If there was one word to describe my reaction to the privilege of having the experience to spend 24 hours aboard the USS Carl Vinson as part of the Navy Distinguished Visitor program, it would be GRATITUDE.
I’m generally very pro-military in my outlook and have, on occasion, met military personnel in various situations and said “Thank you for your service.”
Now, however, I have a much greater sense of appreciation for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis to do their jobs.
It’s not really possible, no matter how many words I use, to do it justice…but that won’t stop me from trying.
I overheard a German tourist in NYC a few weeks ago saying to his son that “America was the world’s policeman” with a sense of mild scorn. Well, you know what? I’m grateful that we are. When you think about 95% of world commerce going over oceans and the communication links between nations that run under them, I’m appreciative that the US Navy is on the front lines keeping it safe. Not like I trust anyone else to do it better.
The mission is critical, of course, but the stories I heard of people being away from loved ones for key life milestones and for months and months at a time, you realize that this isn’t a job that is 9-5 and it’s not even like a job where people ‘travel a lot” for work, it’s all-encompassing and all-consuming. I met one female officer who had given birth 4 months before and now is looking at a possible 10 month deployment without seeing her first child.
And this is true all the way from the top (that’s Capt. Kent Whalen (call sign of “Torch”) who briefed us when we first arrived to the C.S. (Culinary Specialist team) that prepared and served a meal in one of the Officers’ Messes. And everyone in between.
The promise of the military to give people a leg up. I met so many young people who had come from challenging environments. A guy from East LA who had been expelled from high school for fighting, bounced around, and could easily have ended up dead, as he said. Instead, with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, he’s manning part of the ordnance/munitions department.
The engineers and scientists who figured out how to keep a moving city of 5,000 people within a self-contained vessel and even give them the chance to not just function and survive, but thrive. The systems and forethought that have to go into something like this….honestly, I can’t get my head around it. Maybe not now….maybe not ever.
These men and women work very hard. Long hours (12-14 per day) in fairly cramped conditions. Not only that, but they need to then eat, sleep, play, workout, etc. with all of the same people and while, I was told, tempers do flare, for the most part, it works.
When we first boarded, the Public Affairs team who served as our liaison (and reinforced by the Captain) kept reminding us that it is the people who make the ship work.
That’s obviously true, but I did enjoy seeing (and granted it was my little porthole onto their lives) the high degree of professionalism and respect that was evident for everyone’s contribution to the cause.
There’s MUCH more to come, but the first post had to be about that.
So, now I can say with a full and authentic heart (or even more so than in the past) to our military personnel…THANK YOU for your service.