November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day

I went to my kid's elementary school yesterday for the veteran's day lunch. We vets get to eat with our kid. Nothing special. We could do that any day. I mean yeah, if you get there at the right time there may be a class that's singing or something, but for the most part it's just a time for the vet to sit and eat lunch with their child or grandchild. 

Every year since my kids started at this school I have done this. Every year. I did serve in Desert Storm in the Navy, so I am in fact a veteran, but for me, it's so anticlimactic. You've heard the saying "If you like your freedom, thank a vet". Well I can tell you with all assuredness that you have very little to thank ME for in having your freedom. I was a lowly peon on a lowly ship that did very little in the cause for freedom. It was our job to escort ships, look for mines, and generally just be a military presence in the Persian Gulf in case the bad guys decided to start anything with a merchant vessel. However, if someone DID start something, we were only armed with a pitiful 3 inch gun, so the damage we could dish out would in fact be less than spectacular if we hit anything at all. We had a missile launcher, but even at that time the missiles we carried were quickly becoming obsolete, and were rarely used. Besides, with the boats the Iraqi forces were using, and yes I said boats, a missile would be ineffective. Well actually if it hit one it would be major overkill, but as they were not designed for such small targets I doubt they would have even come close. The gun too, therefore, would be overkill at best. The Navy designates any craft longer than 100 feet as a ship, and anything shorter as a boat. Most of the stuff the Iraqis were using probably didn't reach 50 feet, at least the stuff I saw. So the best weapons we had at our disposal were a couple of 50 caliber machine guns and a 25 mm cannon. Makes one feel REALLY safe, lemme tell you. That's what happens when you take a ship originally designed to be a Coast Guard vessel and turn it into a fairly decent antisubmarine warfare platform. It sucks as a surface combatant. Got great sonar, some torpedo tubes, and the ability to launch a helicopter with a torpedo attached, but little else in the way of weaponry or armor. Oh yeah, the hull was only about a half an inch thick. Great armor. So someone explain to me why we needed to "escort" the Iowa class battleship Wisconsin (BB-64) with its 16 inch thick armor? Oh yeah, I forgot, they had really crappy sonar, and couldn't have found a mine unless they hit it first. Not the greatest way to minesweep.

This was the ship I was stationed on, the USS McInerney (FFG-8) The missile launcher is up there in the front, the gun is up on the uppermost deck about in the middle.

This is a pic of the gun firing, this one is on the USS Boone (FFG-28).

This is a pic of the missile launcher firing a missile, this one is onboard the USS George Philip (FFG-12). Well was, she's been decommissioned.

This is the battleship Wisconsin (BB-64). I have no idea what the contraption is on the front there, but you can see the massive guns these ships were armed with.

This is a photo of both classes of ships next to each other so you can see the tremendous difference in size. The ships are the USS Halyburton (FFG-40) and the USS Iowa (BB-61). The FFG's, or Fast Frigate Guided Missile, are 450 feet long, whereas the battleship is almost 890 feet.

So anyhow, we were out there doing our duty for God and Country, and you know what my job was? To keep the diesel generators wiped down, watch and make sure all the guages read where they were supposed to, and keep a watch on all the other "auxiliary" equipment to make sure it was running properly. Now on a Navy ship, "auxiliary" equipment pretty much means everything that isn't the main engines. With the exception of the waste treatment equipment. Thankless job for the poor bastards that had to deal with that. Sewage, yeeesh. Anyway, for me this meant that I had to assist in monitoring the air conditioning equipment, refrigeration equipment, air compressors (both low and high pressure), the hydraulic steering gear and fin stabilizers (needed as the ship was not designed to be on the open ocean originally, see above), and my personal favorite, the desalinization plants. Making fresh water was a neverending task while underway. It got used up in a hurry, and we could never seem to keep up with the demand. I was the guy that stood that watch on occasion, but for the most part, I was standing watch on everything else. And that's my point, folks, to me, it was just me doing my job. The ship required a lot of equipment to keep running, and it was my job along with about 30 other guys to make sure the ship was supplied with electricity and water, no small task, but like I said, to me, and a lot of the other guys, it was just a job we did each and every day, just like everyone back home.

I don't think the soldiers on the front lines in the myriad of wars in the history of the United States could say that it was "just a job". These guys were and are in the line of fire, really in danger. I never once got shot at, never once felt like I could die at any moment. Well there were the mines, I mean yeah, we could have hit one, and because I was working in engineering, I would probably been the first one to "buy it", so I guess I was in danger, but that was such an "IF". For soldiers on the front lines, it's more of a "when" in my opinion. For me, veterans are people who put themselves in harms way to bring freedom to those who don't have it, get shot at and killed doing their "job".

So I am a "veteran", but I'm thanking the soldiers today and every day for giving me MY freedom.

Oh and one last photo, to show you the amazing firepower of a battleship compared to a frigate. This is just ONE of the guns firing!

*all pics courtesy of*


Jupiter Greenmoone said...

I like this post because it addresses what so many servicemen and women feel like. I do have to say though, my brother is the guy on the front lines, and in order for him to get through his day, he does view it as "just a job". But I am sure thankful to the soldiers who, while they may not have been shot at once, made sure he got enough rations to last him through the heat and exhaustion of the day. And the soldiers who kept the satellites up so he could call home (that's what my husband does). Not being on the front lines doesn't demean your service. I think it's great what you did. Because there'd be a lot more people in the military if there wasn't some risk. You took a risk.

Ryan Sutton said...

It may be just a job to you, but it's still more dangerous than most of our jobs, where the most dangerous thing we have to worry about is a papercut or tripping over our own feet on the way back from the coffee machine.

And maybe having lunch at the school isn't the most glamorous recognition for you, but I bet to those kids it's like sharing a little bit of time with superman. You lived it, it was a normal part of the everyday. To the rest of, it's an act of bravery. Thank you.