I've been the recipient of lots of patriotism over the past few weeks. Through my travels from the west coast to the east coast on active duty orders, I experienced all kind of emotions over patriotism and love of my country. One evening about a week ago, I stood and listened to a World War II veteran talk in vivid detail about his service with the 82nd Airborne. You could see him living it through his eyes, his voice, his hands...he still remembered well and was proud to show it...you should've seen his leather bomber's jacket with a patch for the 82nd Airborne that was no smaller than an average dinner plate...I kid you not! It was on his right chest, too. Just beside him was a Korean War veteran...clearly a bit bitter as he talked about his country who by his perception, didn't even know it was going on. As his voice shuttered as he was still upset about that, his wife sat there, staring at him, and with her wrinkly hand, squeezed his. Inside, I could tell he was hurt...and still hurting. My heart poured out to him inside and his wife, sitting there fully engaged and 100% behind him without saying a word. For me, it was incredibly powerful and a moment in my life I will never forget.
I was also on 8 different airplanes in two weeks so as you can imagine, I saw a lot of soldiers in the airports. The uniforms all make sense to me and I try to craft their story in my head as I pass them by. By the way, only the Army and Air Force wear their uniforms on official travel. The Navy (and maybe the Marines) are forbidden from doing so. We are to blend in and not draw attention to ourselves. Even if I were to be deployed overseas, the same rule applies...thus the reason you will not see Navy personnel in uniform. The one exception is Navy recruits. They will be wearing their "cracker jack" uniform and probably look 18 or 19 years old and one ribbon on their left chest. They just graduated from boot-camp north of Chicago and are on their way home. Anyway, back to those soldiers: look on their upper left arm. If you see a patch with some Arabic writing and the letters "ISAF" on it, they most likely are on their way home from Afghanistan...most likely, from over a year-long deployment. (the exact patch I posted on my "Part 3" post)
In the past few days, a friend of mine who has a 5 year old wanted to say the Pledge of Allegiance to me. She called and although he was very shy and needed some prodding, he recited it verbatim and with gusto! So very cool to hear that! I've also had my niece and nephew do the same thing awhile back. I am thankful that although a lot of things have been banned from our schools in the name of political correctness, the Pledge is still recited every morning. In the elementary school, at least, a student leads it via microphone every morning (in my home town). I love it when it's my girls' turn to do it. They'd better know it! :-)
On my Part 3 post, I talked about flying Old Glory and pleaded with many of you to fly her and take photos of ones you see flying and send them to me. Unfortunately, only 4 people have responded. 2 of those have sent me no less than 20 photos. Surely, you can do better! Start looking, start flying her, and talk with your family about what she stands for...not just on holidays, but every day. Freedom is not an entitlement. It can be taken away but today, it is maintained by those standing the watch in our place. Fly Old Glory for them!
In closing today, I want to share a super short video from the Navy. It's a recruiting video but I especially love it because on the last frame as the camera pulls away from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier, look at the flight deck...you'll see "74". That's the USS John C. Stennis...a nuclear powered aircraft carrier. Why do I care? I am a "plankowner" of that ship. Plankowners are either original crewmembers or the last crewmembers of a ship. I was on that ship before she was placed in the water and sailed her maiden voyage. I was there as we lowered nuclear fuel rods into her reactor. I operated that reactor! I also stood topside and watched our fighter jets launch from her flightdeck. I sure do miss being out to sea and seeing her again just brings it all back! Enjoy!