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)

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

2016 Pittsburgh Regional Sea Perch Competition 1

The Navy League was on hand to recognize the winners of the 2016 Regional Sea Perch Competition held in Pittsburgh in February. Hopewell High School was the top High School Team and Harrison Middle school was the top Middle school team. Both received trophy’s and medals from various sponsors including the Navy League and both received invitations to the 2016 National SeaPerch Competition and need help to raise funds which will allow them to compete at the National Competition in Baton Rouge, LA.

Sea Perch is part of the ongoing mission to encourage our youth to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. This was a combined effort by the Navy City Outreach Northeast partnering with Penn State Center Pittsburgh and 4-H of Allegheny County and influential community leaders in Pittsburgh to make the SeaPerch program available to local schools.

SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting. Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The SeaPerch Program provides students with the opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science, and mathematics (STEM) while building an underwater ROV as part of a science and engineering technology curriculum. Throughout the project, students learn engineering concepts, problem solving, teamwork, and technical applications. For more information, visit http://www.seaperch.org<http://www.seaperch.org/>.

The Pittsburgh Council of the United States Navy League (a 501C 3 organization) is supporting the fund raising effort by asking for you to send your donations through us to help them on their way. While the students are also working on local fundraisers, the costs for registration, travel and lodging will have to be met.

These funds will help to pay their transportation, food and lodging. We need your support as soon as possible but before April 15 2016

Individuals or corporations can assist in one of two ways:

  1. Contributing on line through the Go Fund Me web site: https://www.gofundme.com/4eqq9a9s
  2. Send a check made out to Pittsburgh Council U.S. Navy League (write Sea Perch Fund Support in the memo line) to:

Robert W. MacPherson, 3 Circle Drive, West Newton, PA 15089

We will be very grateful for your support. More important, this will help the program to grow for the future and encourage our area winners to pursue this unique opportunity.

New Years Day 2015 3

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Thanks for dropping by.

We got up a little late this morning since we tried to see the New Year in last night. Then we had a short meal, a few quiet moments writing in the new “Journal”, and some very sincere praying. The journal was a gift from a family member and asks you to respond to new a question each day. The two of us then write in our thoughts. I believe it will help us to grow our foundation a little stronger. Today’s question was “Love is …?”

Last year was pretty full with work and projects. The picture at the top of the page was from a recent visit to the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Pittsburgh. I found my Great Grandfather’s name on his Regimental Plaque – the Fifth Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery during the Civil War. We also found a picture of one of their reunions that I had never seen before. He was still alive when this was taken but I do not know if he was in the picture.

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2015

This will be a very busy year I think.

The work situation is a giant question mark as always. Hoping for a stable year but not so sure that will be in the cards. I asked God this morning to give us the guidance we need, the patience to wait for His work to unfold, and the vision to see the path as it opens up before us.

My submarine veteran’s world will be very busy with a San Francisco Homecoming and USSVI Convention in Pittsburgh PA in September.

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http://www.ussviconventionsteelcity2015.org/

There seems to be enough interest to launch a new organization for USS San Francisco SSN 711 Veterans so more will be coming this year as we achieve our NPO status. The San Francisco itself is scheduled to become a permanent training facility in Charleston so we will be looking for partnerships with them.

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I am in line to be elected as Vice President of Education for the Pittsburgh Navy League and I am very excited about seeing ways to help the organization grow. We have been supporting the USS Pittsburgh crews and one of the long term goals is to prepare for the sad day when she is retired from the fleet. If the fates allow and we do our homework, the plan is to someday have a permanent exhibit to honor the boat by the placement of her sail in an appropriate place.

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The VFW and Legion Children and Youth programs last year were very successful. Our work with the Middle School and High School in four different contests resulted in some very competitive entries. Our Patriot’s Pen entry placed Second in the District and our posts learned a lot to help us in the coming contests for 2015-16.

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Memorial Day is always a big part of our life. Both Debbie and I are on the committee for our small community and we will begin having meetings very soon. The Remembrance Ceremony in Elizabeth Pennsylvania is one of the longest continuing programs in the Mon Valley and has had many dignitaries from both the military and government over the years (including a Vice President). I have been a part of the program for over fifty years in one way or another and it is something worth seeing.

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It wasn’t all about the Navy and Veterans this year. I have been called to help support the ministry at the Church we have been attending. I had already been preaching there on occasion but now will fill the pulpit once a month on a regular basis. It is a small Church but I can feel God’s presence working there. It is a good place to achieve a meaningful balance in the complexities of our lives.

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Thanks again for stopping by.

The blog has over 199,000 hits as of this morning. There was a part of me that had hoped for a New Year’s miracle of 200,000 but all in all, 199K is still pretty cool. For the year, we hit about 107K for this year alone which is more than all of the previous years combined. I am working on a long term project on pre-WW2 submarines that is very time consuming (for the little time I have left after work and other commitments). But I am convinced it is a great story and has never been done exactly like the way I am working on this one. Stay tuned.

I hope your New Year is filled with joy and adventure.

Mister Mac