By Master GryGoast
Steps to the podium... waits for the milling crowd to settle... this statement is mine... and mine alone. I take full responsibility for its content as a personal statement.
My purpose in posting here is to simply make my statement in a public forum. I mean neither to convince nor to elicit agreement. Take from it what you will ... if you find comfort I am pleased, if not...
Today... I wish to direct my comments to the topic of tradition... and to that end... I will proceed in the following manor ...
Tradition is central in military culture... unit cohesion... moral... and as a context in those difficult time when each and every one who has served is inevitably confronted bye the inner demons of there own moral delima... there mothers, as did mine... raised them to believe that taking and granting of life is the purvey of god ... not man. And... in the fullness of time... when one seeks to oppose evil... one must confront this dichotomy. Traditions provide us with guidance in this struggle. Military fashion is born from this context... 13 buttons on the naval uniform to remind us of the price having already been paid forming this great republic from the 13 colony's that we began from... saluting first the ships ensign and then the Office Of the Deck (O.O.D.) when boarding a navel vessel... thus showing your acknowledgement that you serve first the "republic for which it stands" before you serve the allegiance to any one man or group of men, (hence next saluting to the O.O.D. who represents the vessels Capt. whom in turn represents the unit... the crew, your mates).
The tradition that a U.S. Naval pilot will receive a salute from the catapult officer as the last act performed before firing the pilot into the darkness of the mission at hand... maybe never to be seen or heard from again... most all pilots return this salute with parade ground precision, (another tradition), as the last official act before launch and the last contact with his mates and the safety of his Carrier, one prolly doesn't need to ponder long to realize why.
This list is endless really... but the one I wish to call to your attention... is the tradition of the "Holiday Ensign", (flag), flown by all commissioned ships of our proud and honored naval forces, at home and abroad. The Holiday Ensign is the largest flag carried bye a commissioned ship of the line and sometimes referred to as the "Church Ensign". It is ALWAYS flown on Sundays and during all church services, (the burial at sea services for one)... it flew aboard the USS Arizona on that faithful Sunday morning when Japanese torpedo bombers raped battleship row and it flew from the mast of every ship and the carriers thay escorted during the battle of Midway... The "Church Ensign" flew from the mast head of USS Constitution when she met and bested HMS Guerriere and again when she met HMS Java... Gods ensign flow in defiance at the mast of USS Constellation as flames licked around her masts... deigning the Barbary Pirate's this most coveted prize... The Church Ensign was flown by the USS Congress during her 2 1/2 hour gun dual with CSA Virginia, (Merrimack) while blockading Chesapeake Bay, at the cost of the ship its self and nearly 300 of the 550 man crew... and every other battle that U.S. Navy ships have carried battle honors for.
Now... you asking yourself... and even now, your reaching for your trusty encyclopedia arnt you?... so.... let me save you the trouble... no... no day of combat operations, comparing the battle of Midway, occurred on a Sunday. You see... most other navy's of the world and antiquity have had a "Battle Flag"... in Britain I believe it is the "Cross of St George"... not the Union Jack... there is no "Battle Flag" for the U.S. Navy... however... the accepted tradition... like the pilots formal return salut... is to fly the Church Flag during combat... it was the accepted tradition aboard USS Constitution... it was the accepted tradition aboard the out-numbered USS Yorktown, Enterprise and Lexington at the battle of Midway and it was the tradition of the USS Oklahoma City CLG-5, (the ship I served aboard during my time).
Soon enough... to soon for a boy of tender years... I did learn... setting in that gun house, still flush from the adrenaline rush of "Beat to Quarters", (which was really a bugle call ... but played on a bosun's pipe ... ... more tradition ... go figure) ... the ship at full battle speed ... at the head of our formations battle line, rushing head long to our fate ... yes... the Capt. had ordered the "Church Ensign" flown... (interesting to note... he didn't order the "Holiday Flag" to the hoist)
We all caught a glimpse some how... most straining over his mates shoulder... of the "Steaming Ensign" haled down as that sparkling new magnificent Church Ensign ascended the mast ... sapping and snarling proud defiance in the 30+ knot breeze... and that's when I knew, In those few moments of quiet and solitude before we engaged in combat... believing that some of us.. even me ... might be called on to ... how dose that phrase go... oh, yes... "Give that last full measure"...
it was then... in that moment ... I realized... I learned to pray...and I knew, if it was my fate to give my all to my ship, my mates and my country ... I wanted Gods Ensign flying when that call came for me... in that moment I wanted to be as close to God as I could get...
What did I pray for... I prayed the prayer all desperate souls pray when they face there deepest darkest fears...
"Please god... let this be the last time"
That's all I have to say on this topic... thank you for reading this throgh.
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