This is a TRUE e-mail from a young ensign aboard USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81) to her parents. Churchill is an Arleigh Burke class AEGIS guided missile destroyer, commissioned March 10, 2001, and is the only active US Navy warship named after a foreign national. This True Story tells of an event that occurred shortly after the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001. It provides a good example of the espirit de corps felt between members of the military, even those of other nations. Military members, no matter what the service or county, have shared and lived through similar experiences, experiences not shared by our civilian counterparts, experiences civilians cannot really understand or appreciate. I also believe that we with military experience share closeness to our God that ‘others’ cannot easily understand or appreciate. “There are no atheists in a foxhole”, and “There are no atheists in the cockpit of an aircraft landing on a pitching carrier deck on a dark, cloudy, rainy night”. In researching the following I learned that the author was a young Navy Officer, Megan Hallinan. The letter was written to her father. The letter was posted on the US Navy website by the Navy Office of Information on 26 September 2001. —–
We are still at sea. The remainder of our port visits have all been cancelled. We have spent every day since the attacks going back and forth within imaginary boxes drawn in the ocean, standing high-security watches, and trying to make the best of it. We have seen the articles and the photographs, and they are sickening. Being isolated, I don’t think we appreciate the full scope of what is happening back home, but we are definitely feeling the effects. About two hours ago, we were hailed by a German Navy destroyer, Lutjens, requesting permission to pass close by our port side. Strange, since we’re in the middle of an empty ocean, but the captain acquiesced and we prepared to render them honors from our bridgewing. As they were making their approach, our conning officer used binoculars and announced that Lutjens was flying not the German, but the American flag. As she came alongside us, we saw the American flag flying half-mast and her entire crew topside standing at silent, rigid attention in their dress uniforms. They had made a sign that was displayed on her side that read “We Stand By You.”
There was not a dry eye on the bridge as they stayed alongside us for a few minutes and saluted. It was the most powerful thing I have seen in my life. The German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew, and it has truly been the highest point in the days since the attacks. It’s amazing to think that only half-century ago things were quite different. After Lutjens pulled away, the Officer of the Deck, who had been planning to get out later this year, turned to me and said, “I’m staying Navy.” I’ll write you when I know more about when I’ll be home, but this is it for now.
Love you guys,