I will Salute 36

Forty six years ago, I raised my right hand in a room full of strangers and pledged to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. I solemnly swore to do so while standing facing the flag that represents this country. For all of the years since then, that flag has played a central role in my life.

I watched her fly as a green recruit and came to understand she is more than just another piece of cloth. I watched her fly from the deck of many submarines and ships at bases all over the world. I listened with pride one night in Yokosuka Japan while a shipmate played Taps as we retired her for the day. I felt the crushing weight of seeing a comrade under her in a casket bound for home. I felt sadness at the deaths of so many veterans who also shared her as a final shroud.

It has never occurred to me that I would do anything but salute her when given the chance. My generation saw the rupture that was known as Vietnam and we saw the riots of the sixties. But the flag was an eternal symbol that gradually helped us to refocus. Now I see that it is becoming too common place that people feel they need to burn her and trample on her. They callously abuse the freedom and liberty we have preserved for them to use her as a blunt object with which to make their point. Politicians kneel and disrespect her for shallow and ignorant reasons. The courts have even given them license and liberty to do so.

But not me.

I will salute.


I have seen her flying on a cloudless day over the graves of so many men and women who gave their last breath to protect her in places like Arlington and too many other cemeteries to count.

I will salute.

I have stood on the platform above the once mighty Arizona and cried while I read the names on the wall of honored dead. I have done the same at the inward most corner of the Vietnam Wall. In each case, I could look up and see her standing guard.


I will salute.


I have spent time with the men and women whose bodies are broken but their spirits still soar as they revere her. Each time the anthem plays, they sit upright or struggle to their feet if they are able and face her one more time.


I will salute.


I have felt the harsh sand beneath my feet at Normandy and heard the wind singing of their glory and sadness on that fateful day. High above in the cliffs, I have heard the echoes of guns that tried to silence her. But they are silent now and SHE flies above their captured forts.


I will salute.


From coast to coast, city to city, borough to borough, I have seen her citizens fly her in remembrance of the bravest and the best and with a promise to protect their children’s future.


I will salute.


While others choose to use her as a sad symbol of protest and a lightning rod for a never ending litany of real and perceived offences, I know her real meaning. Until my dying day when I can no longer stand, I will find the strength to straighten my body until it is properly ready to render honors one last time.

Even then, I will salute.

Bob MacPherson July 27, 2018

 

Attention on Deck: Mare Island Naval Cemetery Needs Your Help Reply

It is fitting on Memorial Day weekend that we honor those who have died in service to our country.

Many of us also remember those who served on active duty in peace or war time and have passed on to the final muster.

This morning, I got an email from Nestor Aliga asking for help in spreading the word about a proposal that would honor the many men who are interred at the Mare Island Naval Cemetery that has been forgotten by the country.

I am including Nestor’s email and contact information (with his permission) so that you can help to make this dream a reality.

I hope you will consider joining me in this mission.

Mister Mac

 

Dear fellow Veterans, Service members, and Friends,

The Mare Island Naval Cemetery (MINC) is the oldest military cemetery on the west coast. It is the final resting place for over 800 of our country’s heroes who served since the War of 1812. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients – James Cooney, William Halford, and Alexander Parker – are buried there.

PUBLIC LAW 93-43 dated June 18, 1973 mandated that jurisdiction over naval cemeteries – including MINC – must immediately be transferred from the Navy to the Veterans Affairs (VA). However, that law was somehow ignored by the Navy and the VA in 1973 and during the Base Realignment and Closure process in 1993. The federal government left MINC behind and did not provide any funding to restore it to honorable conditions nor any support for its immense ongoing maintenance.

On April 18, 2018, the City of Vallejo stated its willingness to relinquish control of MINC to the federal government. This letter was critical because it cleared a “critical path” for our Representative Mike Thompson (CA-05) to introduce H.R. 5588 on April 23, 2018 and for our Senator Dianne Feinstein to introduce S.2881 on May 17, 2018. Their bills direct the VA to seek an agreement with and for the City of Vallejo to transfer control of MINC to the VA. MINC would be under the VA National Cemetery Administration – whose mission is to maintain our Veterans’ cemeteries as national shrines.

State Senator Bill Dodd and Assembly member Tim Grayson – co-authors of California (CA) Senate Joint Resolution #26 which urges all of CA’s federally elected officials to support the transfer of MINC to the VA – fully support H.R.5588 and S.2881. The CA State Commanders Veterans Council – sanctioned by CA Military and Veterans Code Sect. 73.4 and the official voice of CA’s 1.8 million Veterans – also endorses H.R.5588 and S.2881.

So what are the next critical steps and how can you our fellow Americans assist with a fast-break?

