I just returned from a Navy reunion in which the plankowners of USS Biddle (DLG-34) gathered together in Annapolis to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the commissioning of that ship.
Our Captain (now 96), and nine of the original officers plus wives and other family were in attendance. There were about twenty-five plankowner officers initially, but deaths, conflicts and illnesses had worn the group down from earlier years.
It was a very pleasant chance to renew old friendships, but also a telling example of the old adage that time waits for no one.
We were the young lions of the late 1960’s. we served our country, ignored the excuses, and came home from the conflict unharmed. In many ways we were very lucky…and for the most part, tolerant of those in our own country who wished us ill.
We formed a family, a shelter, where we could gather. We knew the truths and the fictions of that era, and took pride in having carried on the traditions of the finest naval force in the world.
We met every few years, but as the years passed, we saw our ship, the finest in the Navy in 1967, be decommissioned and probably chopped up for salvage. And we saw our country also go through a change to where it now appears to desperately need some kind of repair or salvage.
At our reunion, I looked around at how we had all aged, and there was little doubt that our country has passed us by. Other younger generations are going to have to do the salvaging of this great country. And I think we are alright with that.
We could rejoice in the common bond of service. We had done our duty during our own difficult times. We had protected each other in the bad and good times through nearly fifty years.
Many of our group were career naval officers. You don’t get rich in the military and so we weren’t staying in the fancy hotels down by the water. But the company was the best you can get.
It is sad that our country has not honored the promises it made to service members then or now. The VA is still not doing its job as was abundantly clear from several of the comments there. That scandal seems to carry on, although better in a few locations. Other promises have also faded from memory as politicians declare a form of government induced amnesia.
But veterans do have a few special benefits still. All of us still have a strong love of our country and the deep satisfaction, the honor, to know that we served our country well. And we have the family that has been created by that service.
I don’t know what lies ahead for our particular family. We have become the observers, the invisible ones in the country. We hope for the best for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. But we are truly the old soldiers fading away. I suspect we may not meet again, but it has been a singular honor to be a member of this family and to have traveled with them on this journey.
Glenn K. Currie