By: Allie Proff
From a speech to Cedarcrest High School Students at the Veteran’s Day Assembly, November 2004
The first article from the Armed Forces Code of Conduct states, “I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.”
I am proud to be a veteran and served my country in times of need. When I graduated from the University of Washington Navy ROTC in August 2000, I knew that I would be guarding my country and protecting our way of life. I did not know that a little over a year after I checked onboard the USS VELLA GULF (CG-72), a guided missile cruiser based out of Norfolk, Virginia, I would be off the coast of New York in response to a terrorist attack. Our ship’s mission was monitoring all air traffic over the eastern seaboard. Air traffic which, I might mention, only consisted of military flights and absolutely no
I remember that day clearly. We were preparing for a routine 6-month deployment, scheduled to leave on September 21st. It was a typical Tuesday morning and I was showing newly checked on personnel around the ship when people started saying, “turn on the TV!” The first World Trade Center tower had just been hit and we watched in horror as the second tower and the pentagon also came under attack. Then came the call. We were to get underway as soon as possible and head to the coast off New York.
The following two hours were the most organized chaos I’ve ever experienced. Parents were making desperate phone calls to have family and friends pick up their children at school or daycare. Car keys and last-minute instructions were left with a ship’s representative on shore. Sailors on shore at doctors and dentists appointments were trying to get back to the ship through locked-down security. Engineers brought the ship’s engines online. All hands made ready for getting underway.
All in all we spent about a week on station. Some of us had only the clothes we had been wearing that day. When we returned to Norfolk, we spent one more week getting ready to go on deployment. With a sense of purpose, we headed to the Middle East and Arabian Sea.
In those six months, we guided aircraft on their missions in Afghanistan. We captured a terrorist oil tanker that had previously eluded other ships and their teams. I was conning our ship when she almost succeeded in ramming us. However, we were able to capture her because the attempt to cut through the welded pilothouse set their pilothouse on fire and the smugglers had to surrender in order to get fresh air. The few moments of excitement and adrenaline were rare, however, compared to the many days of routine.
The Navy is a tough life. In a 24 hour period, you’re lucky to get an average of 4-5 hours of sleep. You’re even luckier if those 4-5 hours happen all at the same time. Think about where you were six months ago. Think about everything you’ve done since then. Now imagine spending that same amount of time locked in a space 567 feet long, 55 feet wide with 350 of your closest (and not so closest) friends. The strict discipline, the rules and regulations, the attitude in which you approach life is something that is hard to explain to people outside the military. This lifestyle is not for everyone but as a country we should be proud that we have had people willing to sacrifice, sometimes to sacrifice all, to defend our freedom and liberty.
It is indeed an honor to be here today on Veteran’s Day to mark a date set in history, a day to give thanks for the sacrifices made for us in the past, to celebrate our progress from those efforts, and to
rededicate ourselves for peace in our future.
As I started my remarks with the first article from the Armed Forces Code of Conduct, I would like to end with the sixth and last article. “I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”
Fun times. I remember taking this photo of you. Glad to see you have a good life, Lt. 🙂
– ET2 (Ret.) Ken Sarka.
Thanks! I remember you as well. How are you doing? Hope all is well. 🙂