Down To The Half
David D. Hambleton
Technician First Class,
Surface Warfare Specialist,
LaSalle (AGF-3) United States Navy
stood in the bright sunlight of another overseas morning, having watched
through the long night as our home was attacked. We felt the explosions; they rocked our
the whistle blows most mornings here at five minutes before eight, and the
Quartermaster calls; "First call; first call to colors," people find
their coffee cups and some indoor business.
Being outside at 0800, you see, means you are party to Colors - the
ceremony of raising our National Ensign over the ship. Wherever you may be on deck, when the next
whistle blows and the National Anthem starts, you stop, face the fantail and
salute until the ceremony is done. The
Ensign is raised while we listen to a rendition of our song with harsh audio
quality. We tend to be a patriotic crowd,
so this isn't too bad once in a while, but rare is the sailor or soldier who
does it voluntarily.
morning, September 12th, 2001, in respect to those who have passed and in
recognition of the incredible times we are living, we turned out in force. Hundreds of sailors, soldiers, marines, and
civil service workers and contractors lined up on the flight deck of the USS
LaSalle (AGF-3). LaSalle is the
Commander of Sixth Fleet's Flagship, from where he controls all Naval
operations in the Mediterranean area of operations. We had just begun a maintenance availability
and some in-port time with our families after deployment to the Black Sea.
lined up; enlisted and officers and civilians, women and men, races with races,
religions with religions, all branches of services together. Shoulder to shoulder, we waited in solemnity
from First Call five minutes to the sound of the whistle. Each had her own thoughts, each his own
feelings. Nobody called a formation, but
we lined up in rows; orderly, respectful, and single-minded of purpose.
do this to make a difference. This is
our part. We volunteer for low pay,
separation, and being on the front lines.
We've come out here to ensure the safety and security of our nation and
our people. Standing here, I feel a bit
impotent for being here, forward deployed in Europe, when the attack came back
home at our own shores.
whistle blew and the Ensign slipped up the pole, crisp and bright, the symbol
of power, against the ancient city on the hill behind. Grown men and women, we cried, considering
all the babies and husbands and wives who will miss a loved one or more today,
and saluted quietly as we stood in respect.
The silence was deafening as each military right forefinger touched its
tired tearful forehead; each civilian right hand covered a strong broken heart.
was caught in the moment, it was one to remember; it was nearly an audible
effect as a grim resolve settled over this crew. Rest assured, be it grisly, we're up to what
we must do. Awaiting our orders, we
prepare if we must to fight. We prepare
and we sail, ready to show our might.
background and stars of purity and heat, like the commitment to selflessly
serve, oh strong sheet. Red stripes
prove the passion of patriots' blood, like the courage to carry carnage to
desert or mud. Blue field of past
patriots' honor, our pride; encouraging us prove that not in vain have they
the moment, we were there with our emotions and our minds; as the Ensign
reached up to the top of its lines. We
each vowed to again earn its place atop that staff, but today we cried when it
came back down to the half.