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

Where is the line? Destroying History Has a Hidden Threat to the Future 2

As most avid history buffs know, this coming week will mark the 154th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.

This major battle was fought from July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, by Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The Southern Army had invaded the north in an attempt to shorten the war. For three years, the forces of the opposing sides had slugged it out in bloody conflict resulting in the loss of many men. Lee felt that if he could threaten Washington, he would be able to force Lincoln into negotiating for a peaceful settlement.

Just as Lee was determined to bring about a brokered peace, the Union Army was determined to stop him and continue to bring the Union back together. The resulting battles and significant losses are still impactful in today’s history. The small town was overcome in its aftermath with the results of the carnage and the cemetery that was dedicated by President Lincoln is a place of honor and distinction that symbolizes the sacrifices and passion of the men involved.

In his famous address he said:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom— and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The country was divided and the threat to survival was real

Similar to that time, there is a growing divide within our country once again.

A president was elected that represented many things offensive to a large group of its citizens. While no states have yet succeeded, there is a large and well orchestrated movement within the country that has called for Resistance. At the fringe of this movement is a group that calls itself Antifa. This group is loosely affiliated so far but they have managed to make a name for themselves as the newest version of home grown terrorists. Typically seen wearing the cowardly garb of masked thugs, these spoiled and privileged over pampered misfits destroy people’s property, damage public places and generally make a nuisance for the police.

Some of them have decided to throw their tantrums at Gettysburg this week. Their aim: to further the leftist goal of eradicating the Confederate Battle Flag which was also the second flag of the Confederacy known as the  Stainless Banner. The stated intent is to burn Confederate flags on hallowed ground. This is in keeping with other movements in the South to destroy or hide other symbols of the war between the states. New Orleans notably has forfeited her birth rights by the removal of the proud symbols of men of courage.

Don’t misunderstand. I realize that there has been uses of certain symbols by openly racists groups. It is a sick thing to support anything the Clan or other known hate groups have projected. I am also not supporting the rebellion itself since the cost to both sides lasted for many generations. My Great Grandfather served on the Union side during that conflict, but I have many friends whose relatives served honorably in the army of the south.

The US Congress even recognized that Confederate soldiers were US Veterans.

Congressional Act of 9 March 1906 ~ We Honor Our Fallen Ancestors
(P.L. 38, 59th Congress, Chap. 631-34 Stat. 56)

This act authorized the furnishing of headstones for the graves of Confederates who died, primarily in Union prison camps and were buried in Federal cemeteries. Remarks: This act formally reaffirmed Confederate soldiers as military combatants with legal standing. It granted recognition to deceased Confederate soldiers commensurate with the status of deceased Union soldiers.

U.S. Public Law 810, Approved by 17th Congress 26 February 1929
(45 Stat 1307 – Currently on the books as 38 U.S. Code, Sec. 2306)

This law, passed by the U.S. Congress, authorized the “Secretary of War to erect headstones over the graves of soldiers who served in the Confederate Army and to direct him to preserve in the records of the War Department the names and places of burial of all soldiers for whom such headstones shall have been erected.”

Remarks: This act broadened the scope of recognition further for all Confederate soldiers to receive burial benefits equivalent to Union soldiers. It authorized the use of U.S. government (public) funds to mark Confederate graves and record their locations.

U.S. Public Law 85-425: Sec. 410 Approved 23 May 1958
Confederate Iron Cross (US Statutes at Large Volume 72, Part 1, Page 133-134)

The Administrator shall pay to each person who served in the military or naval forces of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War a monthly pension in the same amounts and subject to the same conditions as would have been applicable to such person under the laws in effect on December 31, 1957, if his service in such forces had been service in the military or naval forces of the United States.

First they came for the Confederate Flags,

and I did nothing because it wasn’t my flag

These groups will not stop with this first attack.

At some point, the less reasonable voices will remind themselves that even the Star Spangled Banner was a racist flag (in their definition).

The very flag that most of us believe stands for freedom in a world of tyranny will eventually be attacked by the masses of ignorant people. This cleansing of American history must be stopped. People who destroy property not their own must be held accountable. The time to stop them is now. If they continue to grow unchecked, there will be a day when open warfare once again returns to this country. The real question then will be if we still have the strength to survive.

Mister Mac

The Galloping Ghost 2

I’M THE GALLOPING GHOST OF THE JAPANESE COAST

By Constantine Guiness, MOMM 1/C, USN

I’m the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast.
You don’t hear of me and my crew
But just ask any man off the coast of Japan.
If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

I look sleek and slender alongside my tender.
With others like me at my side,
But we’ll tell you a story of battle and glory,
As enemy waters we ride.

