Sunday, July 04, 2010

How I Spent My Fourth of July

That's a theme today in some parts of the Milblogosphere. So here's my Navy Groupie take.

For me here in Boston, the 4th has always been as much about history as it is anything else. The focus for me was never the cook-outs and fireworks. Is that because Boston is America's cradle of liberty? Is it because a great many of my fellow Bostonians took pains to preserve the artifacts of the Revolutionary War? Is it because I ran the decks of Old Ironsides and climbed the 294 steps of the Bunker Hill Monument as a child?

Or perhaps I am just a geek who was lucky enough to have a Sailor as a father.

Whatever the answer, I have always been drawn to USS Constitution as the country turns it's attention to celebrating our birth. In recent years, the US Navy has made this even more enjoyable for me with having Navy Week run right into this very special time.

Tomorrow the festivities draw to a close and I attend my final #NavyWeek thing - an early morning tour of USS Whidbey Island LSD-41.

But today was spent aboard old Ironsides as she made her way out into the harbor for her annual turn around. There were 500 or so guests roaming the ship, watching the Boston skyline as we glided past, taking tours and just enjoying a hot sunny day on the water.

We were surrounded by Coast Guard vessels, State Police, Enviromental Police, Boston Police, Boston Fire Department vessels and many pleasure craft. the ship made it's way out to Castle Island and there was a 21 gun salute before we headed back.

USS Constitution's commanding officer CDR Cooper & her exec LCDR Savage gave welcoming addresses. The crew gave tours and assisted with hoisting, flying, saluting and folding flags for guests. At the end of the cruise each departing guest received a shell from a round that had been fired on the ship.

I couldn't help but admire USS Whidbey Island as USS Constitution passed on our way in and out. Smartly decked out in full dress for the holiday, her Sailors manning the rails, saluting Old Ironsides.

You know, it would be so easy to just stop thinking let myself get carried off on this celebratory wave. But the Sailors of the USS Whidbey Island and USS Hawes, they are here on liberty. Sure, they are happy to march and lay wreaths and visit kids in the hospital. But this is just a diversion.

Their real purpose is to defend our nation, their real job is something dangerous and difficult.

For every Sailor I saw today, there are a hundred doing something far from home that most of us would never want to do for ourselves. They are standing in harms way between you and tyrants and pirates and terrorists.

As a Nation we need to pay more attention to that. For all that it is good to remember our roots, after all, I am a John Adams's just as important to remember whose sacrifice allows you to contemplate the history of our Nation.

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