Adversity is a refining fire. 9

I achieved a minor but important breakthrough this morning at around 4:50 AM when Angus the dog decided he needed to get up and go outside.

I have been struggling for months to properly title the book project I have been working on now for about five years. The last three chapters have been the hardest since these chapters cover the most well known parts of my subject, Captain Cassin Young, US Navy Medal of Honor awardee (deceased).

The breakthrough is that I believe I have the name that fits the work I have done and best describes what I want people to see when they pick up the book.

I will reveal that in the weeks to come.

Debbie and I have tried to get into a habit each day of studying God’s word through the Bible and some study guides we purchased for individual chapters. The study has been a lot like going back to school and we have both gained much from reading and looking at the many resources. This morning’s lesson for me came from Ecclesiastes Chapter 7 verses 1-2.  These verses focus on adversity and how we are defined in its shadow.

We include a prayer each day for the country, the President and Vice President and their families and for all of those who love and protect this country.

While there are some who see nothing but hatred in this country because of the past, we see the goodness and the mercy that happens here every day. Without freedom, there is little chance for people to rise up from the ashes of adversity, no chance for charity that overcomes greed and absolutely no hope for a world that is broken in so many ways.

My ancestors came to America under very adverse circumstances and because of the land of their birth were faced with tremendous adversity. Yet they managed to use the freedoms and opportunities that were available to rise above those humble beginnings. We have doctors, lawyers, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard Officers, teachers, millworkers and business men and women of every kind in our family. Nearly all have contributed to the song we call “America the Beautiful” and every single one that is alive stands for the pledge of allegiance.

We rise or fail when we remember that adversity is the refining fire that either prepares us all for our destiny or gives us the excuse to never achieve what we should.

I am hoping to have the book completed by the end of July. Then will start the process of editing and hopefully finding the right publisher. But I am absolutely passionate about the story the book will tell and the life of Captain Cassin Young. I hope passion equals success.

Mister Mac

“My child is a submariner… I’ll sleep when they come home” 5

I will never forget that day in June 1972 when my parents came to Pittsburgh International Airport to see me off on my way to Boot Camp. I was not the first in my family to leave home (big brother went to a nearby college three years earlier) but I was the first to go into the military. Dad had proudly served in World War 2 and I did not want to miss the adventure that I knew lay ahead of me.

Back in those days, the families could go to the gate with no problems and Mom, Dad, and my high school sweetheart all came to see me leave to go to the faraway land of Lincoln where the Navy had one of its three Boot Camps. (I had asked for Orlando and San Diego so of course was sent to Great Lakes outside of Chicago IL.) There were a lot of hugs and a few kisses and then it was up the ramp. I turned just before I went through the door and saw them all standing there. The girlfriend was sobbing, Dad had his arm around Mom, and Mom just had this sad look on her face. One of her children was leaving forever and he would never be the same again.

The next six months were fast and filled with all kinds of new adventures. Boot Camp, Machinist Mate A school, and temporary duty when I failed to make the needed requirements for Nuc school. Somewhere in the whirlwind of activity, someone sat down with me and placed a pile of paperwork in front of me. Since I was no longer going to nuclear power training, there were some forms to sign and the need to refocus on a different path. One of the options was to volunteer to undergo submarine training and ultimately serve on a boat. I will freely admit that I didn’t give it much thought at the time. The idea of making an additional fifty five dollars a month seemed to be the biggest motivator at the time. The decision to volunteer would change my life. And it would change my Mom’s life, too.

I will freely admit that I have never been a Mom of a submariner. But I did have a Mom that had two boys on board submarines who would eventually serve for over twenty years. For nearly four of those years, my brother Tom was on the same boat with me.

I knew from the first minute I told them that Mom was worried. As a kid growing up, we were not allowed to have guns or motorcycles since they were too dangerous. She would wait up for me to come home from dates to make sure I was safe and no harm would come to me. I suppose that is what normal mothers do.

Mom used to worry, I am sure, but despite serving on a combined total of nine submarines, we both came home each and every time. The boats we served on had the highest level of quality of any that had ever been built. The training is and has been the finest in the entire world. Between Tom and I, I am sure that we went to over a hundred different schools and classes. The mission could be a bit dicey from time to time but the emphasis was always on safety.

