4 November 2011 USNA Chapel Annapolis, Maryland
4 November 2011 USNA Chapel Annapolis, Maryland
After our four years here together, we were a tale of three decades:
We came to USNA the same year as Jimmy Carter, our nation’s only Naval Academy graduate to become President of the United States.
We got commissioned the same year Ronald Reagan became president. Hard to believe that was so long ago, Reagan finished two terms, had a CVN built, named after him, and brilliantly commanded by our classmate. 1981 began the greatest decade the U.S. military has ever known.
We truly had more resources than we could spend, but also a rediscovered respect from the American people.
From Grenada, to Tomcats triumphant over the gulf of Sidra, to the destruction of the Iranian navy in the largest war at sea since Leyte Gulf, OPERATION Praying Mantis [and I must add that it was the USS ENTERPRISE Carrier Strike Group that did it, and that the Strike Group is today commanded by our classmate!], to winning the cold war, and finally capping off the decade, our first decade of commissioned service, with a spectacular victory in Desert Storm, exorcising fully and finally, the ghosts of Vietnam.
Yes, 81 to 91 was as good as it could be to be in our uniforms.
We...you class of '81, we won the cold war on our watch.
The next ten years we looked hard for the peace dividend and the "the end of history, maybe even the end of war?
Instead we found our century's day of infamy. 9/11 2001, the end of our classes second decade...we were the only Naval Academy class to lose TWO classmates, Mike in the world trade center, Bob in the Pentagon.
And so we ended our third decade of service with ten years of global war, prosecuted by the all volunteer force made up of you and me, and now more and more often, by our sons and daughters.
Whether our service only included I-day, plebe summer, "USNA JC", five and out, early retirement at 15, a youthful retirement at 20 years, the class joining together for a group retirement at 30, or we are still at it, we all truly SERVED.
I never realized what it said on this beautiful chapel's doors until our USNA Shipmate James Webb wrote about it in his novel A Sense of Honor, "Not Self, For Country."
No it does not matter how long we served, it matters that we, together, served.
We chose to serve, to serve our country, to serve others.
We chose unafraid to go into harm’s way.
No matter our service selection, we faced dangers.
It is always risky to go to sea.
Riskier still to do it supersonic, rotary, or low flying all weather aircraft, or to even go into outer space.
To take a nuclear reactor and world ending numbers of nuclear weapons to the depths of the oceans.
To take very young sailors out on deck in heavy weather to refuel at night.
Our homes were made of steel and aluminum contained millions of pounds of flammable fluids, tons of ammunition, high voltages, young men and women packed into tight quarters;
Put it all in salt water, and send it to other side of the earth for some unknown number of months and yes our classmates often made the ultimate sacrifice.
Our classmates listed in the program.
We all know some of them very, very well.
For me, I lost two Navy Soccer teammates to flying in the right seat of an A6 Intruder—Mike Wilson [whose parents are with us here today] our team captain, and Glenn Ziegler. We also lost Mike Sperling in an A6—I broke Mike’s arm Plebe Summer during our rugby familiarization game. We lost my 1/C year roommate and our 36th co commander Joe Schartung to cancer—he loved Gordon Lightfoot and the large beautiful family he left too soon.
Any of you could come up here and tell a similar story. We remember all our classmates today.
A dangerous business:
Aviation: it used to be so much worse, it is so much better now thank the lord. My dad went through flight school in 1951 with 20 pilots, only nine survived the career and most of the losses were to training even though they flew through the heart of Vietnam. Lord guard and guide all those who fly…
Submarines 22% loss rate in WWII, highest of any community in the American military. Our generation of submariners, they WON the Cold War.
Marines always racing to the sound of gunfire to fight our Nation’s enemies. These past ten years have added to their losses, medals of honor, and their glory.
SEALS their only easy day was always only yesterday. Today from the caves of Afghanistan to some house in Pakistan… Don’t mess with SEALS.
Me and my ship driving brothers and sisters. Our biggest danger has come from fires at sea or falling overboard but IAs, GSAs, and an always dangerous sea…and my fellow destroyer captain Bob Dolan killed on 9/11…I was on the other side of the Pentagon that day. You never know.
All others in uniform...who would have known EOD, in '81 would be so directly in Harm’s Way and join Tom Cruise on the silver screen.
We loved admired and respected our superintendant for our final three years here Admiral Lawrence. He was a war fighting hero, he displayed monumental courage while a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he displayed personal courage upon his return -- so admired by his daughter, our classmate, Wendy, she followed him here, also earning her wings of gold, and then reached an amazing goal that eluded her father, becoming an astronaut.
I was privileged to be aboard DDG110, the USS William P Lawrence her first day at sea. After years in construction, less than ten hours underway we had fired two SM2 missiles, effortlessly achieved full power and were preparing to finish the sea trials when a really cool thing happened. The day Admiral Lawrence's F4 Phantom was shot down he was C.O. of VF143 affectionately known as the Pukin’ Dogs. So here we were on a glorious sunny day in the Gulf of Mexico and here come two FA18 Hornets from vfA143 to pay respect to their squadron’s famous former skipper’s destroyer namesake.
The first pass was a gear down hook down slow tight formation befitting the seriousness of his six years as a P.O.W. The next pass, I knew there would be a second pass, was a joyous, exuberant high speed pass that celebrated the joy of his release and his amazing career.
And so we made him our honorary classmate. He imbued in us some of his tremendous leadership qualities, and we in turn will imbue them into those that follow us as our watch ends on duty.
I am so proud of our classmates who have had their beloved children follow them into uniformed service. Your choice to serve is passed on to your children and so our country's future truly remains bright.
All of us here lost classmates but we all still have each other for the next 30 years or so, God willing.
Let us always remember with pride, and a smile, our classmates who with us, showed up 34 years ago to serve.
God bless our great class of 81 always.
God bless our great Naval Academy
God bless our Navy
God bless America.
Beat Troy, Beat Army!