This week is graduation week here in Annapolis. Which means the Blue Angels are scampering above the town and the bars and restaurants are filled with proud parents and siblings here to watch their mids graduate.
And proud they should be.
Over the years I’ve had a good view of the mids, as they traipse through my local hangout, Annapolis Cigar Company, to smoke or to take advantage of the cigar lounge’s BYOB option. Had a chance to talk with a fair number of them. Now while this is certainly only anecdotal data, I’ve gotta say, these are good kids.
Probably, with their contemporaries at the other service academies, they are the best this nation has to offer.
I’m the father to three millennial (defined as born 1981-96) boys and three post-millennial (defined as born 1997-present) girls. My oldest son served in the Navy, as did my dad in WWII. I went Army but don’t find a lot of difference in spirit between the young sailors I’ve met here and the soldiers I knew when I was active duty between 1980-84. Aside from the intramural slagging we give each other, the Army does have an abiding affection for the Navy much as we would for a stuffy younger cousin.
Though to paraphrase the Gospel of Saint Boone and Eric, “Civilians can’t say that about the Navy. Only we can say that about the Navy.” Oh yeah, so can the jarheads and the zoomies. Okay, I guess, even the Coast Girls can.
When I look through the mind’s eye I see the same cocky nonchalance, the same dark humor, the same smirking resignation at the inherent inefficiencies of military life still prevalent in these kids as it was with those of us in The Gipper’s Army. American nineteen-year-olds who join the colors tend to be cut from much the same cloth.
On a bit closer look, there’s something else.
Not that we of the 80s U.S. NATO contingent were devoid of challenge. The grave threat to the safety of the Western alliance in those days was when the bartenders watered down the whiskey at the VII Corps O Club.
These soon-to-be officers confront a different national security situation. They have grown up with a nation at war on two fronts: one justified by an attack on our soil; another bungled by pols from the gitgo. However, regardless of absurd rules of engagement and confused missions, these patriots and many like them stand ready to put their lives on the line to guard freedom, protect us, and keep faith with the men and women who serve with them.
Today and until Friday they’ll drink, carouse, and raise general hell around here. After that, it’s off to the Fleet or another assignment. Soon the newest class will arrive to take their place in front of Bancroft Hall.
But no matter where they go, the memory of their courteous, disciplined, yet happy starched white selves will be present in we who knew them and who will remain deeply proud of them for their devotion to duty and honor.
So anchors aweigh swabos. Even if you (wink, nudge) are just a support service.