Communications were not always easy back in the day. There was no internet and phone calls were pretty expensive. So we wrote a lot and called when we absolutely needed to. The infrequent visits home would be celebrations that we survived another mission. But I know now that the times for her had to be pretty hard. She was always enough of a patriot that she never complained about the life we had chosen. Like our wives, she was as much a part of the service as those of us that wore the uniforms.

So how did my Mom handle things?

While we were deployed, Mom worked with the veterans groups in the community and did her best to support active duty men and women with her volunteer work, contributions and activism. She focused on the things around her and remembered every day that her boys were volunteers that did so twice: once to become a United States Navy sailor and once to become a volunteer in the submarine force.

I pray for all of the sons and daughters who go to sea in submarines and ships.

There are no guarantees. But know that we have the finest Navy and submarine force anywhere in the world and their main focus is and should be on the mission to protect this country. But I also pray for all the Moms who sit at home and wait for their child to return safely home. When they do, you may notice they are a little different from when they were younger. That can’t be helped. They have seen and done things they will never be able to fully explain. But in their hearts, they are still your children and still love you for all of your sacrifices that allowed them to be who they are today.

Thanks Mom.

Mister Mac

“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

Just as I am … Farewell Billy Graham 7

There was a sad yet joyous announcement this morning as we started our day. The Reverend Billy Graham had passed from this world early on the morning of February 18, 2018.There was sadness in my heart as I started the mourning process for someone who had impacted my life and the lives of so many others, yet there was also joy in knowing that he had finally passed into the awaited Kingdom of Heaven at the age of 99 years and would no longer be constrained by the body that had long ago started to fail him.

Billy Graham is probably the world’s best known evangelist and his message crossed all boundaries of the Christian faith. “God Loves You”. Even as broken as we all are, Billy reminded us that with a redemptive heart and spirit and the grace of Jesus Christ, all have a pathway to the kingdom. His message reached hundreds of millions of people and created many spiritual leaders through the years using his Crusades.

In 1968, he brought his crusade to Pittsburgh and thousands came to hear his message. On September 4, 1968 at the Pitt Panthers Stadium, he came and spoke to a world of people who were troubled by the events going on around them. The Vietnam war was raging, protesters were filling the streets, the civil rights movement was in full swing, women’s liberation was on everyone’s minds and the old world was passing into history. Patriotism as passé. On September 8th, former Vice President Richard Nixon attended the Pittsburgh Crusade as he was closing his successful campaign to become the next President.

The call

And my family was in the stands. At the end of each Crusade, Billy called for people to come down and accept Jesus. My oldest brother went at the call. The choir was singing “Just as I am” and I also heard a small voice inside telling me not to miss this chance… so I got to my feet and at the age of fourteen walked down the concrete stairs out into the field. There were men there waiting for us to arrive and they brought us forward to be prayed upon. I don’t remember the prayers. I don’t remember anything especially spiritual happening at the time. Maybe I felt a little guilty about coming down since I wasn’t really sure what all this spiritual stuff was supposed to be about. But I signed the forms for more information and sure enough within a week, the newsletters started coming.

It didn’t stick with me at the time. I was fourteen and I was just about to enter a world where every manner of distraction would keep me off balance. I don’t think I am any different than many kids of that time. Peer pressure and the world’s rapidly changing landscape drove a wedge between us and our parents and our parent’s ways. The newsletters stopped coming at one point and were replaced with many other things. By the time I was seventeen, the Navy was the only path on my mind.

In all the years since, I have wondered if I didn’t try hard enough. Maybe if I had just listened to the words better that day in September 1968, my whole life would have been different. But through every trial and every journey, I still held the most important words he said that day strongly in my mind… “God Loves You”.

