The Mighty Viking

Conquering those things we must, one story at a time

Fathers & Sons

Father and son

Riding partners for life.

As a kid, my first motorbike experiences were on the back of my dad’s bike as we toodled around on a Saturday afternoon on the back roads of Southern California.  Those times became so engrained in my memory that it is almost impossible to separate what is purely my own experience now, and what I perceive through the filters of those memories.  I react to something, and sometimes it is my dad’s reflex that responds.  I choose a wider approach to conditions remembering an accident of his.  I check things because I saw him check them decades ago, and when on the roadside I need it, I smile at the memory.

Whether I am riding with him – and we’ve had some pretty epic road trips in the last several years – or whether my bike is the only one on the road, he’s always there somewhere.

And so it is on this Memorial Day weekend.  We take some time to recognize who went before us, and what they did.  In my case with submarines in my blood, it was the courage of the remnants of the Pacific Fleet, nearly decimated by the Pearl Harbor attack.  The US Power in the Pacific was reduced almost entirely to Submarines.  Slower than warships, increasingly vulnerable to Japanese hunting tactics, beset with technical weapons problems, they hurled themselves into the breach anyway, and used what they had to give what they could.

And, against the odds, it was enough to hold off the enemy until the rest could recover, to win key victories whose impact turned the course of the war.  It was a nightmarish existence that I only experienced a fraction of.

But the evidence of their courage paced like ghosts up and down the passageways of every boat I served on.  It looked out through the eyes of old men.  It hung over equipment with design features that told the tale of engineering necessity.  Every backup valve had a history of another valve’s failure.  Every weapon had safety features born from disaster.  From the cutting edge technology to the design of handrails and ladder treads, hatch latches, piping layout, all of it was designed from the experiences of battle-hardened men who knew – not just imagined but KNEW – what happened when things failed.  And when things worked.

The Submarine qualification process encompassed those same nightmares.  New Crew members rode with men who’d met Davy Jones, and defied him in his own element.  They were taught what those men had to learn the hard way.

And sometimes, that knowledge was scoffed at.  Sometimes the lessons lost meaning in the absence of their mentors.  But always, the Sea was there to remind the Forgetful of her treacherous nature.

This Memorial Day, have yourself a celebration of our freedom.  Feast on burgers and dogs hot off the grill, and revel in what you can.  Have a beer.

But at some point in the festivities, turn aside from the company you have, and in a moment of solitude, remember.

Remember hard.

Sort out who YOU are, and how you got here.  Find the good, and trace it’s source to your fathers.  Follow the memory’s trail to the hard-won Sacrifice by which you could be who you are with less suffering.  On this one day, KNOW which Sacrifice has been yours, and which is borrowed from your Fathers.

It is only by this that we become something greater:  to remember what came before us.

 

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