About Me

My photo

Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Honor and Remembrance**

USS San Antonio (LPD-17 class)
Official U.S. Navy photograph

*Chicago Tribune
January 28, 2011
as "Honor, she will serve"

*Somerset, PA Daily American
January 29, 2011
as "Honor, she will serve"

Copyright © 2011 by Ralph Couey

The sea is seductive. It holds an indescribable power over the soul of a human.  It is a place of awesome beauty and fearsome power.  Yet, at dusk when the sun’s dying rays appear to sink into its depths, it also inspires quiet reflection and deep emotions.  As author Kate Chopin put it,

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.
The touch of the sea is sensuous,
enfolding thebody in its soft, close embrace.

Standing on the deck of a ship, you look around you and behold a perfect world of water, unbroken from horizon to horizon.  Beneath you lies a tower of water many hundreds, or even thousands of feet deep.  At night, far from any polluting light source, the sky is crowded with stars.  As the bow cleaves the water, tiny creatures are stirred up in the wake, giving the foam a glowing phosphorescence as it trails out astern.  During the day, you are struck by the sheer size of the planet you inhabit; at night, the majestic infinity of the universe awes you.  Either way, you feel very, very small.

But under your feet is a steel deck.  The engines are turning and the Captain is on the Bridge.  In the middle of incomprehensible vastness, you find comfort in the solidity of your ship. 

A mass of haze gray steel floating on the water.  That’s what most people see in a Navy ship.  But to a sailor, it is a vision that ignites strong emotions. 

To outsiders, the love affair between ships and sailors is a mystery.  You have to understand that a ship is not an office building.  It is a workplace, to be sure.  But it is also the vessel that carries sailors across the trackless seas to places of wonder and duty.  They work there, sleep there, eat there, and if necessary, fight there.  Some die there.

A ship becomes real; it…she…acquires a soul and a personality. 

The sources of U.S. Navy ship names are many and varied.  States, famous people, war heroes, and battles; geographical features, such as lakes, rivers, and mountains.  Some of the names are marvelously appropriate.  While serving aboard the Battleship USS Missouri, we once took a load of shells from an ammunition ship called “USS Nitro.”  Perfect.

A ship’s name can be a source of pride and inspiration to her crew.

My first ship was named after a 22-year-old sailor named David Ouellet, who served aboard a river patrol boat during Vietnam.  During a vicious firefight along a Mekong riverbank, a grenade was launched toward the boat.  Ouellet left a protected gun position, ran aft, warned the rest of the crew, pushed the Boat Captain out of the way, and absorbed the grenades blast with his own body. 

He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Every sailor aboard USS Ouellet knew that story.  Seaman Ouellet’s courageous and selfless sacrifice set the tone of honor and courage that formed the personality of that crew.

Next year, a new ship will be launched.  USS Somerset, along with USS Arlington, and USS New York, is one of the 9/11 trio.  The ship, being built in New Orleans, Louisiana, includes some 25 tons of steel from a huge dragline; a silent witness to the crash of Flight 93. 

For most folks in Somerset County, 9/11 is a personal memory.  The story of Flight 93 therefore carries great meaning.  That story of heroism and sacrifice will now be shared by the crew of the Somerset.  Wherever that flag flies, wherever their missions take them, the story of what happened on that field near Shanksville will go with them.     

In the first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” an aged Dr. McCoy is finishing up a tour of the newly-commissioned Starship Enterprise.  At one point, he says…

“Well, it’s a new ship.  Got the right name, though. 
You treat her like a lady. 
And she’ll always bring you home.”

Sometime next year, USS Somerset will take to the sea.  Under the hands of her crew, she will come alive.  And as she disappears over the far horizon, she will carry the silent spirits of 40 additional shipmates; those who fought and fell aboard Flight 93.

In Honor, she was named.  With Honor, she will serve. 

And she will bring them home.
Post a Comment