I am in the autumn of my life now. Maybe even the beginning of winter. But I have a great wife who keeps trying to help me come to terms with my spirituality. One of the ways she does this is to continue to be a prayer warrior and be a gentle reminder to share a daily devotional time with her. This year’s book (one of three we are using) is from Billy Graham’s Ministry and is called “Unto the Hills”. It’s a daily devotional with scriptures and thoughts Reverend Graham had over the course of his long ministry. After we heard the news and stumbled through breakfast, we sat down and I opened the book. The title of today’s lesson:

More than Conquerors

We are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Romans 8:37

Out of respect for the copyright, I will only share one part of the message.

“There is only one way to have victory over sin. That is to be so closely walking with Christ that sin no more abounds in your life, that sin becomes the exception with you rather than the rule.”

Today my old friend is walking side by side with his Savior Jesus Christ. As has been said so many times this morning by people far more important than me, I can hear Jesus saying, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

I will miss you Billy, but we will meet again. Thank you God for sharing your friend Billy Graham with us.

Mister Mac

 

Homecoming… its a harder journey than you think without brothers 13

When you get to a certain point in your life you start taking stock of what mattered.

The first seventeen or eighteen years of most people’s lives are the foundations for much of who they become. If you grew up in Middle America, your understanding of relationships, education, and spirituality are all forged from those basic foundations. I will admit that I truly struggled with all three of these in those early years. By the time I was seventeen, I had shown remarkably little interest or aptitude in any of the categories.

Perhaps because I was so much like him, my relationship with my Dad was tortured if nothing else. As I got older he got less well informed and my defiance ended at least once in a physical altercation (which I lost). As a middle kid, I never really fit into any of my brothers or sisters circles so mostly went out on my own. I saw a great description of how service members see themselves and the Navy person was described as being the adventurous middle child that left home and nobody cared. (To be fair, my Mom cried when I left but she was also convinced I would end up in Vietnam and get killed). One of my favorite family pictures is of me in uniform after I came home from Boot Camp. I never really noticed it until a short while ago but the looks on my sibling’s faces were pretty telling. “Can we just get this over with and aren’t you supposed to be leaving soon?” I know that look pretty well since I just saw it again a short while ago.

The education part was a struggle too. Don’t get me wrong, I loved to read, its just that the teachers kept making me read the wrong books. Given a choice, I would have read every book about the Navy and warfare that had ever been written. But it was the late sixties and early seventies and frankly we were on the cutting edge of books about hating wars and the military and the ecology was just beginning its rise to worship status. So I did the minimum and guaranteed that I would receive rejection letters from every college that I applied for. The only group that seemed to be interested were people in uniforms and frankly by the time I was seventeen, I was ready to get away from endless classes and boring curriculum.

I will save the spirituality part for another time. Let’s just say that God probably got tired of trying to get through to me. I am eternally grateful for the redemption I am assured of now but at the time, well, I was seventeen and bulletproof. The whole matter of a higher power just seemed a bit unnecessary.

Mom, Dad and my girlfriend saw me off to the airport and the real learning lessons of my life began.

In Boot Camp, I learned that you could rely on another person and it wasn’t on a phony or contrived basis. You were all going through the same testing and in the end, if you failed the team, you paid a price. So you learned to pay attention to details, pull your share, and trust your shipmates. After fourteen weeks (the war was still on and I was in the band), we graduated and were sent to our next commands or school. I found out quickly there were real consequences to failing and not some far off threat of a career opportunity. The steam and hydraulics that powered many ships could actually kill you just as quick as a bullet. The gasses used to refrigerate or air condition were invisible demons that replaced the very air that you need to breath. And every modern vessel relies on electricity in some form or another and that little devil will light you up just like a light bulb on your way to being dead.

Submarine school just made the learning more relevant. It seemed like from the first day you got there, you were exposed to more and more things that were designed to do one thing but actually had a side effect of doing another; killing you and your fellow submariners if you did it wrong. Hard to believe that its been forty five years this month (2018)

During all this learning, you start to figure out that even as dangerous as all of these things are, if you follow the directions and become qualified, you will find yourself surrounded with a whole group of people who have also committed themselves to not getting killed. As you grow, you find out that most if not all of them also know that working together as a team will push you beyond what you ever thought you could do. You found the capacity to overcome amazing odds together.

Over time, they become your family.

