Discover more from CDR Salamander
in peace and war
A few weeks ago I started to think about how I wanted to handle FbF going in to this year’s Memorial Day. I was, and remain, in a bit of a mood that keeps popping out of the compartment I thought I had JB Weld’d shut, but it kept cracking open.
I think that’s not all that healthy, so perhaps better to open up the compartment and let it air a bit almost 18-months after that national disgrace that was the Kabul airport.
In a Memorial Day tradition that started after the Civil War but today is usually infused with a steady supply of WWII or Vietnam War reflections, I want to be a little selfish and focus on my generation’s experience a bit if you don’t mind. I was wondering, but how?
Instead of a place or location, or something a bit too self-referential, I’ve found a cohort most readers here are a degree of separation or two from, and when I started researching saw that it that brings up an underappreciated aspect of military service that doesn’t just impact those who give their all on the field of battle - but just the every day risks we have of preparing for.
Military service is more than just wartime service, and peace can be just as deadly as war.
I’m not a Naval Academy guy, but some of my close friends are. You don’t have to be one to have a connection to the place or respect what a critical part it is to our Navy.
I think that is where I’d like everyone to ponder a bit this weekend - specifically a group of officers who represent their generation’s experience - the younger co-hort GenX and the older cohort Millennials. Let’s take our snapshot centered on USNA Class of 2006 and one year either side to 2005 and 2007.
These men and women were the ENS who came in as I was planning to be the CDR heading out the door after a couple of decades of service. Most who were not prior enlisted were in high school when the attacks of 11 SEP 2001 took place. In that atmosphere they decided that wherever this “Global War on Terrorism” as we called it was headed, they were going to Annapolis to prepare to do what their nation asked them to do to lead it.
What many older officers - older GenX like me to the Baby Boomers above me - call "this phase/chapter/etc" - as we saw the end of the Cold War and the Peace Dividend decade before 9/11 - for these generation and younger it is just, "is."
As I have some acquaintances and friends in these three yeargroups, I knew they had lost - as we all have - some of their classmates. I just didn’t know the details.
I case you are not aware, USNA has a “Virtual Memorial Hall” that;
….exists to perpetuate the memory of alumni of the United States Naval Academy who have died in service to their country. As President Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, "It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion."
This site demands input from friends, family, classmates, and shipmates of the fallen. No team of historians could possibly provide the nuanced understanding of who these men and women were. Stories and anecdotes, no matter how trivial, will help us learn.
I would encourage everyone to take a moment to follow the links for each of these officers.
Class of 2005
Class of 2006
Class of 2007
In those three classes there are seven names on the memorial. Seven of the eight are USMC. Only one, Captain “Bull” Barrett, USMC died from enemy action.
Of the other seven, six Marines and one Navy, all of them have one thing in common - they were killed due to helicopter accidents and mishaps. Some for reasons known, other unknown.
This is a dangerous business in peace and war - but every day young men and women, officer and enlisted, do some of the most dangerous things a person can do even without someone trying to kill you, just so their country can be prepared for whatever history has in store.
We all know it, but looking over this dataset of just one corner of our business - it brought it back to the front of my mind as I get ready for Memorial Day Weekend.
Just thought I’d share.
Side note: another defining characteristic of this generation of veterans is that due to the exceptional advances in medical care and responsiveness (something we should thank those responsible for and be proud of) - there are many who are alive today who in other conflicts simply would not have survived. Many have tremendously difficult injuries and the recovery that comes with them. We should always keep them in mind this weekend as well.