Go to this Navy League website:

http://cqrcengage.com/navyleague/app/onestep-write-a-letter?2&engagementId=476893

Then write this message:

Please co-sponsor H.R.5588 and/or S.2881 today so they can be hotlined and passed in 2018.

OR go to:

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

https://www.house.gov/representatives

Select your elected officials, then write this message:

Please co-sponsor H.R.5588 and/or S.2881 today so they can be hotlined and passed in 2018.

We ardently believe that this legislation can be done in 2018 like what happened with the Clark Veterans Cemetery in the Philippines – which was abandoned in 1991. In 2012, H.R.4168 “Caring for the Fallen Act” and S.2320 “Remembering America’s Forgotten Veterans Cemetery Act of 2012” were introduced, voted before the year-end recess, and Public Law 112-260 was signed in 2013. That cemetery is back to national shrine conditions.

Don’t our American Veterans buried in the oldest military cemetery on the west coast deserve as much respect as our Veterans buried in the Philippines or in Europe or at our national cemeteries?

We Americans are certainly capable of flexing our muscle to “make right a historic wrong.” I urge all of us to urgently act and “show-of-force” our own American power!

Very Respectfully,

Nestor Aliga

Nestor.Aliga@comcast.net 

707-853-0062

“Brandywine, Brandywine this is Singing Bush. Gertrude Check.” 3

There should be no question in anyone’s mind that submarines are one of the most challenging duties any person could ever volunteer for. The men and now women who sail on these unique ships do so with the understanding that all care has been taken to provide for their safety but in the end, safety takes a place in line behind the word “mission”. I have spoken with combat veterans who faced live fire who told me that they could not see themselves serving on board one of these underwater craft. Yet year over year since 1900, American Bluejackets and Officers have raised their hands and taken an oath to defend the country while serving within the confines of a steel tube, closed on both ends, surrounded by the darkness of the world’s largest battlegrounds: the oceans.

When things go according to plan, the crew submerges the ship, conducts their business in silence and returns to some port with stories they are not permitted to tell. Like the contents of a black hole, you are aware that something happened there, but it is only for those who participate to understand the whole story. Some spend a few years in this life and some spend a career. All have a unique story and all have seen and done things that range from the tedious to the terrifying.

Sadly, some join a special group that is known to the submarine family as “On Eternal Patrol”. The unfortunate members who gain this status gain entry in ways that are the stuff of every submariner’s nightmares. Whether it was fire, flooding, loss of propulsion, an enemy attack, or any of a hundred things that went wrong, the boat often serves as a forever resting place for their physical remains. http://www.oneternalpatrol.com/uss-scorpion-589.htm

The Navy marks this day, May 22nd as the official loss date of the USS Scorpion. This is the official US Navy History of the USS Scorpion

“USS SCORPION was laid down on 20 August 1958 by the Electric Boat Division, General Dynamics Corp., Groton, Conn.; launched on 19 December 1959; sponsored by Mrs. Elizabeth S. Morrison; and commissioned on 29 July 1960, Comdr. Norman B. Bessac in command.

Assigned to Submarine Squadron 6, Division 62, SCORPION departed New London, Conn., on 24 August for a two-month deployment in European waters. During that period, she participated in exercises with units of the 6th Fleet and of other NATO navies. After returning to New England in late October, she trained along the eastern seaboard until May 1961, then crossed the Atlantic again for operations which took her into the summer. On 9 August, she returned to New London and, a month later, shifted to Norfolk, Va.

With Norfolk her home port for the remainder of her career, SCORPION specialized in the development of nuclear submarine warfare tactics. Varying her role from hunter to hunted, she participated in exercises which ranged along the Atlantic coast and in the Bermuda and Puerto Rican operating areas; then, from June 1963 to May 1964, she interrupted her operations for an overhaul at Charleston, S.C. Resuming duty off the eastern seaboard in late spring, she again interrupted that duty from 4 August to 8 October to make a transatlantic patrol. In the spring of 1965, she conducted a similar patrol.

During the late winter and early spring of 1966, and again in the fall, she was deployed for special operations. Following the completion of those assignments, her commanding officer received the Navy Commendation Medal for outstanding leadership, foresight, and professional skill. Other SCORPION officers and men were cited for meritorious achievement.

On 1 February 1967, SCORPION entered the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for another extended overhaul. In late October, she commenced refresher training and weapons system acceptance tests. Following type training out of Norfolk, she got underway on 15 February 1968 for a Mediterranean deployment. She operated with the 6th Fleet, into May, then headed west. On 21 May, she indicated her position to be about 50 miles south of the Azores. Six days later, she was reported overdue at Norfolk.