The members of the family often change because of duty rotations, but that family grows and grows. For those of us lucky enough to make a career of the Navy (even a shortened one or one that had broken service) you discover that these family members are the ones that have the most meaning. Outside of those of you who have had a great marriage like me, these are the people who made a difference in your life.

  • There is the Chief who took a very non-focused young Midwesterner and made him into a fire breathing sea devil capable of fighting a galley fire and setting a broken bone in a state four sea.
  • There is a shipmate that made you work your ass off for a qualification signature but was the first one to shake your hand when you put your fish on.
  • There is that first time that a non-qual comes to you and asks for help and you make sure they get the same advice and knowledge you did. You know that you will be able to count on them because you did your best to train them to the same high standard.
  • There is the shipmate who was so happy to get that letter from home only to find out his girlfriend grew tired of waiting and now he faces a future of uncertainty.
  • There is the watch section that has just spend a harrowing six hours doing something submariners never admit to outsiders they have done in defense of our country only to be racked out for a field day or drill.
  • There is a boat that always seems to be first in line when it comes to unplanned deployments. It’s almost as if you are the only boat in the harbor. But you suck it up, load stores and go do your job
  • There is a radio message to the Captain telling him that he needs to tell your shipmate that his Mom didn’t make it to the end of the patrol or mission. And we can’t go home just quite yet.

There is that day when you see each other years later at some boat reunion and all of the memories come flooding back. And you all hoist a beer and say

“Hell yes, I’d do it all again.”

You would do it all again with your brothers and for some of us a few sisters too. That is the often unstated part of the vow. The men and women you qualified with, suffered through long deployments with, struggled through untold hardships, and every once in a while blew off a little steam in a foreign port.

There is an old saying that you can’t go home again.

I believe there is some partial truth to that. The things that you saw and lived through for the first seventeen years of your life were all done in a place that probably didn’t move or grow very much while you were gone. They learned to live without you just like you learned to live without them. It’s the nature of things I suppose. In the past five years since we moved back to the area I grew up in, that has become abundantly clear. In fact, you often learn that some of those who never moved away actually resent you for thinking you could come back and have a role. They know nothing of your life just as you can’t possibly imagine why someone would miss a lifetime of adventures.

On days like those, I remember my brothers (and a few sisters of note).

I think about all the places we went and all the challenges we overcame. I think about the joy of seeing a brother advance in rank or get his dolphins. I know that they earned and did something that the average person can never understand. I am grateful for each and every one of my family that has stayed faithful and loyal over the past forty five plus years. You listened without judgement, you honored me when I deserved it and you tightened my chain on the times when I have been wrong. But you always did it in a way that showed me I could trust you. I hope when the final muster is taken, you can say the same about me.

Mister Mac

The Crew 5

The Crew

As I look back over the past forty five years, I keep wondering what it was about serving on submarines was the part of my life that had the most impact on my life. As I look around social media, it’s not too hard to see that I am not alone in that view. Don’t get me wrong. My marriage to Debbie and my parents were impactful and meaningful in many ways that transcend the service, but no other single thing has been as much of a driver as those days on board the boats I was a crew member of.

You can get a little tunnel vision looking back across all of those years and forget there were bad things. Not enough sleep, separation from the family and real world, stress that was off the charts surrounded by unbelievable boredom and sleeping on a foam mattress in a space the size of a coffin (if you were lucky). But there are the good memories that seem to overshadow most of those. When you are young and new to the game, it’s getting a signature on your qualification card. Not just an easy one but one of the really complicated ones that require an inordinate amount of knowledge and skill. With each succeeding signature, you come closer and closer to that goal. Not just the physical symbol of the dolphins, but knowing that you will be seen as a fully qualified member of the crew.

The current trend for many millennials is something called person branding. Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging. Tom Peters, a management Guru, is thought to have been the first to use and discuss this concept in a 1997 article.

Personal branding is the ongoing process of establishing a prescribed image or impression in the mind of others about an individual, group, or organization.

Being a submariner has always been about personal branding but in a bigger way. The focus as you qualify is very inward. You are trying your best to learn the knowledge and become an expert in the skills that make a good submariner. From damage control to operating the ship’s systems, you must be able to contribute in every sense of the need when the ship is operating or when it is involved in a casualty (real of practice). And everyone on board is a member of the combat and casualty teams. You might be a phone talker or you might be the nozzle man on the hose preparing to fight the infamous deep fat fryer fire but you will play some role.

