by James Keeling
just got an e-mail from a good friend of mine who flies SH-60B's off the USS
Hawes. I thought you might like to read it.
"It wasn't until a few
days ago though, that we started doing something that I feel may be the first
thing I've seen in my short Naval career that has truly made a difference. Right
now we're supporting the USS COLE and her crew in Aden. When the attack occurred
we were a day away. Just by luck we happened to be on our way out of the Gulf
and headed towards the Suez and could get here in a relatively short amount of
time. I know what you all have seen on CNN, because we have seen it too.
just want you all to know that what you see doesn't even scratch the surface.
I'm not going to get into it for obvious reasons. But I will tell you that right
now there are 250+ sailors just a few miles away living in hell on Earth. I'm
sitting in a nice air-conditioned stateroom, they're sleeping out on the decks
at night. You can't even imagine the conditions they're living in, and yet they
are still fighting 24 hours a day to save their ship and free the bodies of
those still trapped and send them home. As bad as it is, they're doing an
incredible job. The very fact that these people are still functioning is beyond
my comprehension. Whatever you imagine as the worst, multiply it by ten and you
might get there.
Today I was tasked to photo-rig the ship and
surrounding area. It looked so much worse than I had imagined, unbelievable
really, with debris and disarray everywhere, the ship listing, the hole in her
side. I wish I had the power to relay to you all what I have seen, but words
just won't do it. I do want to tell you the first thing that jumped out at me -
the Stars and Stripes flying. I can't tell you how that made me
feel...especially here, our flag was more beautiful than words can describe.
I started to notice the mass of activity going on below, scores of people
working non-stop in 90 plus degree weather to save this ship. They're doing it
with almost no electrical power and they're sleeping (when they can sleep)
outside on the decks because they can't stand the smell or the heat or the
darkness inside. They only want to eat what we bring them because they're all
scared of eating something brought by the local vendors.
Even with all
that, the USS COLE and her crew is sending a message guys, and it's that even
acts of cowardice and hate can do nothing to the spirit and pride of the United
States. I have never been so proud of what I do, or of the men and women that I
serve with as I was today. There are sixteen confirmed dead sailors who put it
on the line for all of us, and some of them are still trapped here.
take a minute to pray for their families and say a word of thanks for their
sacrifice - one made so that we can live the lives that we do. All of you that
serve with me, thank you. All of you that have loved ones that serve, Thank
The Greatest Sacrifice
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