I was honored to be on the waterfront last week and had an opportunity to meet officers and Sailors on a soon-to-deploy ship and boy did I leave feeling good about our Navy. Everyone I talked to, from seaman to the Captain, were excited about their ship, their contribution to national security and the upcoming deployment. Their enthusiasm was genuine as it was a weekend and I’m sure they would have rather been with their families. It reminded me of a saying I used to share with my audiences when I was important (at least in my own mind): Every day I spent at sea I got a day younger, and every day I spent in the Pentagon I got ten days older! That certainly explains why I look so old now–too many days in the Pentagon and not enough days at sea. It’s probably not intuitive to you land-lubbers, but being at sea and on deployment is the easiest part of the whole cycle. Before deployment there are endless exercises, training and long hours preparing for the task ahead. Many would say that’s the hardest part of being in the Navy. That’s not to lessen the impact of being away from family and friends…there’s always that. But Navy leaders have done a lot to lessen the distance between families during deployments. Sailors are generally well connected to their loved ones by internet, email and instantaneous telephone connectivity. During my first deployment in 1975, the lovely Mrs. Crenshaw and myself exchanged daily letters, sequentially numbered on the back flap so we could read them in chronological order. Nothing’s worse than reading about your son being released from the hospital when you didn’t even know he was in the hospital to begin with. I wish we could establish a program that gets all Pentagon confines out in the field a couple of time a year so they could recharge their batteries. I felt even better when I had the opportunity to meet with Soldiers this morning, many just returned from Afghanistan and many more looking to go back in less than a year. I didn’t hear one sour note. They were all ready and willing to go back, despite the hardships on their families. As I read the news about the possibility of us pulling our of Afghanistan, I can’t help but think about the 2176 brave Americans who gave their lives for this cause. We could argue all day about rather or not Afghanistan is a critical aspect of protecting America’s freedom and I frankly don’t care which side of the argument you are on…..The fact is 2176 have died for the cause. To pull out lock, stock and barrel would be a dishonor to them and the families who remain behind.
And I can’t imagine how anyone can look them in the eye and tell them that they are pulling the plug on their Commissary benefits, or telling them that their health care is too expensive so when they retire, they will have to pay more. I would rather see us spend all the money and effort people are spending on marginal costs on homeless veterans and jobs for veterans and other programs which honors their service, not puts a price tag on it.