Saturday, January 02, 2010

All Hands, Attention on Deck!

Eternal Father, Strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
Today we mark the tenth anniversary of the passing of a true giant in Naval History. A man who singlehandedly used his position of authority to reduce racism and sexism in the United States Navy, a man who dragged Naval disciplinary actions from the chain locker to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice, and a man who's bright Naval career from his Academy days to his retirement and beyond were filled with courage and professionalism and a high level of leadership qualities.

Admiral Elmo Zumwalt II rose to command the Navy as Chief of Naval Operations. In the course of that career, which stretched from his entrance to the Naval Academy in 1939, through World War II, Korea, The Cold War, and Vietnam, Zum, as he was popularly called, displayed diligence at every turn, mastery of his tasks at hand at every duty station, and the leadership skills that endeared him to those who served under him.

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
and calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
As CNO, Zumwalt issued a series of notices to all hands called "Z-Grams', in which he announced relaxation of many of the rules of the Navy such as allowing longer hair, beards and mustaches, and allowing beer in barracks.

The Admiral was the man responsible for ordering the use of Agent Orange in areas along the inland waterways of South Vietnam where his command, the Mobile Riverine Forces operated. Serving under him was his oldest son, Elmo Zumwalt III. The Admirals son died in 1988 from cancer, likely caused by the exposure to Agent Orange.

Admiral Zumwalt retired in 1974. As his son became ill with cancer, the Admiral began researching his disease, finally settling on a link to Agent Orange, the dioxin-based, highly toxic herbicide used along the waterways of South Vietnam as a defoliant to remove vegitation that provided cover and concealment for the enemy. [It was used elsewhere extensively throughout South Vietnam, and Thailand, Laos, Cambodia Korea, and many other locations to remove vegitation around bases, firebases, De-Militarized Zones, and the like.] Even while losing his son [and faced with a grandson with birth-defects likely from that same exposure to his son], Zum was also working for other Vietnam Veterans. Eventually he wrote a recommendation for Congress on providing benefits for all Vietnam Veterans. It contained a scorching condemnation of the practices of the Department of Veterans Affairs in decades of denial of, and manipulation of scientific evidence that would prove the likelihood of exposure to dioxin based herbicides to just about any and all Vietnam Veterans, who served in and around the Republic of [South] Vietnam, or around the chemicals where they were stored, used, or shipped.

Most Holy spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
For those in peril on the sea!
The report also contained the recommendation that presumptive exposure to dioxin-based herbicides be granted to all who served in the combat zone, and those who served in Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, which, while covering a few who would not have been exposed, would result in the greatest umbrella of coverage for those who were exposed. In other words, it was better to include an incidental few who were not exposed, but had diseases that were considered Agent orange related, to make sure that all who were exposed we granted the presumption.

The Admiral's report provided much of the basis for the 1991 Agent Orange Act.

At the age of 79 years, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt II embarked on his final voyage on January 2, 2000, at Duke University Hospital, in Durham, North Carolina, as a result of mesothelioma, a sailor's disease.

He was, and will remain always, every sailor's friend.

O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee,
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.*
Hand Salute! Two!


[* "Eternal Father, Strong to Save": The Navy Hymn]


”It is a stain on this nation's honor that the Department of Veterans Affairs has become a deadlier and more difficult adversary to the American veteran than any they have ever faced on a battlefield."-- VNVets

"The concept that Agent Orange, and its effects, stopped dead in its tracks at the shoreline is simply too illogical, and too ludicrous to accept. What does that say about the Obama Administration and his Department of Veterans Affairs?"--VNVets

"With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations." --President Abraham Lincoln

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."--President George Washington

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