In the misty legends of Scotland, there are many songs that are interwoven with the victories and defeats of her native sons in glorious conflicts. The great pipes blew violently across the field as part of the offensive tactics of the Chiefs.
You can almost feel them pierce the air of a cold Scottish morning while lines of kilted warriors come racing towards each other. The louder the noise, the more it covers the sound of axes crashing into metal and bone. The cries of the mortally wounded are covered with the bleating of the air rushing through the reeds until the last sword is swung and the battle is done.
In the end, it is the music alone that remains. Lives end. Legends are often the only survivors of a grand melee. Around the campfires at night, men tell tales of the way the fight travelled form one end of the field to another. Who won is often determined by who had the best version that would last through antiquity and be recorded by a poet or scribe. The main goal was to create a lasting enough memory to justify their brave sacrifices and try to calm a mother’s broken heart.
The Flowers of the Forest is a memorial song derived from one of the greatest and noblest defeats Scotland ever suffered, the Battle of Flodden Field. Some sources claim that over 10,000 Scottish souls were lost including many of the nobles of the auld Scotland.
The song has been used again and again over the years to honor and commemorate the lives of men fallen in battle from across the British Isles. Besides Amazing Grace, it will always be one of the most memorable of laments to those who have served under the Union Jack.
As a younger man, I was part of another great force that fought a different kind of war. Our greatest goal was to never use the weapons that we had at our disposal. More importantly, we wanted to make sure the other guy knew that he would pay an unimaginable price if he ever used his.
The Cold War
The longest and most expensive war in modern history was the shadow war that started in 1945 barely a few days after the end of World War 2. The Soviets had secretly integrated spies throughout the unsuspecting Western Countries and solidified their hold over the border countries. In a series of steps, each side ramped up their defensive and offensive postures and systems. The launch of Sputnik added a new dimension of threat and resulted in the birth of the strategic nuclear missile submarine programs for both sides.
The battles lasted until 1991
In December of that year, the Soviet Union gives up its last gasp of life and on Christmas Day 1991, the Hammer and Sickle was lowered over the Kremlin for the last time.
In the twenty years since that fateful day, many changes have occurred on both sides
A different kind of war has emerged for a new generation and the old generation has begun to quietly take their place in the Forest. There is no greater reminder to the men of that age than the rise of a new kind of “Flower” in the shape of monuments to glorious days of the past.
While I still think I am young at heart, nothing ages you quicker than seeing the sail of a boat you served on placed on a hill side with markers and monuments all around it.
Nothing brings back the memories faster than seeing that cold metal symbol forever landlocked instead of plowing through the oceans protecting both her crew and the nation she served.
I am grateful for the chance to see her one more time and bring back the memories of red lights and flank speed runs and angles and dangles. I am filled with emotion for those who have slowly passed into the great beyond, some known and others only found in a surprise announcement from a friend on a submarine page or Facebook.
Thanks to all those who cared for and supported their brothers on Tenders, shore facilities and Dry docks in far away lands or here at home. Your service was a great contribution to the peace that was maintained.
Thanks to the men who defied logic and manned the boats that plied the ocean’s deep. Your sacrifice will never be fully recognized but we live in a better place because of it. If you do not belong to USSVI, I would encourage you to do so today. This great organization is keeping the memory of our brothers alive and helping to make a difference for the future.
It is a shame that there is no national recognition of those Flowers of the Forest who helped to win that war.
I want to personally thank all of the ones who remain and especially all of those who have passed.
Twenty years ago this month,
all of your efforts resulted in a great victory.
God Bless You.
Note: Every war fought by the United States, was honored by a medal issued to those members authorized and who displayed honorable service. The Cold War has never been officially recognized for this type of honor. While some organizations have created a medal for the time period, it has never been officially recognized by the Federal Government.