USS Samuel Gompers was returning home from a 1991 deployment to the Persian Gulf (Remember when we called it that?) and we were manning the rails. I was a Second Class Petty Officer by then, still relatively new onboard, and still a bit nervous about what all of the whistles meant in regards to rendering honors and saluting.
The water was a beautiful blue, and the island was also beautiful...although not as pretty as the undeveloped parts of Guam, I thought. And then we started to pass the large, white monuments. USS Vestal. USS West Virginia. Then the whistles to salute as we passed USS Arizona.
It struck me then that I was part of a long chain, reaching back to those sailors and on back. (Except that they were men, of course, and I'm not, but that doesn't mean that I am any less part of the chain.) I wondered what it must have been like for these sailors, having a Sunday morning in port, and then having hell break free all around. I cannot imagine what that would be like, and hope I never experience that myself.
On that bright, sunny day, though, I felt...kinship. Inheritance, maybe. An acknowledgement that everything they served and died to protect, I would do my damnedest to continue to protect. A promise, given there at the rail, hand rendering salute, surrounded by my shipmates in that perfect silence between the whistles.