I’ve been stuck on a rock, felt the depth charge’s shock,
Been north to a place called Attu,
and I’ve sunk me two freighters atop the equator
Hot work, but the sea was cold blue.

I’ve cruised close inshore and carried the war
to the Empire Island Honshu,
While they wire Yokahama I could see Fujiyama,
So I stayed, to admire the view.

When we rigged to run silently, deeply I dived,
And within me the heat was terrific.
My men pouring sweat, silent and yet
Cursed me and the whole damned Pacific.

Then destroyers came sounding and depth charges pounding
My submarine crew took the test.
Far in that far off land there are no friends on hand,
To answer a call of distress.

I was blasted and shaken (some damage I be taken),
my hull bleeds and pipe lines do, too
I’ve come in from out there for machinery repair,
And a rest for me and my crew.

I got by on cool nerve and in silence I served,
Though I took some hard knocks in return,
One propeller shaft sprung and my battery’s done,
But the enemy ships I saw burn.

I’m the galloping ghost of the Japanese coast,
You don’t hear of me and my crew.
But just ask any man off the coast of Japan,
If he knows of the Trigger Maru.

Remembering the Fitzgerald Seven Reply

 

Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley has ordered the National Ensign to be flown at half-staff from sunrise until sunset on June 27 in honor of the seven Sailors who perished onboard USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62).

In ALNAV 045/17, Acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley ordered the National Ensign to be flown at half-staff in honor of the seven Sailors who died onboard USS Fitzgerald:

Hand Salute

USS TRIGGER SS 237 – The First Patrol June 26, 1942 (75 Years ago) Reply

USS Trigger SS 237 Departed on her first war patrol on June 26, 1942.

The United States Navy had not planned on using the submarines at its disposal in the way they found themselves forced to in the spring of 1942. The Japanese Navy had crushed the battle fleet in a surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 but failed to do much damage to the submarines or their base. This fatal error would cause them damage of amazing proportions in the four years to come.

The USS TRIGGER was a Gato-class submarine, the first ship of the United States Navy to be named for the triggerfish.

The Gato-class were a class of submarines built for the United States Navy and launched in 1941–1943; they were the first mass-production US submarine class of World War II. Together with their near-sisters the Balao and Tench classes, their design formed the majority of the United States Navy’s World War II submarine fleet.

The Gato-class boats were “Fleet Submarines”. The original operational intent behind their design was that they would operate as support units for the main battle fleet, based on the way battleships were operated and had been since World War I. The submarines would scout out ahead of the fleet and report on the enemy fleet’s composition, speed, and course, then they were to attack and whittle down the enemy in preparation for the main fleet action, a large gun battle between battleships and cruisers. This operational concept had developed from experiences gained during the First World War

A remarkable ship

From the Official Naval Records:

“A fantastically colored and dangerous fish is the trigger, and like the fish after which she was named, USS TRIGGER had a fantastically colorful career and a dangerous for the Japanese. Her brilliant record was not made without danger to herself and her last patrol proved that heroes are often lost but heroic achievements will never die.

The twisted plating of many Japanese vessels went to the bottom of the ocean from the daring attacks of TRIGGER. Battered and pounded time and a in by the merciless depth charges of the Japanese, TRIGGER returned time after time from the deep, dark shadows of an ocean grave to fight on. Former TRIGGER men throughout the submarine service fought on with new resolve when they learned of her loss.

From the very beginning TRIGGER had a spirit of go-ahead built into her trim lines. She was completed several months before schedule at the Navy Yard, Mare Island, and the keel for the next submarine was laid in the same spot four months ahead of schedule. Her keel was laid on 1 February 1941 and by 22 October of the same year, Mrs. Walter Newhall Vernon, wife of Rear Admiral Vernon, senior member of the Board of Inspection and Survey, Pacific Coast Section, served as the sponsor for this ship at the launching.

TRIGGER joined the United States Navy on 30 November 1942, the date of her commissioning with Lieutenant Commander J.H. Lewis, as the first commanding officer. It took weeks and months of arduous training before she was ready to meet the enemy. The officers and crew had to learn the multiplicity of complicated mechanisms before they knew their ship well — their ship— their home— their destiny! It was in the early days of rugged training that TRIGGER acquired that last intangible installation called soul.

As TRIGGER nosed into the submarine base at Pearl Harbor before her first war patrol, she was a neophyte, a trifle self-conscious and perhaps apologetic to slip her trim form into the berth of her illustrious sisters. Little was she to know that before very long any submarine of the fleet would be proud to tie-up alongside her.