My first experience on an aircraft carrier as a Chief (I was teaching classes while the Nimitz was underway) was a real eye opener. A drill was announced over the PA system and I was trying to rush to my battle station. What stunned me is that not everyone was moving at the speed of light to get to where they should have been. Only designated “Flying Squads” of DC men were in motion. I cannot even imagine that happening on any submarine I ever served on.

But the inward focus gives way to a crew focus once you qualify as a submariner. You have about five minutes to gloat that you have achieved something many never do or could do. Then you start to focus on actually learning how your role is part of the crew’s success. You qualify increasingly more complicated roles on the boat and you learn that you are now expected to train the ones that will come behind you. It is stunning when I look back how quickly the transition from non-qual to subject matter expert comes. Not because you are that amazing of a person but out of necessity.

The first time I found myself “in charge” was when I learned what real challenges are. Even on submarines, there is a small team for nearly every task (with the exception of the Corpsman and sometimes the Ship’s Yeoman). All of the other divisions have work related to their equipment and division’s responsibility. Each of those divisions need leaders and when you suddenly find yourself in charge on that special day, you pray that your training and the coaching you have received will be enough.

The branding for a submarine is twofold. You want to come back to the surface every time you dive and if you have any pride at all, you want your boat to be known and remembered as being the best. To be the best, you must first outperform the enemies abilities but you must also consistently rise to the top among a group of submariners that already think they are the best crews; your Squadron Mates.

To get there, you drill. Drills mean getting more proficient and better able to manage the unlimited challenges presented by operating in the ocean’s depths. All of that means sacrifice. Since there is no place to hide, sleep deprivation and personal sacrifices become common place. Tempers can often flare and we are often pushed to the limit. But the ship’s that drill the hardest are the ones who are rewarded with the recognition of external teams and the personal satisfaction of knowing you can take almost anything the ocean can throw at you.

All of this binds you together as a crew. The longer you serve on a boat, the more your personal brand is overshadowed by the brand of the boat. If you are really lucky, this will last for the rest of your life.

I have been away from the Navy and submarines now for many years. But I still proudly display my dolphins as the single greatest achievement of my career. More than my rank, more than my awards, more than the letters and medals that came from those days. I will always be glad that when my nation needed me, I was lucky enough to volunteer twice and serve with the greatest crews I could have ever asked for. That certainly includes my non-submarine crews but I am eternally grateful to have earned my fish.

Mister Mac

 

Happy Birthday to my Navy Family – 242 Years Strong 5

This speech was delivered to the Pittsburgh Area Navy Ball on October 20, 2017. The Ball was sponsored by the Pittsburgh Council of the Navy League of the United States and the McKeesport Pittsburgh Chief Petty Officer’s Association

Happy Birthday to my Family

Life is full of celebrations. Births, graduations, achievements, weddings, anniversaries. October is a month of celebrations for the Navy family and Navy League members as we celebrate the Navy’s 242nd birthday, Oct.13, Navy Day and Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday, Oct. 27.

For the Navy League, We use these occasions to remember and rededicate ourselves to our missions in support of our sea service personnel and their families and to educate the public and Congress on the importance of our sea services in defending our nation and its prosperity.

Some of us were also blessed to be part of something which helped to define us as individuals while serving the greatest nation the world has ever known. Some of us have had the honor and privilege of wearing a uniform of the United States Navy.

I had a pretty good life growing up in the Mon Valley. From my earliest memories, I had been surrounded by the call of the sea and service in the Navy. A faded black and white picture of my Grandfather in his Dress Blues from World War 1 hung on the wall. I inherited the picture and that uniform along with my Dad’s and it is striking how similar they are to my first uniform. The sturdy wool has endured for over a hundred years and the infamous thirteen buttons are still standing guard. The piping of white is a bit faded now but the stars still stand out on that collar. Stars that represent a country and a family,

From the minute I entered Boot Camp, I knew that I was a part of a much larger family. We learned skills and traditions and came to understand that this new family had a purpose. We were there to protect America and her allies from those who want to harm us. President Theodore Roosevelt, who we honor tonight for his support of a strong Navy stated in his second annual message to Congress on 2 December 1902:

“A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace.”

