After a 21 year military career – which hasn’t ended yet, I look back and realize how many “Forrest Gump” moments I have had. (You know, those moments when you have random brushes with major events in history?) One of my favorites was standing on the flight deck of the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CVN-72) while President Bush gave his speech at the end of our ten month deployment.
That ship and it’s Sailors had just endured the longest deployment in over 30 years. I realize all the controversy surrounding that event, and I try to ignore it. For us – it was a celebration. We had accomplished OUR mission. I am not sure it was widely reported, but President Bush stayed on that flight deck LONG after the TV coverage ended. He stayed and he shook the hand of every single member of that crew, maybe 5,000 plus hands. (Some of the crew had departed previously in Hawaii.) When President Bush shook my hand, a good hour after the speech, he looked straight in my eyes and said “Thank you for all you’ve done.” He did that to every Sailor, giving some hugs, laughing at their jokes, but definitely making a connection with each of us in some way. That day can swirl in drama through history, but for me it was an amazing day, a day that would never have happened if I didn’t decide to join the US Navy.
UPDATE: Regarding the Mission Accomplished Banner, it was hung by the SHIP! This was not a political statement, it was NOT placed by the Presidential Staff. It was a message from the ship to the world, we were proud of what we had accomplished. Our ship, the Carrier Air Wing, and associated Strike Group (and other allied Strike Groups present) were responsible for the initial barrage of Tomahawks and for “Shock and Awe”. We played a large part in taking down Saddam Hussain’s regime. OUR MISSION WAS ACCOMPLISHED!