Off to a slow start on her first war patrol, TRIGGER departed Pearl Harbor on 26 June 1942, bound for the area around Alaska and the Aleutian Islands. During her first war patrol, six enemy contacts were made but bad weather and unfavorable approach conditions precluded any successful attacks. Considerable time was spent on special tasks in connection with the bombardment of Kiska Harbor and in searching various harbors and bays. Pickings were mighty slim and the patrol terminated with TRIGGER’s arrival at Dutch Harbor on 10 August.”

USS TRIGGER would go on to win eleven Battle Stars. On her twelfth patrol, she left port with the USS TIRANTE, A radio call was sent out from TIRANTE calling TRIGGER. From the official report:

“Silence was the only answer — a silence that has never been broken; a silence that told a wordless story. The call for the TRIGGER is still echoing through the ocean depths; echoing through the hearts that knew her for the gallant ship she was. The spirit of the TRIGGER lives on. It will never die.”

USS TRIGGER Lost with all hands
Struck from the record 11 July 1945

Mister Mac

Seeing through a new lens 4

Seeing through a new lens

I recently went through a life changing event that impacted everything I came in contact with. About eight months ago, I noticed that the lights in my house were no longer as bright as they once were and the print on almost everything I read was shrinking. In November, I saw an ophthalmologist who told me that there was a small indication of cataracts but nothing to worry about. By January, my vision was getting so bad, I went to another eye doctor who told me that I had some massive cataracts forming in the back part of my eyes. Left untreated, it would eventually cause blindness that could not be reversed. That got my attention pretty well.

I went to another specialist who told me he could fix them both, one at a time and implant special lenses to make sure my sight was mostly restored. I was on track for the surgery when something else intervened. Out of absolutely nowhere, the lead wire for my pacemaker/defibrillator managed to work its way out of my chest and was exposed.

The exposure led to a massive infection of the cavity where the device had been placed the previous August and all of it had to be removed. Months of therapy followed with infections being treated intravenously and the use of a wound vac. All of this delayed my eye surgery which could not be done while I was battling the infection.

I will be forever grateful to my employer for being generous with my needs to rehabilitate. Dormont Manufacturing (part of Watts Water Technologies) was compassionate and very understanding. It was with a very heavy heart that I finally felt the need to retire.

Shortly after that, I had the first eye surgery.

IMG_2205

Anyone who has ever had the procedure can tell you that the results are stunning. Even with only one eye complete, the world completely changed. Probably because I had been losing my sight for a longer period than I could know, I had not realized the brilliance of the colors or the pure light. My office is a perfect example. I had made some adjustments as things got darker and now it is almost too bright.

Shortly after the second eye was done, I read a whole chapter of a book I had stopped reading in November and then watched a glorious sunset. I thank God for the surgeon, the science of the eyes, and a wonderful wife who patiently cared for me in my darkest hours. The professional staff at the Mt. Pleasant Surgery Center was wonderful and did a fantastic job.

I learned a lot about patience and overcoming in those months. I thought a lot about people with disabilities and particularly those whose challenges are permanent. I have always felt that I was a compassionate person but for the first time in my life I really began to understand what it is like to lose something so precious (even if it was just temporarily).

Priorities are changing now. I have a lot of reading to catch up on and so many places that I was limited from going are back on the list. I will get back to my speaking passion soon and I believe I will have a whole new motivation to tell stories that matter.

One of my favorite writers is Rick Campbell and I am going to move his newest book to the top of my list.

CAMBLAC01-2

Rick is a retired Navy submarine officer that has written some awesome books including “The Trident Deception”, “Empire Rising” and “Ice Station Nautilus”. His newest book is “Blackmail” and it promises to be as exciting as the others have been. The small amount I have read so far seems like it could be ripped from some of today’s headlines. I strongly encourage you to find and read all of his books.

Well, that’s it for now. We are headed off to a nice graduation party for a friend’s daughter. I get to drive which is very awesome. I will enjoy seeing the flowers and the lake and also enjoy the natural beauty of her smile as she celebrates this next new beginning.

In so many ways, I will be able to honestly share that celebration.

Mister Mac

 

The Cost of Freedom – Letter to the Editor Pittsburgh Post Gazette 2

The Cost of Freedom

To the Editor

Pittsburgh has long been a source of the materials and equipment necessary for our national defense.

The propulsion equipment for submarines and aircraft carriers comes from manufacturers in the Steel Valley as it has for generations. A strong fleet ensures freedom of the seas and guarantees the level of commerce needed to ensure a robust economy.

