Sunday Extra: This Veterans Day, thank someone who served

Sunday Extra: This Veterans Day, thank someone who served

By MIKE MARTIN

I returned recently from several days in San Diego, where the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and the cruiser USS Bunker Hill sailed to begin several months deployment to the Western Pacific Ocean and the Persian Gulf. They will be joined by destroyers USS Halsey and USS Preble, sailing from Pearl Harbor, and destroyer USS Sampson, sailing from its port in Washington state. All in all, Carrier Strike Group 9 will include 7,500 sailors, Marines and airmen.

It prompts recollection of a four-ship destroyer squadron that sailed from Pearl Harbor in the fall of 1967 in support of our troops serving in Vietnam. Having received my commission in the Navy courtesy of the ROTC program at the University of Illinois, I was the supply officer on the USS Radford, a vintage Fletcher-class destroyer that had been built during World War II and was still in active service.

The deployment lasted six months, and our first daughter was born just one month after it began. During these months, principally spent at sea, Radford provided gunfire support for Marine forces operating near the coast and also provided screening support for the four aircraft carriers operating in and near the Gulf of Tonkin. (We referred to ourselves as the Tonkin Gulf Yacht Club.)

Radford carried about 280 enlisted personnel and 18 officers. I have never been more proud to be part of a group that lived and worked 24/7, often in extremely hot, humid, crowded conditions. There was little time for showers, eating or sleeping. The Navy replenishes itself at sea, so when we were not supporting others, we were busy rendezvousing with ships to resupply us with fuel, "bullets or beans." Every now and then, the mail caught up with us.

I first found out Suzanne was born about three weeks after her birthday.

Living in the Midwest, where there is minimal military presence, it is easy to not think of those who serve. Many are separated from family for long periods of time. They are all volunteers.

On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, find someone who served or someone currently wearing the uniform and thank them. We owe them much.

Mike Martin of Champaign is a News-Gazette Inc. board member.

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