Veterans Day: The Old and the New
Larry Thornberry
by

Every time I see someone wearing a sweat-shirt that says “Old Navy” on it, I can’t help but think, “Yup, that’s the one I was in.” So old in fact as to have been a half century ago that I packed my sea-bag and solicited, “Permission to go ashore,” from the officer of the deck for the last time.

I was reminded again this Veterans Day just how old my Navy has become when, after putting out the flag this morning, I read a story in the “Tampa Bay Daily Progressive” (aka the Tampa Bay Times) informing me that a five-foot-nothing woman — Tampa native Mary Katey Hays — has been named commanding officer of the guided missile destroyer USS Decatur.

The Decatur is DDG-73, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer. I served on the USS Conyngham DDG-17, an Adams class destroyer, which has long since been made into razor blades. (By the way, Conyngham is Irish for Cunningham. No one over there seems to know how to spell. They must not have No Child Left Behind.)

Regular TAS readers are familiar with my skepticism of the contemporary women-make-as-good-warriors-as-men ethos. But it’s where we are now. And we’re not going back to the understanding on this matter shared by the entire planet until Patsy Schroeder got elected to Congress. So it would be churlish, on this day when we recognize all American veterans and their service, not to wish the best, as I do wish, to Captain Hays, to the USS Decatur, and to all who sail in this proud ship. But for all my good wishes, I can be forgiven for musing over how the chief petty officers on the Conyngham, back in my old boys-club days, would have reacted to being gathered together to be introduced to their new captain, only to find a five-foot tall woman bearing three gold stripes. They could not have been more shocked by encountering an armadillo wearing a tuxedo and making change.

Larry Thornberry
Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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