In the one hundred and fifteen years since he declared those words, we have seen that come true time and time again. When America has been best prepared to defend ourselves, we have enjoyed the fruits of that peace. But when America has lost its way and allowed its Navy family to shrink and not have the resources needed to be at the ready we have suffered setbacks.

One only has to look at Pearl Harbor to see the cost of underestimating the enemy. The loss of life and the ships that were sunk is a constant reminder to all Americans. As a member of the Navy family, I have openly cried when I heard taps played at the Arizona Memorial. The names on that wall are more than just etchings of a stone cutter. They are members of my Navy Family who gave their all.

75 Years ago, in a far off place called Guadalcanal, Marines, Army soldiers, Coast Guardsmen and Navy Men did the unexpected and pushed the Japanese back after a horrendous struggle. The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal will be remembered on November 12-13 as one of the greatest displays of heroism in our proud family history. An out gunned and out matched American fleet took enormous punishment and endured horrific losses, but in the end emerged victorious. From that night on, the Japanese forces were slowly but surely pushed all the way back to their homeland resulting in ultimate defeat.

Our Navy family played a critical role in that victory.

Yet even in the afterglow of victory, danger still existed. Admiral Chester Nimitz wrote in 1948

“Sir Walter Raleigh declared in the early 17th century that “whoever commands the sea, commands the trade; whosoever commands the trade of the world commands the riches of the world, and consequently the world itself.” This principle is as true today as when uttered, and its effect will continue as long as ships traverse the seas.

The United States possesses today control of the sea more absolute than was possessed by the British. Our interest in this control is not riches and power as such. It is first the assurance of our national security, and, second, the creation and perpetuation of that balance and stability among nations which will insure to each the right of self-determination under the framework of the United Nations Organization.”

All of this was tested in the Cold War. Korea, Vietnam, and a growing Soviet Fleet challenged our family to be able to respond. But respond they did, bringing the Soviet Union to its knees. That recognition for a strong Navy has never ended. Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost wrote

“When a crisis confronts the nation, the first question often asked by policymakers is: ‘What naval forces are available and how fast can they be on station?’

In the most recent conflicts, it has been a combination of all of the Armed Services that have served so well in defending this country against new enemies. But the Navy has been there. You only need to look at the ribbons of many in this room tonight to see the ongoing sacrifice that many have made to ensure our freedom.

Yes, these are the members of my family. These are the men and women whom I have been proud to stand together with in both good times and bad. We are forever united in our shared sacrifices. We celebrate not just an organization, we celebrate the people who have been bonded together for a greater purpose. I can never forget that our family includes the wives and husbands and children who wait for them to return from their missions. Their sacrifices are a large part of why we are able to serve the nation so well.

My uniform long ago joined my Grandfathers and my Dad’s in that old trunk. The sword my men presented on the day of my commissioning hangs on the wall near a case of emblems that reflect my passage through the ordeals that made me a Navy family member. But when I look out and see the young faces of those who are about to enter their own journey and become part of my Navy family, I can almost feel the years slipping away. I can feel the deck shifting below my feet and smell the salt in the wind swept air. The chance for one last adventure makes my heart beat a little stronger.

The reality comes back when I remember that my ship has sailed. I know my time now will be spent doing what I can to support my family that will man the watch. For those of us who are now standing on the shore watching you sail into your own history, we rededicate ourselves to making sure you have the support you need. The right ships, the right equipment, the right training, and all that you need to make sure America stays strong in the face of relentless enemies around the globe. Doing less ensures our own failure. That is not acceptable. That is not America.

We must also remember those who have suffered in body, mind and spirit in the fight. As a family we must still offer them comfort, hope and support. That is a sacred trust. That is what real families do.

The world has turned over 88,330 times since Congress realized the need for a naval service. From a small band of patched together frigates to the mightiest force the world has ever seen, the United States Navy has one continuous thread: Brave men and women who were willing to face any challenge and challenge any foe.

