A brief patriotic moment

You do some pretty strange things when you’re in this nation’s military. I think about the “vert rep,” or vertical replenishment that I was told to participate in when I served on the destroyer U.S.S. Agerholm back in the late 1970s.

The powers that be had pretty arbitrary rules about rank when it came to doing certain jobs or having certain privileges on that ship. I joined the ship as a petty officer third class, or just barely a non-commissioned officer. I made E-5, or second class, on the way back from overseas. So we get the word one day in the Pacific that all E-4 and below were needed on deck for a vert rep. That is where a helicopter flies over your ship and lowers supplies onto the ship. The sailors unloaded said supplies and formed a human chain to get the supplies to its storage space. This one was the first of two vert reps in which I was involved. The second one was with a helo delivering ammunition for the 5-inch cannons onboard. Well, you think a warship needs that so even though the shells were about 50 pounds each I could understand the need. But the first vert rep was different.

I don’t recall the vicinity we were in that day but I do know the seas were on the rough side. So much so that for the vert rep we were sent out wearing life jackets. It had to be really important to send a night out on a dog like this, right? Yeah. Turned out we unloaded case upon case of Dr. Pepper. I never did go to the Dr. Pepper Museum the entire seven years I spent in Waco. I wonder if the vert rep was the reason? I risked my life for “pepper upper” for my shipmates.

The military is weird that way. So for all those guys and gals risking their lives, whether it be on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan or unloading soft drinks in rolling seas, I say: “Thanks.” That’s my little patriotic July 4th message to the troops who are just doing the job they took an oath to do. I took my oath with a picture of “Tricky Dick” Nixon staring down at me. Nixon was commander-in-chief when I entered boot camp and Jerry Ford was president when I graduated from recruit training. So, no political message. Just a heartfelt thanks to the men and women of the armed forces who do our heavy lifting.

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