Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Duty

The other day, my wife brought me a sheet of paper she had found somewhere in my old files. It was a folded, water stained prose I had written many years ago. Immediately I recognized it as what I think is the first piece of writing I ever did.  After reading it for the first time in almost 30 years I thought about how that time and place had affected me as a person, but more as a citizen of this country and what it meant to be part of such a great land.
 It was written when I was aboard the U.S.S. Albert David (FF-1050) in 1982 while we were in the Persian Gulf.  The people in that region had been in some sort of conflict with each other since the time of Christ.  But in 1979, Iran slapped our country in the face by the taking of the American Hostages and my patriotism had overwhelmed me and I had enlisted to “Do my Duty, For My Country”. 
Your mind plays with you at times like that. You think of people, places and things that you didn’t even realize meant so much to you.  You think about things in your past that you hadn’t thought about for years.  The little things, things like your first day in school, your first night away from home, of times playing with your brothers or maybe the first time you tried to impress that certain little girl.  Things that made you smile or inwardly laugh. You tried to find ways to mentally escape from the pressures of the moment. Oh yea, we laughed, we joked, and we poked fun at each other to relieve the tensions. But at the same time each of us individually sat wondering, waiting, and praying that we would not have to have to prove our loyalty by giving our life for our country.  
Then it was over, we left that danger behind us when another U.S. warship took our place “along the line”. “Our turn” was over, we were allowed to go back to the normal duties that most sailors do. We went back to doing the “games” of practices, drills and “sowing our oats” in ports around the world which most people picture when the word sailor is mentioned.  But with each practice, each drill, and port visit the men on our ship smiled a different smile then most, because we had knew that we had already proven we were ready.
But now, thirty years later I find I am still on duty.  Because even now, when I least expect it,  I still roll over in my sleep and wake to the sound of the ship’s warning alarms going off in my head followed by the scariest words a sailor can hear. “Battle Stations, Battle Stations, This is not a Drill. Now Set Condition Zebra, Battle Stations”.
Yes, I did my duty, I gave to my country, but I guess even now I’m not done yet. Like so many others who have seen “the real thing” in any armed services of our country we live with them, but we don’t talk about them.  The way I see it, those nightmares we have every once in a while, are just another part of doing our duty. But at the same time they are also a way for us to not forget why we did it.  For the Love of Our Country.