This is the United States Navy.

I hope you will share with me today and every day the importance of our outstanding naval family, and remember always what the United States Navy stands for through its resonant motto:

“Not for Self but for Country”

Thank you for the honor of being allowed to share my family story.

Bob MacPherson

President, US Navy League Pittsburgh Council (AKA Mister Mac)

I grew into it 4

I grew into it.

When you are seventeen and the whole world is just outside of you front door, you can be a little anxious to get started. Some kids will go off to college, some will go to work in a factory or mill, and some kids find themselves drawn to something more adventurous. In my case, that was the military and more specifically, the Navy.

I convinced my parents to sign the permission slip and without much real thought on my part (other than the foreign ports I would hopefully see) I raised my right hand and said a bunch of words. At seventeen, I honestly had very little idea what the words meant or what I was obligating myself for. As we were lining up to say them at the Navy office, I seem to remember a serious feeling coming over the whole proceeding. Up until that moment, the kids that were in the room with me had been typical kids just kind of joking and being “brave”. Then we all said the words together…

“I… (state your name) do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the Officers appointed over me according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

Yep. Seventeen years old and I just took an oath to support and defend a document I had barely read in school and understood even less. I was supposed to defend it against all enemies both foreign and domestic (whatever that meant) and I was going to obey the orders of a guy I have never met in person and a bunch of men and women who I had not yet met.

What was I thinking? I was only seventeen. I had only shot a gun a few times before and certainly had never shot at another human being. And orders? Holy cow, my Dad and I used to fight like two prize fighters over the stupidest stuff. Now I had to willingly follow the orders of some guy I hardly knew?

But I grew into it.

The Navy very wisely sent me off to boot camp where I met a large number of other bewildered young men. We marched, we got up at a certain time every day, and we learned about Navy stuff while starting to become men. We learned to look out for each other and give up some of our self. We learned about teamwork and sacrifice. We learned that there are consequences for bad behavior and we learned about authority.

On graduation day from Boot Camp, our parents and girlfriends came to see us march one last time. I was in the band and I still can’t remember a group of guys performing those songs with any more pride or talent. When the last note was finished and the announced that we were now US Navy sailors, there was a sense of completion and a sense of fear of the unknown ahead. What kind of sailor would I be? Would the task be more than I was able to complete? We had heard all the stories about brave men and ships being attacked by the enemy and to be honest I was not certain I would measure up.

But I grew into it.

The challenges would come faster and faster over the years. Technical schools, submarine school, the first of my five boats leading to becoming a Chief Petty Officer. But through it all, we learned our new roles and we were ready to do what we had agreed to do those many years ago in a small town Recruiters office someplace in America. We became the teachers and the mentors and the leaders who served this great nation in times of peace and war. Then the day came when our time was up and we had to relinquish the watch. A new generation would fill our billets and have to carry on the traditions. The nation would have to depend on them for protection. I wondered how they would do.

But you know what? They grew into it too. As the earth continues to turn and as freedom loving peoples still desire freedom, a strong Navy will always be needed. There will never be a shortage of enemies who would take that freedom away if they had the means.

I just pray as I look around the country now that enough young people will still be willing to raise their right hands and give themselves and the country a chance to grow into an even better place than when my generation were in charge. This modern Antifa movement is kind of frightening to me. Many of these kids are seventeen too and maybe aren’t sure what it means to attack your own country. There is a word for that: Treason

Mister Mac

 

Still serving – More resources for veterans and their families 1

Once in a while, I get emails from people who have checked out the web site and found one of the pages meaningful. I recently got this email and wanted to share it with my readers.

Our veteran population is growing day by day and the issues and concerns they will have to face do not stop when they hang up their uniforms. We think of them sometimes but the problems they face are real and exist every day. Overcoming a long term health issue can be challenging when facing it alone so any additional resources mean making the difference between success and failure.

The Leansubmariner will continue to do its best to bring connections to people still fighting the country’s battles, even the ones they sometimes have to fight in silence.

