Sunday, November 11, 2012


I looked around for something special to share this Veterans Day.  Something that would show appreciation to and for our Veterans.  After some time, I felt compelled to see if I could find a speech that hit the mark.

In 2007, Coulby Dunn offered these thoughts.  Which I find.....and I hope you do to, package the who, when, where, why and how of it all.  Dunn had the distinct privilege of serving in all three Airborne units while with the U.S. Army Paratroopers.  He served with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1967, with the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in 1968-1969 and with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vietnam in 1969-1970.  Coulby delivered these words as part of the Veterans Day program at the Wallenpaupack, Pennsylvania Area High School with over 1,500 students, teachers and parents present.

"Good evening ladies and gentleman....and than you for joining me this evening as we recognize our veterans for their unwavering service to America.....

Across this great country.....and throughout the world....Americans will pause today to honor our brave fighting men and women.....who for more than 230 years have underwritten our freedom by their duty.

We recognize that all our veterans have given something of themselves to this country....and some have given all...laying down their lives to defend the freedoms we hold so dear.  This evening, as we reflect on the blessing of our liberty we ask our Heavenly Father that we may be faithful stewards of the freedom we have been granted.  Let's us never forget that we cannot rightfully celebrate the joy of our freedom...without remembering the great price paid for that freedom.

 We stagger at the eternal debt we the untold number of American Veterans who chose to set aside their personal ambitions and dreams to assure the well being of our great nation.  We, the living are indeed the beneficiaries of those who made tremendous sacrifices for the advancement and surety of our liberty.  May we always be humbly grateful to those brave American patriots who suffered and sacrificed for the glory of God and for the freedom of all Americans.

It's truly an honor to Honor you!!!
For those soldiers who have stood guard in peacetime and to those who have seen the terror the horror and the inhumanity of combat and to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice...Let it be said that our soldiers have been there for America, defending the Constitution of the United States.

To all our veterans, we have a simple yet heartfelt message-Thank You-thank you for your unwavering service in peacetime and War here in this nation and throughout the world.  For all veterans regardless of their service and the era in which they have served, they have paid the price time and time again.  They have defended America through both the best and worse of times....and they have performed their duties tirelessly with little recognition of fanfare.  They have sought neither fortune nor fame.   It was merely a simple love of America and the freedoms we all cherish so much.

Soldiers know what it is like to stand guard in the chill of the night while others sleep.

They understand the meaning of hardship, standing watch at freedom's frontier far from their loved ones.  It is this devotion to duty that gives us all strength.

Looking out on the world, we see our Soldiers serving in over 100 countries throughout the world and the legacy of our Veterans continues to inspire our American soldiers today to answer the call to duty.

While we pay homage to all American Veterans, I particularly want to thank our Vietnam veterans this evening.  We served in a War that deeply divided our nation, but American is resilient.  We are a country of temperance, compassion and reason and with the passage of time we healed our wounds.

I know many of you have visited the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C.

During the day there, the black granite absorbs all the sunlight of the day then radiates the heat during the evening hours.  If they evening is cool and crisp, you can see a mist coming off the wall.  For me, it's as if the 58,253 names are breathing life into my body and I feel invigorated knowing that these men and women gave their lives so all of us can continue to live the American Dream.

I can tell you a short story of one of my heroes from Vietnam.  He was Dr. Loren Little, our Battalion doctor with the 173rd Airborne.  Our small 2-acre base camp came under attack with more than 60rounds of 82mm mortars and 122 rockets.

We had sustained incredible casualties....more than 90 dead and wounded in a mere 5 minutes....the carnage and horror was beyond description.  

One of my close friends sustained multiple fragmentation wounds so I ran to the aid station to get a medic or Captain Little.....

When I got to the aid station I realized no help would be coming  Men were strewn all over the compound, may withering and screaming in pain.  It was at that moment I saw the greatest act of courage and heroism and valor I would ever witness in my lifetime.

"Doc" Little was bleeding from both ears, and he had a sunken chest wound.  His bare chest was wrapped in gauze pads.  Blood was pouring thru the gauze, but with a total disregard for his own well being, I saw Doctor Little administering aid and he saved the lives of at least 15 or 20 soldiers that night... 

