Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day and what it means to me

As many of you know I am a Libertarian.

As many of you also know I am a military veteran. I served on active duty in the USN for six years. I served from 1989 - 1995 on a nuclear powered attack submarine. I was an Electronics Technician and Reactor Operator.

I come from a family of military veterans. I only know of two males in my direct family that did not serve at least one tour in the active military (My brother Dave and my Uncle Mac). All of my male relatives who served in the military served between 4 and 8 years.

My father served 8 years in the US Army. His parents lied about his age so he could join the army early. He joined the army in 1945. He was in Communications in The Field Artillery initially. He served in communications for about five years in Germany as a member of The Army of Occupation. He never saw combat. He had some great stories about West Germany.
He then was transferred to Eniwetok Atoll in the Pacific. He was in charge of communications on the atoll during some of the nuclear testing. Some of his stories about this were horrifying to me after I spent eight years working in nuclear power myself. My father told me that they used to sit off the atoll on navy ships and watch the bombs blow up. Young sailors were sent topside while all the Geiger counters were going off and they hosed the radiation of the decks. My father died of cancer. I have always imagined it is very possible he got this cancer due to his involvement in the early nuclear bomb testing in the Pacific. He was an E-7 when he got out (At the time the highest enlisted rank).

Both of my father's brothers served in the army at a young age as well. Uncle Bill served in the army during World War Two and served one tour I believe. Uncle Bill did not see combat. He was an aircraft mechanic. He spent time as a police officer and as a vocational teacher after he got out. My Uncle Howard also served in the army. He served two combat tours in Korea. Uncle Howard was a paratrooper. He was part of a unit that helped retrieve downed pilots. Uncle Howard got many decorations including a Silver Star. To the day he died Uncle Howard did not talk about the two years he spent in Korea. Uncle Howard was a police officer when he got out.

My mother had two brothers. Uncle Mac was about 20 years older then my mother and never served in the military. Uncle Omar served in the United States Army during most of World War Two. Uncle Omar was part of General Patton Headquarters Unit and had a lot of interesting stories. He used to get REALLY mad at me when we argued about Patton. Uncle Omar saw very limited combat duty since he was in a headquarters unit. Uncle Omar worked as a supervisor in a meat packing plant after he got out.

There is a lot of military tradition in my wife's family as well. Both of her Grandfather's served in World War Two. Grandpa Nelson was in the navy. He joined the Navy on December 8th, 1941. He had been married less then six months. He served until after the war was over. He never saw combat. He went about three years without seeing his new wife... Grandpa Nelson was a banker and ended up as Vice President of a bank. Grandpa Ilardi served in the army as well. He served in Europe and was stationed in France. He joined in 1944 and did not see combat. Grandpa Ilardi retired as a supervisor for New York City's sanitation department.

We were all enlisted men. While all of the people listed above have died, none were killed on active duty. We all joined voluntarily; none of us were drafted. None of us made a career out of the military or served more then 8 years.

On Memorial Day I reflect on all of those men who were killed serving their country. So many men have made "The ultimate sacrifice."

I get so mad at our current batch of citizens and politicians. Patriotism seems to be a thing of the past.

I love my country. I just no longer trust my government to make the right decisions...

I hope that the members of our military in the future are well led, well equipped, and only used in actions that are just.

I love America! I have a profound respect for those who have served and for those who are serving in The United States Military.

Mike

5 comments:

Robert Enders said...

At the end of "Saving Private Ryan", a dying Cpt Miller tells the title character, "You better earn this." Several men had died trying to find and rescue Private Jack Ryan. Miller admonished him to be worthy of having lived while others had died.

Less than %5 of the world's population are fortunate enough to be US citizens. Of the total US population, less than %10 are either veterans, active duty, or reserves. In a larger sense, we all had better earn this.

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