Semper ParatusPosted: November 11, 2011
For the non-Coasties out there, and for those who don’t speak Latin (Dan Quayle, this means you), that’s “Always Ready”. US Coast Guard motto, at your service. Military service has always been important to me, mostly because my family is rife with it. My Mom’s father was a navigator on Navy flights over Dresden in WWII. My Great Uncle was on Iwo Jima…he was missing part of his left ring finger and it was always the subject of controversy growing up. How did he lose it?
The line he always fed us was this: “I will tell you, but you can only ask me one question about it, and you have to promise never to ask me again.”
We all agreed, and his answer was always the same (clearly we didn’t keep our promise): “It was bitten off.”
That left SO much to the imagination…by whom? When? Did they chew it up and swallow it, or spit it out? TELL US MORE. Yet he refused. The likeliest story is that it was shot off in the war that he never talked about. Back then, men didn’t discuss what they saw. They did their job and came home.
Later, a different generation did the same thing…my Great Uncle’s son flew supply planes for the first Gulf War in the early 1990’s. I can remember that his wife would sleep at his parent’s house when he was deployed, she just felt safer there than home alone with her two little girls.
My own father was in the Army ROTC and went on to serve five years of active duty, 18 months of it in Seoul, South Korea. He came back and was a weekend warrior on reserve duty for the entirety of my childhood. He finally retired a Lt. Colonel in I think it was the late 1990’s. I still have vivid memories of checking the calendar to see if this was the third weekend of the month, because if it was we were left with just ourselves and Mother so that meant lots of Uno and Scrabble and her telling us to quit trying to kill one another. Some things never change.
My husband is a veteran of the US Coast Guard. He was front and center when the original Drug Wars began with Mexico. He was injured in the line of duty and is a Disabled Veteran now. It’s funny…before we met, I didn’t think much about what the Coast Guard did. You think they go out and rescue people who fall off of boats in a drunken stupor, or rescue coeds off of South Padre when they cram too many Spring Breakers onto a party barge. But the truth is, they have elite forces like all the other branches of the military and those who serve there are placed in danger daily.
The interesting thing is, they don’t see it that way. There’s a call to duty, a desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves that lies behind every veteran I have ever met. It’s something I can understand, but not fully because I’ve never done anything like that before. I would probably be all “Look, you MORON, that’s why the sign says ‘MAXIMUM LOAD: 15’ on it. What? You thought your group of 25 drunken friends could challenge the laws that govern what makes a boat float? Then begone with ye…swim to shore on your own!” Strangely, the Coast Guard frowns upon that sort of response which is why my husband was much better suited to serve than I would have been.
So anyway, to he and all the other veterans out there who have served in any capacity, in any branch, I would like to offer you a few words: