Friday, January 7, 2050
Congratulations on your enlistment in the United States Navy. Despite the upheaval of the past few years, I still believe in the Navy. It is the greatest force for peace in North America. You are following in the footsteps of many of your ancestors. My own grandfather served on a destroyer in World War II over a century ago. He used to tell me stories of those days when I was a small boy. The Navy was legendary back then – launching the Doolittle Raid, fighting the battles of Midway and the Philippines, the Marianas Turkey Shoot, supporting the Marines at Iwo Jima, Saipan, and Okinawa. Those sailors faced unimaginable horrors but so many became heroes, larger than life.
I served in a more peaceful, yet more uncertain time. Your history books nowadays say that the 1980s and 90s were the beginning of America’s decline, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. The US Navy was supreme in those days, sailing to every corner of the world. Did you know we once had more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world combined? I remember WesPac 83, with ports of call in Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan. We spent a lot of time in Hawaii too – it was part of the USA back then. Life aboard ship was hard work, but what a great way to see the world! The Navy today doesn’t sail quite as far very often. I guess that’s good, because you won’t be away from your family for too long. Besides, nobody sails in the South China Sea anymore, except for China. Maybe if you’re lucky you might get to cross the ocean, at least, maybe on a humanitarian mission. There is nothing like the feeling of standing on the deck of a mighty ship cutting a path through the waves toward the horizon, with nothing but endless sea in all directions.
Once the Soviet Union fell, we felt invincible. Maybe that was our undoing, though. Without another superpower to fight, we lost our way. All the brass and military contractors had spent half a century building this great Navy and they wanted to find somewhere to use it. China was the obvious choice, I guess. But the hardest enemy to fight was the terrorists. I remember in the late 90s when a couple of terrorists with a skiff blew a hole in the side of one of our advanced destroyers. Killed a bunch of sailors. I had a bad feeling in my gut when I heard that news. What’s the use of a trillion-dollar warship if a bunch of ragged terrorists could sink it with a homemade bomb? Then came the drones and the hypersonic missiles. The brass were too slow to change. One of the reasons we beat Japan in the second world war was because they built their fleet to fight the last war. They built a huge a fleet of battleships to control the seas, just like Mahan taught in the 1800s, but they were obsolete in the face of air power. Our leaders didn’t learn the lesson though. They were obsessed with building the biggest aircraft carriers and the most advanced missile cruisers. By the 2020s, we forgot how to build solid ships and instead wasted money on over-engineered boondoggles. They didn’t believe the game had changed, and it went pretty bad for us for a while.
I don’t mean to dampen your spirits. The US Navy you are joining today is still the best in the world, even if it has changed since my day. I remember the first time I crossed the equator the veteran crew put us through some crazy rituals. King Neptune and all that. They don’t let you do that anymore. Maybe it’s for the best. It’s not like you cross the equator much anymore anyway. Back then you rarely saw women on board. They really started pushing integration of the sexes when I was near retirement, it caused all sorts of problems. Now I hear they have all-female crews. Maybe that’s for the best too. I remember when they court-martialed a girl for letting her ship collide with a freighter out in the Pacific. That sort of thing used to be rare, believe it or not. I’m just glad the whole transgender thing is over. For a while you couldn’t tell men and women apart. It probably seems crazy to your generation, but back in the first quarter of the century you actually had men in the service getting surgery and dressing in women’s clothing and demanding everyone treat them like a woman! Can you believe that?
Always remember that when you put on the uniform you are putting on 300 years of tradition. It’s too bad they don’t have the crackerjacks and dixie cups anymore though. They looked kinda silly, I guess, but they really made you feel like a part of something much older. It was tradition. Oh well. When you salute the flag, you are saluting the men and women who served in years past. The fifty stars don’t actually represent each state anymore, but they did once, and that’s what matters. I heard they are going to open up the officer ranks to white men again in the future. I hope so, for your sake. The sky really is the limit in this great country.
Best of luck to you,
Your loving great-grandfather