Monday, September 20, 2010

On Vets Day, thank a Cold Warrior

Veteran's Day is here once again, lets remember those that served in the longest war ever for this country, the Cold War. This was originally published in 2008 but it still has strong meaning today. Millions of dedicated military and civilian Cold Warriors on both sides maintained a status quo that eventually freed us all from the threat of nuclear annihilation. Sadly, there is strong Sabre rattling from our old adversary, Russia and we may be heading into an era of renewed Cold War. A Cold War 2.0 to use modern vernacular. The below words rang true for me and I invite you to read them and then email me with your Proud Cold Warrior story. I’d be glad to post it here.
The Proud Cold Warrior

On Vets Day, thank a Cold Warrior

On Veterans Day, wreaths honor the dead and speeches honor the living. Gravestones and memorials recall World War II, the Korean Conflict, Vietnam. Members of veterans' groups proudly wear caps that display the names of the wars or battles they survived. Veterans of Desert Storm and the current fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are welcomed and cheered.

It is fitting that all these men and women be recognized for their contributions in defense of their country. They are not, however, the only ones who should be honored.

A curious aspect of the annual ritual of honoring war veterans is that seldom, if ever, do we remember the veterans of the longest war, one that ended in victory for the United States. From 1945 until 1991, the Cold War dominated American military and foreign policy. To oppose the expansionist policy of the Soviet Union and to counter its arsenal of nuclear weapons, the United States needed thousands of men and women in hundreds of places and ships around to world to act as firm obstacles to the spread of Soviet influence and control.

Millions of service members answered the call to duty during that period. They were draftees and volunteers, lifers and those who served one term and returned to civilian life. They were in every branch of the armed forces.

Theirs were not the intense heroics associated with the Battle of Midway, the Normandy landings, the Chosin Reservoir, Khe San or the invasions of Iraq. Rather, they were in places like the Distant Early Warning line in Canada, eyes fixed on radar screens, watching, waiting and hoping that the Soviet Union's bombers would not dare cross the North Pole and start World War III.

They were in tanks overlooking Germany's Fulda Gap, watching, waiting and hoping that the Warsaw Pact's heavy armor would not attempt to overwhelm them and pour into Western Europe.
They were in nuclear bomb-loaded aircraft, watching, waiting and hoping not to use the terrible weapons entrusted to them.

They were in ships, submarines, and aircraft, watching, waiting, and hoping that Admiral Gorshkov's navy would not challenge them into starting a war that could destroy the world.
They were the support forces providing food, laundry, fuel and all the other services necessary to keep the forces ready.

There was no glamour. There were no pictures on the cover of Life magazine.

There was numbing monotony, deep loneliness and homesickness. There were heat and cold, bland food, seasickness and fatigue. Training exercises were repeated until they thought fatigue would make them collapse, and then they did it again. And again.

But they were ready. They were confident. That was why they succeeded -- with victory, not the ambiguity, or worse, that ended other wars.

Because of these soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen in the Cold War, the Soviet Union realized the futility of further military adventures. They knew that they could not succeed against people so trained and motivated.

Because of those veterans, the Soviets gave up. They just quit, and the Soviet Union ceased to exist, as poet T.S. Eliot wrote: "Not with a bang but a whimper".

Without these veterans' dedication, the "bang" might have been the end of the world. The veterans of the Cold War prevented that from happening. They did not liberate Paris or Baghdad; they liberated the world from fear of nuclear war.

The memorial to them is not on a gravestone or an obelisk in a public square. It is not a name on a veterans' cap.

The memorial is a world in which the threat of nuclear annihilation has been eliminated.
Earl Higgins is a retired commander in the U.S. Navy with 26 combined years of active and reserve service from 1963-89.
First Published: Monday, November 10, 2008 by the Annette Sisco blog,, The Times-Picayune newspaper’s online presence, New Orleans, LA. Provided here with permission from the author Earl Higgins.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How I served. My Cold Warrior story

I was an east coast sailor except for a tour along the western coast of South America on one cruise. It was Unitas 13 and we were providing training for the navies of the countries down there. Most of my 10 years were spent cruising up and down the eastern seaboard playing war games, providing plane guard duty for carrier ops, and chasing submarines. I enjoyed the time but changed careers when I decided to become a family man. I spent 7 out of the 10 years at sea and that is not a good arrangement for raising children. During my time there was no secret stuff, no exciting standoffs with the enemy, just an occasional contact with a suspected Soviet submarine, a very close flyover by a Bear patrol plane now and then, and of course, getting in the way of the so called innocent trawler hanging around outside of the harbor. About the closest I ever came to Russian sailors was in the Naval Yard in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s. For some crazy reason we were selling grain to the Russians and they would send ships into the Philly port. The grain ships would pass right by the drydock and several Russians would be out there with cameras and binoculars. We would hold up Playboy and Hustler magazines and the Russian sailors would go crazy! It would go from 2 or 3 people to so many we couldn't count how many were on deck. It was funny to see their reaction to magazines that we took for granted. I served on three ships - U.S.S. Farragut DLG-6 (72-75), U.S.S. Guam LPH-11 (75-76), Navy Recruiting Command Los Angeles (76-79), and U.S.S. Harold J. Ellison DD-864 (79-82).  Please connect with me if we served together. I'd like to get re-aquainted. John Kairis, MM1

Getting started

Please use the comments section to leave your Cold Warrior story. I am very interested in hearing how others served.


Where did you serve? Military or Civilian? Stateside or Overseas. Fulda Gap? Berlin? NATO? CIA? State Department? The Dew Line? On a Missile Battery? Down in a Silo? At Sea? Under the Sea? In the Air? According to the VA over 26 million Vets are still alive. I'd bet that most served in the 1945-1991 time frame and I'd like to share your story on this blog. As long as it isn't still classified, email me with your story and I will post it here.