Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans, and why we have so much to learn from them

Today in honor of Veterans' Day, a few comments.

First, I have to say that I don't consider myself a veteran, even though I'm an active duty Naval Officer. I should also clarify that I don't write this blog in that capacity - this is my hobby, and no matter how passionate I am about it, it should be well noted that I don't write in that official capacity. But to my mind, veterans are those who have served, who've contributed to create the military we have today, and laid the groundwork and received the laurels that we in the modern military strive to build on. In short, the people who have helped create the Naval heritage (and other services as well) that we have inherited. These words are about you.

NHS has benefited from the contributions of several vets, directly and indirectly, since its founding not long ago. I've found that any time we have them around, things are just somehow more fun, more enlightening. The most notable experience was probably having an old Navy vet in our crew in "Conquer the Chesapeake" - where we crossed the Bay from Cape Henry to Cape Charles. At 78 years old, that tough old salt (and no, I don't think he minds the label) was an inspiration to the younger members of the crew, one of whom was his son. When we were in the heart of the squall that pelted us with rain and fierce winds, one person asked him through the darkness "hey, how are you holding up" to which he fiercely responded "I'm fine but YOU look a little green". Everyone laughed a bit, and at that moment I knew exactly what it was about vets that we need to take onboard - perseverance.

Look back at past generations - the Sailors who've manned the ships at the tip of the spear. In fair winds and foul, they charged onward. They put their best into their work because they considered their work an extension of who they are. It is so rare that I see that today. But whether or not we want to admit it, the work we do is probably the one way that most of us have to influence those who will come after us. Whether it is scrubbing the bilge or training a gun, doing that often simple and mundane task well and to the best of your ability can mean that people you don't know will remember you after you're gone or not. And perhaps not by name, but by reputation, and sometimes that can be just as meaningful. For instance, I don't know anyone who served onboard the battleship Wisconsin but I can tell you their dedication shows through in the material condition of the ship, years after decommissioning. Some of the modern ships I've served on don't look so good after just 12 hours of inattention as the deepest, darkest crevices of that ship do now.

So NHS - and this includes myself - if you want to throw your hat in the ring with those people, step up to the plate, and no matter what you do, do it well. And don't rest until you've DONE it well. Not just good, but great. The pride that comes with wearing the nation's cloth and carrying its standards is NOT something you pick up by showing up, and I can guarantee you it isn't easy or quick. Go talk to a vet, and they'll tell you all about it. And maybe with a little sweat, we can finally begin to take it all onboard.


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