Standing guard

A prolonged blast of the ship’s horn broke the early morning silence at Norfolk Naval Base on Thursday as the crew aboard the USS Harry S Truman heaved in the massive aircraft carrier’s mooring lines. A steady cold rain fell as the carrier churned toward the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay heading due east on this first day of a scheduled six month Persian Gulf deployment. Those three words (Persian Gulf deployment) say it all for sailors, marines and their families these days. That’s where the action is. It’s the vortex of instability in the world and it’s where our next war will likely take place.

A glance at the faces of crew members aboard the Truman and its 11-ship battle group, which left Norfolk this week, reveals a cross section of America including service men and women of virtually every race and religion. There is but one common element among them their youth. Most are in their late teens or early 20s. There are some salty chief petty officers with sprouts of gray hair who are not too far away from 40. And it’s a good bet that the most senior officer the ship’s captain is not even 50-years-old.

The Truman battle group will spend Christmas at sea and eventually patrol the areas around the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. If war breaks out with Iraq or any other hostile nation, these sailors and marines will be ready. It’s in their blood and their heritage.

Members of the battle group are descendants of veterans of another American conflict which occurred 61 years ago this morning Pearl Harbor. It was on Dec. 7,1941, that servicemen stationed at this Hawaiian outpost were preparing for morning colors during an otherwise routine Sunday. By lunch time, more than 2,300 of their fellow sailors, marines and soldiers would be dead. Many of the victims were young with visions of school dances and childhood friends still fresh in their minds.

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor woke up a nation to the dangers of world affairs. From that day forward, America has stayed ready to defend freedom throughout the world.

Those Pearl Harbor veterans who survived the attack, spearheaded the push that saved America with an allied victory in World War II. Since then, it has been essential for America to send its young people across the ocean to protect our country’s interests and to insure that the enemies of freedom do not advance toward our homeland.

Hopefully the crew of the Truman battle group these sons and daughters of Pearl Harbor will return to a cheerful reunion of family and friends when their deployment ends in six months. In the mean time, they are charged with the duties guarding America as so many generations of young Americans have done before them.

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