Doc Little practiced triage that evening, a system of treating soldiers according to the severity of their wounds when resources were insufficient to save everyone.  That evening Doc Little's best friend, Major Tedd  Lewis was severely wounded and alive, but died several hours later.  Because of triage, Doc Little could not save the life of his best friend.  Sadly, because of this unbearable experience, Doc Little never practice ever again.  Ladies and Gentlemen, this is true courage, this is a true American Hero. Dr. Little received the nation's 3rd highest award for heroism and valor that evening of January 9th, 1970.

He received a Silver Star, but I can tell you there are hundreds of Doc Littles all across America, as a matter of fact there are probably a few of them right here in this building sitting before you.  May God bless them all.

Lastly, I would like to talk about service to your country and community.  I have always felt it was a honor to serve my country and continue to serve today, not in the military, but in my community.  And all of you should be doing the same.

I know there are many mother and father sitting in the gymnasium this evening where you services and talents are needed.  I encourage all of you to volunteer you services to any number of endeavors.  Your church, the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Little League, the Parent Teachers Organization, your local fire or ambulance association.  We  can all make a difference in our community.  What better way can we as parents show our children how to live their lives, than by serving others.

Thank you all once again for being here this evening, for a celebration with our veterans.  May God bless you, God bless our Soldiers and may God continue to bless the United States of America".

Was this the best speech ever in regards to our Veterans and what the day should mean to us?  You be the judge.

From my perspective, Coulby Dunn hit one out of the park as he spoke to a crowded Pennsylvania High School.  Rumor has it, there weren't many dry eyes that night.  Perhaps you know the feeling.

And as famed commentator Paul Harvey would say......and that's the rest of the story.  Good Day.




Monday, November 5, 2012


Last Friday I was helping some brothers of Project 52 load a container of supplies headed to the Dominican Republic.  There were about 9-10 of us...some in their 20's, some middle-aged and then there was a few older souls.  Afterwards, I struck up a conversation with Kurt about his family and he inquired of mine.  When I told him of two of my sons serving our country I could see his ears perk up.  He thanked me for their service.  He knew what commitment meant.

Kurt proceeded with his "knowing words" as he spoke of his service career.  I could see it in his eyes as he returned to1967, the year he enlisted in the Navy.  That was 45 years ago....but Kurt was right in the timeline.  He talked of his basic training at Naval Station Great Lakes near Chicago, Illinois and then onto his assignment with the USS Enterprise.

Minute by minute, Kurt was reliving his days on the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and I was getting a history lesson.  I'm not sure who came away the better for our conversation that day.  In practical terms, I should call it a draw.

USS Enterprise on the move...... 

"How many days would you go out at a time", I asked.  "Sometimes 60 days", he recalled.  "And how many people were aboard", I questioned.  "Nearly, 5,000", he shot back.  That's when my wheels started churning imagining a small town floating in waters in virtually every part of the world.  And most importantly, providing protection for our country.

Kurt shared a whole bunch more with me, but I knew when I got home I'd have to dig more.  Just what did the USS Enterprise mean in the grand scheme of things?  Well, here's a couple tidbits:

"In October, 1962, only nine months after she was commissioned, the Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis.  Enterprise and the other ships in the Second Fleet set up quaratine of all military equipment under shipment to communist Cuba.  The blockade was put in place on October 24th, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day.  On October 28th, Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev agreed to dismantle nuclear missiles and bases in Cuba, concluding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the U.S. and USSR have ever come to nuclear war.

In the Fall of 2001, Enterprise aborted her transit home from a long deployment after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., on September 11th and steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea.  In direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Big 'E' once again took its place in history by becoming one of the first units to respond in a crisis with its awesome striking power."    

Pretty impressive, don't you think?  But along with her moments of glory came one not so memorable.  As I read the following paragraph, I remembered Kurt telling me of this incident. although he glossed over it in pretty short order.      

"During the morning of 14 January, 1969, while being escorted by destroyers US Benjamin Stoddert and USS Rogers, a MK-32 Zuni rocket loaded on a parked F-4 Phantom exploded due to ordnance cook off after being overheated by an aircraft start unit mounted to a tow tractor.  The explosion set off fires and additional explosions across the flight deck.  27 lives were lost and 314 men were injured.  15 aircraft were destroyed.  Additional damage to the Enterprise caused her to be put in for repairs at Pearl Harbor for a number of months."

