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THE DAY OF SACRIFICE
Last Post 13 Apr 2011 11:05 AM by steamer621. 2 Replies.
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steamer621User is Offline
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steamer621

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08 Apr 2011 11:23 AM
    I remember back in my innocent days of August 1963 when I joined the Submarine Naval Reserves over at the Navy Yard in Philly. Hard to believe it turned into an 10 year Active duty, 3 submarine, USN tour.
     
    An old salt put me in a room with nothing but posters on the walls.  Posters with words and pictures. Here, there, everywhere.  No reading material, no distractions. Just me, a chair and the posters. I had already gone through all the processing, tests and physicals.  Being only 17 I had the signed statement from my Mother already submitted so it was just left to me for the final decision. The swearing in.
     
    The crusty old recruiter told me to go in the room, have a seat, think things over for any more questions I may have and then come and see him down the hall for the Main Event.
     
    Little did I know at the time but I was in a room full of words that describe the person who is responsible for every single thing this country believes in and values.  The only person on the face of the earth that insures that we wake up free to the morning air.

    One single, solitary person. One person who makes one decision that charts the course of Freedom.  
    I knew a proud man named Billy who was one, my Uncle John another, my Mother's piano playing brother Asher, my step-father Ray and his brother Tom.
     
    My chair was facing a wall with a huge flag spread across the top.  Right below that flag was a picture of an insignificant Seaman Recruit staring at me.  Below him, spelled out in our Red, White and Blue were the biggest words in the room....

    I AM AN AMERICAN FIGHTING MAN.
    I SERVE IN THE FORCES THAT GUARD MY COUNTRY AND OUR WAY OF LIFE.  I AM PREPARED TO GIVE MY LIFE IN THEIR DEFENSE.
     
    It wasn't a boast, it wasn't a creed, it wasn't a promise, it wasn't a pledge. It was someone saying what it's all about. It was a simple fact.
     
    I looked at those word for what seemed like hours.  I looked at and read other posters on the walls describing things like capture, honor, commitment, command, loyalty and Freedom but my head always swung back to the fore.

    I AM AN AMERICAN FIGHTING MAN. I SERVE IN THE FORCES THAT GUARD MY COUNTRY AND OUR WAY OF LIFE.  I AM PREPARED TO GIVE MY LIFE IN THEIR DEFENSE.

    Then my mind wandered to thoughts of my girl across the river in my 'hood. Sweet little thing. Thought of the car I wanted...didn't know then it would be a straight eight Pontiac but I knew I would have one soon.  Thought of my Mother, Father,  brother, two sisters and my Cherry Hill buddys hangin' at Nick's Pizza.
    Then back to the Flag and the words below...I AM PREPARED TO GIVE MY LIFE IN THEIR DEFENSE.

    Then I thought of the upcoming final weekend down at the shore before my senior year started. Always wanted to go to Wildwood but getting a place on Labor Day weekend was impossible. I knew I would really just stay at the farm my Dad lived on...was only about 14 miles inland from Sea Isle City there in Cape May County. 6 or 7 South Philly hoods hung with my brother and I there in Sea Isle in the summer.

    Mike and Louie Guiliano with their old man's '55 New Yorker Delux, Nicky Sticks, Spook, Kenny Latini and a few others that hung off Broad around Porter in Philly.  After my brother and I closed the arcade where we worked we all would party 'till Quarter to Three with the little green men...Rolling Rock.

    I thought back to a brief time in my life when I lived with my father down on the farm.  I remember a house way over on the horizon where at exactly 8AM every morning a flag would appear, disappear, appear, disappear and appear.  Being 10 years old and without pennies for the railroad track, I made a point one morning to go and see what that was all about.  When you're 10, everything is new, exciting...a trip!
     
    Well, I  saw an old man come out of his house holding a flag and limp up to the flagpole as he glanced over his shoulder. I followed his eyes and saw a rickity old lady clutching the doorjamb.

    He was followed by 3 dogs, yapping and nipping.  Then, without any prompting they went quiet and still in the morning breeze.  Then, up went the flag...down it came to half...flapped for a bit...then back up...down again to half...flapped for a bit....back up.  I figured the guy was a little short stacked.  My Uncle Mike never had trouble getting the flag up or down at the school so I watched in wonder. The old man bowed his head for about 5 seconds...looked up to the flag, tied it off and turned.

    He screamed to no one, "tuletuiucunsulatu."
    From the door of the house, half lost in the breeze came, "Ognimali nun veniprinòciri."

    The dogs started yapping and nipping as I went back through the corn.
    I asked my Sicilian neighbor about the old guy one day....he said, "Oh a yea, Carmine a...yea he loosa his a two brother innade War."  "Good da man Carmine a...stayed a behind a to take cara his a Ma Ma!"  Hisa Daddy died innade other war.

    The Seth Thomas on the wall was ticking...tick, tick, tick......
    I kept reading the words this serious recruit was saying. Silently reading...over and over.
     
    I AM AN AMERICAN FIGHTING MAN.  I SERVE IN THE FORCES THAT GUARD MY COUNTRY AND OUR WAY OF LIFE. I AM PREPARED TO GIVE MY LIFE IN THEIR DEFENSE.

    The Seth Thomas on the wall ticked once again, and again, and again.....
    Unusually cool for an August 23rd but I was thirsty. I went out to the hall for a drink.  The open door past the fountain had words coming from it concerning far off places like Singapore and Hawaii, garnished with laughter and longing from the old salt who left me to my thoughts.

    I started towards the door for my final swear because it was getting kind of late and I didn't want to miss The Three Stooges on TV.  Had to keep up on my role models!  Who said Sub Sailors were crazy?

    Something stopped me. Someone stopped me?  Who knows?

    I slowly walked back to the room, closed the door, and squared my shoulders for the load.

    I looked at the Flag and "TOLD" a singular person... my words softly filled the room...

    "I AM AN AMERICAN FIGHTING MAN."
    "I SERVE IN THE FORCES THAT GUARD MY COUNTRY AND OUR WAY OF LIFE."
    "I AM PREPARED TO GIVE MY LIFE IN THEIR DEFENSE."

    I still see that Flag.  I will exit in it's Star Spangled embrace.
     

    tu letu iu cunsulatu.
    Neither you happy nor I consoled.
    Ognimali nun veniprinòciri.
    Not every pain comes to harm you.

    GearsUser is Offline
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    Gears

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    12 Apr 2011 08:37 PM
    Great story Steamer. Thanks.

    I was stationed in up state MI when 9/11 happened. Sometime later, when the country was in full patriotic fervor we were in Detroit or possibly Cleveland. I was on liberty, not in my uniform doing whatever it was I was doing. A guy approached me and said, "Why aren't you wearing an American flag?"

    I thought about it for a second and replied, "I don't have to wear one. I carry it everyday. I'm a United States Coast Guardsman."

    The silence spoke volumes.
    “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” ― Bruce Lee
    steamer621User is Offline
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    steamer621

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    13 Apr 2011 11:05 AM
    I hear ya Gears...No forces...no Flag!
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