Zensights provides a space for gentle contemplation in a world filled with hectic action and stressed-out situations.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Unsung Heroes

I have always had a deep and abiding affection for the Navy, being a Jacksonville girl and all. Maybe that is because my father was a sailor during the Second World War and during the Korean Conflict. Maybe it was because I loved watching those handsome midshipmen on the television during the Army/Navy game that my father watched annually. Probably it is because the Naval Air Station has been almost directly across the St. Johns River from all the houses I have lived in. For many years I have watched all manner of aircraft float laboriously in and out of that airfield. My childhood bedroom window lay directly under the summer flight pattern, and I was often awakened by terrifying, landing lights. I was terrified by these massive, groaning weapons of war; but I was comforted in that I knew they were there to protect my family and me.

I came to recognize the hurricane hunters, which were bravely scouting out those demon storms so that we civilians could weather them safely. I came to recognize the radar planes with their massive disks on their backs that probably were monitoring enemy submarines. Jets streaked loudly by and almost too fast to perceive. And then, there were the P-3s whose graceful "touch and g0" exercises that circled our games and lives.

During the Cold War, we nearby residents knew (although we never articulated the fact) that we were all living at ground zero should there ever be a nuclear attack by the Russians or other enemy. We would be gone in a blink of an eye should it ever come to a nuclear holocaust, but who actually wanted to survive that? It was hardly a question we wanted to contemplate as we went to our classes, our football games, our churches and our drive-in movies. Thankfully, such nightmares have faded as the years have gone by. My children have never been part of the "duck and cover" drill or the evacuation exercises that would have carried elementary children to Hastings, Florida, for safe keeping until the all-clear was sounded.

As an adolescent, I somehow sensed the presence of myriad handsome American service men dutifully assembled just across the river--thousands of them--good, bad, kind, extraordinary--all of them sons, some husbands and fathers. In some cosmic way their combined energy had been communicated to me and probably to all the young women who lived near them. They were and still are America's finest. I would all but swoon at the notion of a man in uniform--a dark blue, bell bottomed "cracker jack" uniform. Perhaps, that was why so many mothers warned their daughters to watch out for sailors. We just might have sailed away with them if given half a chance.

Of course, times have changed. I recall a poster I that had in college. It was of a 1920s female dressed in a navy uniform, and the caption read, "I wish I were a man so that I could join the Navy." Little did this flapper know that women would someday be sailors themselves, living lives of adventure on the sea and in the air‑‑flying monstrous aircraft in the skies just above my head.

On spring days when the windows are opened, I can often hear the droning of the aircraft engines some miles away across the water. It is then that I am reminded of the sacrifices made. I am reminded of two pilots--one male, one female--who lost their lives in my immediate vicinity when their aircrafts crashed. I am reminded of all the human lives dedicated to my protection and that of my country. I guess that's when my imagination can just make out the sound of a great chorus singing the words of the "Navy Hymn" in the wind that stirs about me:

O Trinity of love and power
All Travelers guard in danger's hour.
From rock and tempest, fire and foe
Protect them whereso e're they go
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad praise from air and land and sea.



Blogger Sun Singer said...

As a long-ago sailor who served aboard an aircraft carrier now decommissioned, I could not help but enjoy your post. Funny, at the time, I never once thought of the fact that I (and others like me) were pictured on boxes of Cracker Jacks. We did have a cracker jack outfit. I still get up early, though my alarm clock does not play reveille, nor do I hear a voice saying, "Heave to and trice up."


8:13 AM  

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