August 11, 2003

Momsen Christening Brief Comments

A ship like the Momsen (DDG 92) is an impressive sight, as is the gigantic dry dock used by Bath Iron Works to do the building and repair that they do.

My pictures don't do it justice, and I blame both my photography skills and my old digital camera.

But I was more impressed with my cousin, his commitment and discipline, some of the words of the speakers and the description of Vice Admiral "Swede" Momsen, the namesake of the ship.

"Lucky Swede" as he was known to some of his friends and opponents at the card table was a persistent, driven man who was also a bit of a rogue. Given to playing the ukelele and singing bawdy songs, he was also haunted by the memory of a terrible sub accident in his past. Though the naval brass did not appreciate his efforts, recognize his ingenuity or support his endeavors, he persevered in creating tools for successful sea rescues.

The details of the event itself were interesting. My companions had been concerned about rumors that protestors would be out in force. However, nary a peep was heard. If there were protestors to the event, they must have gotten lost, or didn't know where Bath Iron Works was.

We sat beside the ship, before a large raised and covered platform, aided by a "jumbo-tron" type TV screen for those in the back. We were lucky enough to be up front. Commemorative coins were distributed by the BIW employees, and water. The daughter of VADM Momsen (once a state senator) broke a bottle over the bow and we were shuttled over to the reception where copious amounts of lobster sandwiches and other goodies were available. We didn't stay long after that, with the long drive ahead of us.

But, as I mentioned before, the words of Momsen's grandson (Dr. Christopher Thomas Hailey) struck me most when he spoke at the podium. He spoke glowingly of his grandfather and his exploits in the navy. But then he brought up a fact that rings true to me. These ships are warships, but they also represent us as Americans when they travel the globe. Dr. Hailey revealed that his wife, who was not a US citizen before they met, had a childhood memory of eating ice cream on the deck of a destroyer that was docked in her country. The timing was such that it very well could have been "Swede" Momsen's destroyer when he was a captain. Dr. Hailey noted that he might have his grandfather to thank for his wife's positive view of Americans.

These warships are not designed for delivering ice cream, of course. However they do represent us abroad. Dr. Hailey spoke directly to the prospective crew of DDG-92 and reminded them of this responsibility. This struck me, because I believe it should be an obvious truth. Our actions have consequences. And often those dedicated military folks we send abroad are a form of diplomacy.

This idea can easily be extended to our political leaders who command our military. Their decisions not only send the military hither and yon, but they also set the tone. Perhaps even more importantly, those decisions have their own repercussions as people abroad form opinions about Americans based on our leaders and the decisions they make.

I wish I had taken exact notes, because he mad a specific comment about making friends and strengthening friendships -- words I found especially appropriate. In the war against terrorism we need strong friendships, not alienated allies.

I wish we had leaders who shared that view.

Some Links of Interest:

Posted by James at August 11, 2003 1:02 PM
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I read "The Terrible Hours" a couple years ago, it was a terrific book and I highly recommend it to anyone.

Posted by: Chuck S. at August 12, 2003 1:51 AM

And on my reading list it goes...

I'm still working on the excellent Shelby Foote Civil War that Bob lent me. Slow going with the little time I have to devote to reading, but it is extremely well-written and quite engrossing.

Posted by: JP at August 12, 2003 3:22 AM

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