“We the unwilling, led by the unqualified to kill the unfortunate, die for the ungrateful.” – Unknown Soldier
The U.S.S. Nimitz has returned to the United States after a record-setting 99,000-mile deployment of almost a year. Even though our Vietnam-era aircraft carrier deployments lasted nine months, I have a notion of how the sailors on board feel during the approach to Bremerton, Washington.
While carrier deployments are always dangerous, they usually don’t face the risks our ships faced during World War II. Nonetheless, I doubt most civilians have the faintest idea what it’s like to be gone 9-12 months aboard a Navy ship. Some sailors aren’t happy when people come up to them in airports and on the street and say, “Thank you for your service.” It comes down to “thank you for your service” sounds like a throw-away phrase similar to “how’s it going?”
The first time I came back from Vietnam, the ship arrived at the former Navy base in Alameda, California. Those near the pier were happy to see us, consisting mostly of family and friends. The second time I came back from Vietnam, I flew home for a change of duty assignment. As the military got off the plane, we had to walk a gauntlet of protestors jeering at us, spitting on us, and calling us baby killers.
Thank goodness the sailors and marines on board the Nimitz didn’t face that kind of “greeting.” On the other hand, in the 1960s, we came home to a world we knew–people who hated us–while today’s sailors are coming home to a world that’s changed since they left: COVID.
COVID is probably worse because it’s killed more people at home than are dying in most theaters of war. What a paradox.
I remain hopeful that President Biden will bring the troops home from Iraq, Afganistan, and the war of nerves and posturing in the South China Sea. I think the costs of all that in dollars and lives are unnecessary and that our efforts are better applied to problems at home. We need not police the World.
As a pacifist, I wonder why more people don’t feel the same way instead of acting angry, unaware, or ungrateful to those who go in harm’s way.
My Vietnam novel is unlike most because it focuses on the lives of sailors rather than battles. The ship on the cover is a flight-deck photo of the U. S. Ranger. the ship I served on board.