Mister Mac

 

Hi,

I’m writing to thank you for the resources here you’ve put together to help those who serve. My father-in-law is a disabled vet and lung cancer survivor, and it has meant the world to be able to find resources to help him pay for everything he needs. You’re really doing a great service for people like him – I cannot thank you enough.

I’m happy to pass on some other pages we’ve found useful, in case you or your viewers might think so too:

Aging Vets – How to Plan Wisely for Your Future
Residential Leases and the Military – Your Rights
Resources for Vets & Families Living with Cancer
Military Veterans Resource Center
Assistive Tech for Veterans and Military
Guide to Military Moves
Behavioral Health for Veterans
Mental Health Needs of Vets & Families
Justice for Vets

Thanks,

Meagan C.

What are you willing to risk to celebrate Independence Day? 1

Happy Independence Day

God Bless America

Like most people, I think of Independence Day as a wonderful way to celebrate all things America and have some great food.

Fireworks and festivities crowd out the fact that over the years, many Americans have been unable to actually celebrate the day. Those are the men and women of the armed services who are engaged with the countries business.

While we in the homeland enjoy our barbeques and baseball, somewhere today a young man or woman is manning a post in a hostile environment. As we swim in our pools, another sailor relieves the watch under the threat of an unseen missile attack from a rogue state. As we watch the rockets sailing into the dark night, a pilot provides close in air support to one of our ground troops in danger from being overrun by radical terrorists.

The spirit has been there since the very beginning

Countless sacrifices have been given through the years to make sure that everyday ordinary Americans can celebrate our freedom in relative peace.  One such sacrifice happened over seventy five years ago in a little know event in the Philippines after the Japanese invaded and brutally punished the American and local defenders. Because of many factors, large numbers of Americans had become prisoners of war. They would be  over three years of brutal treatment at the hands of the Japanese captors.

These men had been stationed in the Philippine Islands with the intent of defending the vital country from aggression. As America slept and dithered on and on about not becoming entangled in a foreign war, they had prepared for the worst. When the worst came, we were not prepared and they were sacrificed to buy time to actually build up our forces and beat back the Japanese invaders. While America geared up to answer the call, they suffered unspeakable horrors.

But on July 4th, 1942,  75 years ago, a group of very brave men who had recently been captured showed the true spirit of America while held capture by the Japanese Army.

American prisoners of war celebrated American Independence Day in Casisange prison camp at Malaybalay, Mindanao, against Japanese regulations, 4 Jul 1942

Most of the men in this picture would never make it home. But they never forgot who they were and what country they served. The penalty if they had been caught would have been death.

It was against Japanese regulations and discovery would have meant death, but the men celebrated the occasion anyway.

The Visayan-Mindanao Force under US Army Brigadier General William F. Sharp was composed of the 61st, 81st, and 101st Infantry Divisions of the Philippine Army. Major General Jonathan M. Wainwright, in nominal command of all the Allied Forces in the Philippines, ordered Sharp to surrender on May 9. Sharp complied and most of his men entered captivity at Camp Casisang, Malaybalay, on May 10. Camp Casisang had been a training ground for the Philippine Constabulary. The barracks were of crude construction, some with corrugated steel roofs but most were made of either thatched wood or nipa palm fronds. Water was a scarce commodity and the prisoners were limited to one canteen of water per day for all purposes. One pump was the sole source of water for about 1,000 Americans and 11,000 Filipinos.

On August 15, 1942, All Generals, Full Colonels and their orderlies left Camp Casisang. There had been a large number of full Colonels plus five Generals at the camp. One of them was Philippine General Manuel Roxas, who after the war became the President of the Philippines in 1946. The Japanese gathered 268 men and marched them to Bugo where they boarded the Tamahoko Maru on October 3, 1942 for a 3-day voyage to Manila. At Manila they were marched to Bilibid Prison to wait for transportation to Japan. Many did not survive the war. On October 15, 1942 Camp Casisang was closed. All remaining prisoners were moved on the Japanese frieghter Maru 760 to Davao.

When you celebrate Independence Day this year, please remember all of those who paid a price for your freedom and pray for those who are still out on patrol.

God Bless each and every one of them and God Bless America

Mister Mac