A search was initiated, but, on 5 June, SCORPION and her crew were declared “presumed lost.” Her name was struck from the Navy list on 30 June.

The search continued, however; and, at the end of October, the Navy’s oceanographic research ship, MIZAR (T-AGOR 11) located sections of SCORPION’s hull in more than 10,000 feet of water about 400 miles southwest of the Azores. Subsequently, the Court of Inquiry was reconvened and other vessels, including the submersible TRIESTE were dispatched to the scene, but, despite the myriad of data and pictures collected and studied, the cause of the loss remains a mystery.”

For an unusually long period, beginning shortly before midnight on 20 May and ending after midnight 21 May, Scorpion attempted to send radio traffic to Naval Station Rota, but was only able to reach a Navy communications station in Nea Makri, Greece, which forwarded Scorpion’s messages to ComSubLant. Lt. John Roberts was handed Commander Slattery’s last message, that he was closing on the Soviet submarine and research group, running at a steady 15 knots at 350 feet “to begin surveillance of the Soviets”. Six days later the media reported she was overdue at Norfolk.

The message read: “Brandywine, Brandywine this is Singing Bush. Gertrude Check.”

Over the years, many stories have emerged from people who were on active duty at that time that tell of a harrowing choice of alternatives to explain the “mystery”. I will wait to go on my own personal “Eternal Patrol” and try and find the crewmembers themselves to find the real answer. Until then , I just know they are gone. They are heroes in the sense that they gave their all for their country. For that reason, I salute their memory and pray for those who still traverse the oceans in these underwater vessels. May the number of dives and surfaces always be equal in the end.

Mister Mac

Too soon 12

You left us too soon.

I know that your life had already played out and the surgeries and recoveries were getting harder to face. But I had a few more questions I wanted to ask. I’ve had twenty five years to think about them and it still frustrates me that I can’t pick up the phone and call you to seek the answers. Remember we used to talk every Saturday morning when I wasn’t under the water or overseas. I can’t tell you how many years its taken me to get over the fact that I can’t just pick up a simple phone and call you. I can’t believe how much I took that for granted.

Your timing was perfect as always. The morning you died, the man who had made my life a living hell boarded a plane in Miami and headed to his well deserved fate on the other side of the world. You stayed with me as I dealt with the greatest sense of professional frustration I had known up to that point. A career in the Navy that was stopped short of the final goal seemed to be the biggest hurdle in my life. But you were there for me through all of it. You showed me what it was like to overcome obstacles that were bigger than the frustrations I felt at having been cheated out of a better career.

You taught me to pray, read the bible, worship the one true God, be honorable and be true to your principles. It hasn’t always been easy. Sometimes things still happen even when you are trying to do the right thing. Many times I have learned the hard lesson of failures. But I can assure you that in the end, your example was always in the back of my mind as I overcame those obstacles. You taught me that every defeat is a pathway to victory. You climb over the wreckage and keep moving forward. Laying down and crying is not the way forward. The sun will rise again tomorrow.

You taught me to love. It took most of our lives together before you could say the words. Someday we will have to talk about that too. There were times growing up when I suspected it but didn’t quite know for sure if I would ever hear the words. To be fair, I was a bit difficult to love.  I broke more than my share of promises and wrecked your favorite car. My choice of girls probably drove you a bit crazy. Sometimes I wanted to fly when I should have been walking. Its interesting that it was after the worst mistakes were in the rear view mirror, you finally told me that you loved me. Maybe we just had to get through those days.

The last morning I talked to you, you were not really very energetic like you had always been. But your words were clear and we said goodbye with a shared “I love you.” They told me you had gone home after the ship was well out to sea. Maybe its better that way. I can still be a little impulsive and I may have missed a ship’s movement for the very first time. I know you would not have wanted that.

The day we laid your remains to rest was a blur. I barely saw the many people who came to pay their last respects. I distantly remember the crossed hook and ladder fire truck ladders at the entrance to the cemetery. The flyover was touching but I wish I had a recording of the moment. They draped your coffin with the one symbol that meant as much to you as any earthly symbol – the American flag that I still have in a special place.

I know I will see you soon enough. I am nearly the same age as you were when you passed. I have twenty five years of stored up questions for you. I hope you are well rested since I am very anxious to hear your replies. I can still see us walking together in the same cemetery where we buried your earthly body and remember when you hugged me as I went off to see the world. I would trade that whole world for another chance to walk with you again.

To anyone who finds this message and has read this far, I would only offer this thought. Never pass up a chance to say “I Love You” to someone you really love. Never miss the chance to hug them either. You just don’t know when they too will be taken away too soon.

Mister Mac