A view of the Enterprise after rocket explosion in 1969

"Is she still running", I asked Kurt, not wanting to appear any dumber than I was with the comment, but I was curious.  "I'm not sure", he said. "Just not sure.  Haven't been any where near her since I completed my service".  Moments later we shook hands and headed our merry ways.  All along, I'm thinking, this would be a great item to share.  Then this story hit me right between the eyes on Sunday night:   

"The world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier ended its remarkable career at sea on Sunday when it pulled into its home port for the final time after participating in every major conflict since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

The USS Enterprise began shutting down its eight nuclear reactors almost as soon as it arrived at its pier at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, where thousands of cheering family members and friends welcomed the ship home from its 25th and final deployment after nearly eight months at sea. The ship will never move on its own power again and will eventually be scrapped in Washington state, making its final voyage a sentimental one for those who have sailed aboard "The Big E."

Copies of the ship's daily newspaper, "The Shuttle," were in short supply as sailors looked for memorabilia to take with them. Countless personal photos were taken by sailors throughout the ship as it approached shore.

"It's exceptionally emotional and exceptionally satisfying," Rear Adm. Ted Carter, commander of the Enterprise Strike Group, said as Naval Station Norfolk came into view and his sailors manned the rails.

However, Carter is the first to say that the Enterprise's final deployment was anything but a sentimental victory lap. The ships' fighter planes flew more than 2,200 combat sorties and dropped 56 bombs in Afghanistan while supporting U.S. and international ground troops. In a show of force to Iran, the ship also passed through the strategic Strait of Hormuz 10 times, a figure that Carter said is more than double the typical amount.

The Enterprise has been a frequent traveler to the Middle East over its career. It was the first nuclear-powered carrier to transit through the Suez Canal in 1986, and it was the first carrier to respond following the Sept. 11 attacks, changing course overnight to head to the Arabian Sea.

An entire room on the ship serves as a museum to its history, which includes a large photo of the burning Twin Towers placed in a timeline that wraps around a wall.

The Navy will officially deactivate the Enterprise on Dec. 1, but it will take several more years for it to be decommissioned as its reactors are taken out.  About 15,000 people are expected to attend the deactivation ceremony, which will be its last public ceremony after several days of tours for former crew members.

Those who have served on the ship have a unique camaraderie. It is the second-oldest ship in the Navy after the USS Constitution, and its age has frequently shown.  Sailors who work on the Enterprise have a saying: "There's tough, then there's Enterprise tough."

Things frequently break down, and spare parts for a ship that's the only one in its class aren't made anymore.
"She's just old, so you got to work around her," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Danielle Almaraz, an electronic technician. "We have to make our own parts sometimes because it just doesn't exist."

Those deployed on the Enterprise knew life wouldn't be easy at sea, a fact highlighted last year when former commanding officer Capt. Owen Honors was fired for airing raunchy videos that he said were intended to boost morale. During a hearing in which Honors was trying to avoid being kicked out of the Navy, he and his lawyers frequently referenced the difficult conditions on board. Honors was found to have committed misconduct, but ultimately allowed to stay in the service. He is retiring in April.

Some of the ship's original crew members from 51 years ago -- known as plank owners -- were among the 1,500 civilians who joined the Enterprise for its last two days at sea, known as a Tiger Cruise.

JFK watching flight ops from Big "E's" bridge

"This is the end of an era that I helped start, so I was just honored that the captain invited me on board. There's no way I'd turn that down," said original crew member Ray Godfrey of Colorado Springs, Colo.

The aircraft carrier is the eighth U.S. ship to bear the name Enterprise, with the first one being confiscated from the British by Benedict Arnold in 1775. Current sailors and alumni like Godfrey are lobbying to have a future carrier also named Enterprise. The ship's crew created a time capsule to be passed along to each Navy secretary until a new ship carries its name.

Other memorabilia on the ship, such as a pair of black fuzzy dice that hang in the ship's tower that were donated by the film crew of the 1986 Hollywood blockbuster movie "Top Gun," will be stored by the Naval History and Heritage Command".

Last Friday became a special day for me.  Not that I thought it would be when the day started.  But meeting Kurt and hearing about his life on the USS Enterprise was one I will recall for quite some time.  Goes to show you, there are a million stories out there....if you just make time.