Honoring Our American Heroes
"This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave." - Elmer Davis, of Aurora, Ind., who became the director of the office of war information during World War II.
Today, we honor our American heroes - our veterans - the men and women who fought for our freedom and gave the ultimate sacrifice.
So, I hope you take a minute to thank a veteran or currently active solider who left their family, their homes and their lives behind to protect the United States of America.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." -John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
I grew up in a family with a strong appreciation and connection to the U.S. military. We are a family full of Navy men. My grandfather was a sailor during World War I, my uncle was a Navy fighter pilot during World War II, my dad was a lieutenant in the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis and my brother is a Lt. Commander and Navy helicopter pilot currently stationed in Norfolk, Va.
My Dad wrote an article for the Marion Star in a special supplement as a Salute to Our Veterans. I thought I'd share the article with you in remembrance of all those who served and sacrificed for our freedom.
In the Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis
By Tom Issler
The name is now the Cuban Missile Crisis, but in the fall of 1962, it was a conflict with the Soviet Union. It was a very testy time of the Cold War and could have easily become World War III.
I think I always knew I wanted to be in the Navy.
My father had been a sailor during World War I and my older brother was a Navy fighter pilot during World War II. Two years of ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) at Iowa State University, Army in my case, was required in college, but I opted not to continue the last two years for a commission. After graduating I decided to pursue a Navy OCS (Officer Candidate School). The school was in Newport, R.I. It was intense and consuming. There were 25 percent that did not make it through.
I finished in June of 1962 and reported aboard my first shop, the USS Lindenwald (LSD-6) home-ported in Little Creek, Va. An LSD was capable of carrying a large number of assault landing craft. Each of these carried trucks, tanks, cannons and launchers.
We got underway to some practice exercises in the Caribbean. Upon return to Virginia, the news was all about Cuba and the Soviet Union. U-2 surveillance flights had verified the presence of Soviet missile sites in Cuba. Missiles launched from Cuba would be able to reach several major cities in the United States.
It was now October and news on the ship was that the United States would bomb or invade Cuba or both. We began hauling Marines and equipment from Morehead City, N.C. to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Nights and days ran together. We were constantly loading and unloading. Marines were everywhere and the Marine officer in charge, usually a captain, was not pleased with their berthing area. Since I was in charge of this area of the ship, I usually caught the wrath of this officer who outranked me.
On Monday, Oct. 22, 1962, President Kennedy ordered a Naval blockade of Cuba. There were constant meetings in Washington between Soviet representatives and the State Department. The Soviet Premier, Nikita Kruschev, would not yield on the missiles.
Fidel Castro had mobilized about 300,000 troops and there were tens of thousands of Soviet forces in Cuba. A U-2 spy plane was eventually shot down over Cuba. Soon after, Kruschev announced that the missiles would be removed from Cuba. We continued to make trips south. Large Soviet merchant ships were now hauling missiles out of Cuba.
On one of our return trips a blip came up on our radar. A ship heading toward Cuba, no doubt. We could not see the ship at this point. The OOD (Officer on Deck) had the Conn (in charge of the ship) and I was standing the JOOD watch (Junior Officer on Deck). The OOD made the appropriate degree change to avoid a collision course. Each time we made a change the approaching ship made the opposite change to remain on a collision course. The captain was called. He took the Conn and the same scenario continued. The captain was very nervous, as we were within miles of each other. He was about to call General Quarters due to the impending emergency situation when the oncoming ship finally corrected to pass clear of us. We passed the huge Soviet merchant ship so close we could see the smiling, laughing faces of the Soviet crew on the main deck rail.
On Nov. 20, 1962, the blockade was lifted as the missiles had been removed.
May we always maintain a strong military force for this wonderful country we call the United States of America.
I love you Dad - thank you for your service and sacrifice to give me an opportunity to live and love in the land of the free.