I always look forward to Independence Day – the happy crowds, the patriotic music, the swearing-in of new citizens and the fireworks – ah, the fireworks! (Esther, her sister Renee, and I will be on the National Mall tonight for spectacular fireworks.)
It’s a great day to remember the audacious Americans who declared independence from our colonial rulers and risked everything to take up arms. But it’s also a reminder of the steep price our ancestors paid to achieve that independence in seven years of perilous, bloody warfare.
So too should we remember the sacrifices that independence and freedom require today. Our men and women in uniform are putting their lives on the line right now so that we can enjoy our July 4th picnics and celebrations. We should also consider what our part should be.
I did my part as an enlisted sailor and naval intelligence officer reservist for over 22 years, the last nine in a Pentagon reserve unit until I retired in 1983. (Esther served as an Army reserve medic in the 1970s while a nursing student in Alabama.)
As the son of a career Army doctor and younger brother of an Army sergeant, the decision to enlist in 1961 came without a second thought. I was only 17 then, so I needed my mother’s written permission and left for boot camp a week after graduating from Florida High. (She was glad to get me out of the house for a whole summer!)
After boot camp, I drilled in a Tallahassee reserve unit while an undergraduate student at Florida State University, then served on active duty 1965-67 aboard the USS Terrebonne Parish (LST-1156), operating in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. I’m a founding member of the LST-1156 Alumni Association, which keeps me in touch with some of my shipmates. I’m also a member of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Jewish War Veterans.
Returning to Tallahassee in 1967, I earned a direct commission as an Ensign, Naval Intelligence reserves, and spent several years in a unit supporting the Fleet Intelligence Europe, at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville.
Later I held a Top Secret security clearance in a Pentagon reserve unit while pursuing my civilian career in Washington, DC and New York City. My assignment was managing editor of the Naval Intelligence Quarterly, a Secret-level publication about the Soviet Navy. I retired as a Lieutenant Commander.
So in the end, it was a rewarding and stimulating 22 years – nothing heroic, just a citizen doing his part. I salute all who do their part.