In critical global areas, freedom is being challenged. China’s influence in the Southwester Pacific is already being felt by our trading partners. A resurgent Russian naval influence is the result of their leaders trying to regain what they lost at the end of the Cold War. The re-appearance of Russian surveillance ships near America’s submarine bases is definitely a concern for a Navy that is already resource strapped with existing obligations in the prolonged conflicts in the Middle East.

As Congress prepares its budgets, sensible but strong support for the re-building of our fleet must be supported by all citizens. Our submarine forces need new boats to answer the gap left by an aging fleet. Boats that were built in the 1980’s are being retired faster than our ability to build replacements. Even some of the mighty Ohio class submarines are older than thirty five years old. A replacement must be built as soon as possible to ensure our strategic abilities.

It is time for congress to act. I urge all Pittsburghers (and Americans ) to contact your Senators and Representatives and support the rebuilding of America’s sea services.

This is a critical time in our history and your support is needed now. This is the Cost of Freedom.

Robert “Bob” MacPherson

USNL Pittsburgh Council President (2017-2019)

Mister Mac

Summer 2017 USNL Pittsburgh President’s Letter – The Home Front Reply

The Home Front

Greetings to all of the Navy League Members and those who have yet to join. I am always grateful for the membership we have and a bit curious why there aren’t more of us. The Pittsburgh Council of the Navy League of the United States is an active group that supports the sea services in many ways. More about that in a bit.

The Battle of Midway at 75

This year marks the Diamond Anniversary of some of the pivotal events in the life of the nation as well as the sea services. In the Pacific, the combined forces of the Army, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard stopped the Japanese expansion during the Battle of Midway. Against very large odds, this combined force stopped a previously unbeaten Japanese Naval force and turned the tide of the conflict. In the Atlantic, precious few resources were called upon to defend vital shipping in the face of a ferocious submarine onslaught that would be called the Battle for the Atlantic. U- boats were challenging our ability to supply our surviving allies and the Navy scarcely had enough ships to stem the loss of ships to their attacks.

Pittsburgh and the Home Front

None of the services were prepared for the Global Conflicts that they would be called upon to fight. The courage of the men who filled the gap until America’s war machine could be fully engaged saved countless millions from death and destruction. On the Home Front here in Pittsburgh, the mills and mines were mobilized as never before and businesses of every kind were converted into suppliers of the materials and equipment that would be needed to fight the enemy on every front. Their contributions led to ultimate victory but there were many sacrifices along the way.

The current situation the nation finds itself in is similar in many ways. All around the globe, nations and terror groups are challenging the notion that people should be able to live in freedom. Freedom from oppression and freedom to live their lives in a way they chose has always been both a goal and a target. The goal is shared by most thinking people and the target is shared by all tyrants and oppressive groups based on flawed ideologies. Technology and the ability to easily cross state lines has radically increased the ability of the evil doers to impact people who may have previously felt safe and secure in their homes.

Global War on Terror

Once again, the men and women of the sea services are on the front lines of this battle. Whether it’s in one of the three Battle Groups in the Sea of Japan or the Black Sea, we have people in harm’s way every single day. Our allies are learning that the enemy can reach them in the streets of London and Paris and we have lost citizens in the crossfire. The need for a smart, mobile and flexible defense has never been stronger. Just as planners at the beginning of World War 2 found themselves challenged to meet the existing and new threats, we are finding some of the same challenges.

For many years, the sea services have been increasingly challenged to meet the growing missions because of budget restrictions. Training, new equipment and other costs have all suffered at exactly the same time that new threats emerge. Competing social programs and agendas have made it more and more difficult to keep our people fully prepared and supplied for this new conflict.

That is exactly where the Navy League and groups like ours comes in. We are the independent voice that Theodore Roosevelt envisioned over a century ago when he encouraged the nation’s civilian and business leadership to join together and support the sea services. I love reading his speeches and writings from a historical perspective but many of them ring so true today. Preparedness is the key word for the survival of any democracy in the face of tyranny. Preparedness is not an option if we wish to survive.

All of the activities we do in the Pittsburgh Council are geared towards supporting those who continue protecting us. Whether it’s one of our fundraisers that support scholarship programs or our direct support of the Coast Guard and Navy, we are focused in making sure the people on the front lines know that we on the Home Front have not forgotten them. Our efforts through our National organization in identifying budget needs is critical. Being a part of the Navy League makes sure your voice can be heard and we can truly help the sea services to meet their daily challenges.

The call to action is this:

Support your Pittsburgh Council (or your local Council) by participating in the various events listed in our newsletter and on our Web Page http://www.navyleaguepittsburgh.org/. (If you don’t have a newsletter and would like one, please contact me and I will make sure you get one.)

Encourage others to join with us and help us to show a strong unified Home Front in this new conflict. Stay informed and encourage your representatives in government to see the value and need for strong and vital sea services on all fronts.

Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz once wrote: “It is the function of the Navy to carry the war to the enemy so that it will not be fought on U.S. soil.”

I would only add that the Navy and all of the sea services do their job best when we at the Home Front have done ours just as well.

Mister Mac

President, United States Navy League – Pittsburgh Council

USS Fitzgerald DDG 62 – How to help the crew 1

The collision at sea between the USS Fitzgerald and a civilian cargo ship has caused so many people to want to do something to help.

This message came from the ship’s Facebook Page on June 19, 2017.

The Navy Relief Society in Yokosuka is also helping and as always, they will accept financial  donations.

http://www.nmcrs.org/

 

Thanks for your consideration

Mister Mac

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Maintain Silence About the Decks 1

It’s Sunday morning and the sun is shining on this muggy Pennsylvania day.

Even though I am far from the oceans, my heart is heavy with the knowledge that the sea has claimed some of my shipmates. In the faraway seaport of Yokosuka, a damaged vessel is now being tended to and the inquiries will soon begin. A board of officers will be appointed by letter and the grueling process of deconstructing exactly what happened will commence. Anxious families here in the homeland are still waiting for the official notification and will soon be swept up in a whirlwind of grief mixed with anger and frustration as the Navy conducts its reviews.

On other ships around the world, officers and crews are probably being issued the standard precautionary warnings about the dangers of the seas and maintaining a keen operational readiness. Former sailors are filling the internet with their thoughts. Some are simple and supportive. Some are typical armchair quarterbacks who will do their own reconstruction free from actual facts. It has always been that way but I think with the advent of social media, it is just a lot more visible.

“Maintain silence about the decks” was a standard announcement made just before the start of Divine Services on board the ship I served on.

I would hope that today’s Divine Services on board every ship and submarine would be overflowing today with men and women praying for the lost souls of their shipmates. It has been more than twenty years since I was piped over the side for the last time. I would suspect that the services will perhaps be a bit fuller but nowhere near what they should be. The Navy is a microcosm of society and the number of spiritual people probably reflects the diminishing numbers in America today who regularly worship.

Naval Customs

I have a book that dates back to before the Second World War called Naval Customs, Traditions and Usage written by Leland P. Lovette. This book captures the origins of many of the Navy’s traditions including Divine Services at Sea. On Sunday morning immediately after quarters, all hands were mustered and immediately gathered in their appointed place near the Quarterdeck. I can only imagine the outcry if the Navy tried to do something like this today.

Saying Farewell

Losing a shipmate under any circumstances is like losing a member of your own family. You share the same challenges day after day, you have the same frustrations, and you experience the same joys. You have trained side by side to face enormous challenges and danger and learn to rely on one another in the worst of times. Even though all of you may not be close as friends, the magical word “Shipmate” binds you together tighter than any rope ever designed.

In many ways, that term also becomes universal. Once you have sailed the oceans, you become a lifelong member of that brother and sisterhood. I still swell with pride when I see the American flag streaming from an American Navy ship. It’s not just the ship or submarine though. It is the sailors and officers who sail her. These brave souls defy the ocean and put themselves in harm’s way every time they cast off all lines. No amount of technology can completely protect them from the uncounted dangers the sea can inspire. Sometimes, the sea just wins. Too often, we find ourselves having to say farewell to those shipmates. It is one of the hardest things for anyone to have to endure.

I pray this morning for the families of those lost on the USS Fitzgerald who will now face the lifelong reality of being a Gold Star family. No amount of public recognition or condolences for their loss will ever replace the smile of the loved one who will no longer be home for shore leave. That bright smile and carefree youth will be etched in their hearts and memories. Shipmates close to them will be forever changed as well. Years from now, their loss will still bring tears to all who knew and loved them. My only advice is to reach out to each other and get the counseling you will need. Some burdens are handled better when they are shared.

From the Naval Customs book:

“It has ever been customary for all officers and men not on duty to attend the services of a late shipmate. The Chaplain, or in his absence, the Captain, or an officer detailed by the Captain reads the burial service at sea. The ritual ends with the very beautiful and time honored words,

… we therefore commit this body to the deep, to be turned into corruption, looking for the resurrection of the body, when the sea shall give up her dead, and the life of the world to come…

I am sad for the families and for the shipmates who are starting the mourning process this day. But I am eternally grateful that there are still men and women who are willing to challenge the sea to help ensure our freedom. I will continue to pray for their safety in all the corners of the world.

For the next few minutes, please join with me in maintaining silence about the decks as we remember our fallen shipmates.

Mister Mac