Take Your Time, You Got All Night

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

2013, what’ll be? It’s hard to make things different, aka the perennial resolutions, when one enjoys comfort in the familiar and supposedly predictable. What gets me going are those who serve our country because I enjoy their genuine truthfulness and truthful genuineness. Plus, the circumstances of their lives are often funny and sometimes incredible. Here are few examples from Friday January 11.

I accepted happily the assignment to organize a spring visit to New York by executives of a Swedish Bank. My Swedish collaborator and I share notes each Friday morning via Apple’s Face Time video conferencing tool, iPad to iPad. We create what I consider to be our unique and temporary television broadcast. Merely the realm of science fiction 50 years ago. Somehow we meandered to the topic of how he came to Sweden. As a fifteen year old living in the Sudetenland in 1945, his father was pressed into military service with the instructions to report to the town square in an hour. Trained as a paratrooper, he parachuted into Russia where he was wounded within 200 meters of his landing. Relieved from the Front, he found his way west to Germany for the brief and violent duration of the war. As the Russians advanced mercilessly, German soldiers were informed that if they surrendered to Russians, they would be shot; if they surrendered to the Americans, they would have a short trial and hanged. To avoid the status of desertion, his commanding officer ordered him to flee in the direction of Norway. There he was detained and enrolled in a post-war education program. When made aware of jobs in Sweden for those with textile experience, he exaggerated his training in trade school, qualifying for relocation. He married a Swedish girl and raised a son to be a successful banker.

At our Naval Academy Alumni luncheon, our guest speaker was Captain Ivan Castro, US Army. He’s run 24 marathons, biked across America and climbed a 14,000 foot peak since losing his eyesight in a mortar attack in Iraq in 2006.

I sat next to a guest, the father of the roommate of a Chapter member, and learned that we served on the same destroyer, USS Wiltsie (DD-716), some 10 years apart. After this many years of post-Navy gatherings formal and impromptu, this is the first ‘shipmate’ that I’ve run into. Even though he served in Vietnam and I served in the Reserve Navy; even though he was stationed in San Diego and I in San Francisco, we enjoyed the coincidence and, of course, the sea tales of five inch 38 gun mounts, the danger of sailing with aircraft carriers and the memories liberty in Pacific ports.

Double coincidence or not, Tessa and I saw the matinee of Zero Dark Thirty. Who are the bad guys? Why does Al Qaeda consider the USA such an evil force? How could these people be so committed to such an uneven fight? The scene of the disaster at Camp Chapman criticized the pursuit of Bin Laden by comparing the career ambitions of several to the self-sacrifice of an individual. Don’t Americans usually root for the underdog?!

I realize that humans, on our brief visits to this world, must make the most of the circumstances that we inherit. I realize that Fate can evolve tragedy into opportunity and example; it’s numbing when it can also evolve into simply more tragedy. Even when I rooted for the SEALs, it seemed pointless to deploy such talent over such a long period of time in order to devastate a building in order to get one man, albeit one protected by the resources of the Pakistani military.

I begin the new year convicted to make the most of what I am offered. I hope to do so mindful of a purpose without being riveted to a conclusion.