My husband and I celebrated Memorial Day by participating in two Fleet Week tours: one on the USS Wasp, the other on the Coast Guard's sailing training tall ship (looks like an 18th century vessel) captured from the Germans after WWII, the Eagle.
I had been on an aircraft carrier (picture right) before when I met my brother Paul in Honolulu back in 1999. Yet this time, it came complete with show-and-tell discussions with service men and women who run and man the attack vehicles and aircraft. Each had been trained for their specific weapon, whether it be a large helicopter, airplane, jeep, hummer, tank, or floating transport vehicle. And each were proud.
I learned some surprising things regarding the realities of war--that officers but not soldiers are given bathroom facilities (and very primitive ones) when airborne in attack aircraft. (Too unpleasant for me to post anything further here.) I learned that some tanks, like that pictured below, can float. I learned different methods for transporting attack vehicles to distant lands - floating it atop a specially-designed boat, floating yourself, or being delivered via aircraft. That we live fairly remotely from the rest of the fighting world means our travel expenses are disproportionate.
Most interestingly, I learned that despite competitiveness between service divisions, they are united in a loathing for their commander in chief. I was deeply surprised to learn--and especially that it has received little to no media attention--that servicemens' pay has been cut--twice in the last year. One month, they received no pay and then were given back pay the next. Perhaps this was all due to fights with Congress over the budget, but the result was that one marine we spoke to felt taken advantage of --that President Obama knew he wasn't going anywhere, so the President cut not only pay but other aspects of his job. He and his buddies pray, somewhat perversely, for war with Korea so they can see some action. Despite being ill-treated and generally despised by their chief commander, these servicemen and women were then agog that Pres. Obama took credit for the capture of Bin Laden. The marine we spoke with said that the day President Obama came aboard the Wasp, he made sure he was not onboard ship.
Despite these revelations, I became deeply grateful for the service of these men and women. Simply wearing their thick uniforms in the kind of terribly hot weather experienced yesterday was worthy of praise, but I also found them intelligent, patriotic, eager to help, and interested in saving their country money (they only used the tens of thousands if not multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars-priced GPS-guided missiles when hitting an exact target was essential). That, combined with watching "The Guardian" about one Coast Guard teachers' experience at "A" school last night proved a meaningful way to spend Memorial Day. It also reminded me of last year's Memorial Day, spent in a Cambridge graveyard.
|Us with [name removed per comment below], the Marine who felt betrayed by Pres. Obama|
|Lance climbing up the side of the floating tank|
|somewhat like my old Jeep Wrangler, only 10x more expensive...|
|Kind of cool that this huge hunk of metal and concrete was floating in water so close to NYC skyscrapers|
|Can you see the sign atop this helicopter?|
|This chopper sat about 40 and could go up to 10,000 ft|
|I was told that under one of the bronze plates were swastika's from when this ship was German owned.|
|See the Eagle at the hull? This was a ship on which Hitler celebrated his birthday.|