A month ago, I was privileged to join the DC chapter of the Surface Navy Association for an old-fashioned Dining Out.
They did it right.
Held in a beautiful ballroom in northern Virginia, the Surface Warriors and their dates arrived dressed to the 9s. The evening began in traditional fashion, complete with bag-piper, parading of the beef, and tributes to to missing comrades and those who are still at sea defending our freedom.
As I looked around the room, I was struck with the comaraderie and easy familiarity that was on display that evening. These warriors enjoy a common way of life, and most have shared experiences that only come from a life at sea. But more than that, there was an unspoken understanding in the room that what they do is important. They enjoy a status reserved for those who risk their lives in defense of the country – a status only shared by others who wear the cloth of the nation. I knew I was in the presence of heroes.
And then a remarkable thing happened. As the evening became more frivolous with informal toasts and the reading of Violations of the Mess, the President announced that all “fines” would be donated to the National Cartoonists Society Foundation’s “Support the Troops” initiative (cartoonists visit military and veterans hospitals to cheer up wounded warriors and ailing troops). Violators of the Mess not only dug into their pockets to donate, they began to compete with each other to increase the contributions. By the end of the evening, a substantial amount of money was raised to support the cartoonists’ efforts, and it was all done with smiles on their faces.
These Surface Warfare Officers who have given so much – who have sacrificed, who have endured long deployments away from their families, who are willing to lay down their lives for the preservation of our constitutional liberties – still had room in their hearts to give more. Others Surface Warriors who couldn’t be there that evening were asked to donate, and donate they did. Their combined contributions will put a lot of smiles on the faces of our bravest warriors.
It was a stunning and inspiring evening. The Surface Navy Association has a lot to be proud of: the tradition, the dignity, the significance of the Surface Warfare community. But more than that, it is an organization comprised of the finest this country has to offer. It was an honor to be in their presence.
Thank you for letting me join you for a special night and a wonderful ceremony. You are our heroes of the week.