to work every day and make things that can be sold to help their families grow and strengthen. Many of the people I have worked beside since retiring from the Navy have paid for their children’s educations so they could have a better life. Offices and workspaces are filled with proud parent’s evidence of their children’s achievements. College colors and banners, clippings from newspapers, and proud pictures of those same kids Graduating.

One thing happened in Baltimore that alarmed me a bit. It came in the form of a gathering of people across from the place where we stayed. These people wanted to do something called Occupy Baltimore. They had signs all over the place indicating their displeasure with their current situation. Apparently it has been caused by greed or something like that. We didn’t go too close. Despite many years spent on crowded submarines for long periods of time, there are some smells that even I can’t tolerate. Their demands are no more identifiable than the people who are squatting new Wall Street. Their garbage was quickly beginning to resemble the original site.

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One sign that particularly got my attention was a large banner stretched across a Light Street crossover that read “End Capital”. I am sure that it was supposed to mean end capitalism but you know you can never be really sure these days. The rest seemed to be mostly interested in arresting everyone from George Bush to Andrew Carnegie (which apparently no one taught them about his demise some years ago). All capitalism is bad, everyone should have an equal share and in a long list of how much people should be paid, soldiers and sailors would get nothing since we would no longer need a defense department (also evil).

Listen, I empathize with people who are having a rough time right now. I can assure you, our own family has had its share of issues in the past four years. But guess what? We pick ourselves up and don’t blame anybody for our circumstances. We get back to work and supporting our communities, our churches and our country with our work and contributions (taxes). We fly the flag in the manner it was meant to be flown, we still do our best to vote in the manner which we are accustomed to and in the end pay the bills for a lot of people who don’t.

I guess one of the things I have to remember is that all of the people who have actually made sacrifices to ensure this countries freedom never asked for much in return. Just a chance to raise a family in the best way they are able. I just don’t see how a group of people have been so easily led into a pathway that will do nothing more than hasten the end of the “Noble Experiment”. As for us, we are already looking for the next place to live that has a few more trees around it. If things go as they might, I don’t want to see the outcome. On the other hand, I think I might have one more good fight left in me.

Mister Mac

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