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November 1963

I'm eight years old and sitting in class (I strangely recall that my seat was in the middle of second row, on the side away from the window), when the principal comes in to tell us that the president has been shot.

I do not know
what it means, but I know
that it scares me.

May 1968

My mother meets Senator Robert F. Kennedy while he is campaigning in San Francisco and gets his autograph.  I live with my father in a small town in Michigan, where every year leading up to Memorial Day, I sell paper poppies for the VFW.

blood-red poppies
blood of soldiers on the field
war has come home

December 1971  

I watch the news and see the body count, arranged like a scorecard. The numbers say we are winning, but one of those numbers is from our town, the only casualty that week. I don't know him, but I see his picture on the cover of Life Magazine.

I turn 17 the next month
and try to join the Marine Corp
my father will not sign

November 1973

As a small-town boy, seeped in the culture of World War II, I grow up thinking that each generation has its war and Vietnam is ours, but somehow do not realize, as I enter the U.S. Navy, that the war is all but over.

I have a draft card
but no understanding
of what it means

April 1975

The U.S.S. Haleakala is cruising to either Thailand or Singapore, with plans to duck across the equator to fulfill an ancient naval tradition. Instead, we are turned around and ordered to head for the coast of South Vietnam.  We cruise about forty miles out, refueling ships directly involved in Operation Frequent Wind. When it's over, we escort two aging freighters full of refugees as far as Guam.

Saigon falls
The war is over
At least for us

April 1976

I land at Clark Field  (now buried under the ash of Mt. Pinatubo), ride an American school bus through the Philippine countryside, to the U.S. Naval Station at Subic Bay, and take my place as a proper colonizer, two years service in a foreign land, doing what we do, imposing our will, the people under our boot seemingly glad for it.

To a 21-year-old year sailor
Neo-colonialism looks like
beer and brown-skinned girls

My first assignment is harbor patrol, driving the same river boats (minus the guns) that appear in the film Apocalypse Now.

Summer 1979

I'm once again in the South China Sea, this time aboard the U.S.S. Beaufort, once again heading for the equator, once again turned around, this time back to Subic Bay to recover a P-3 Orion aircraft that has crashed into the bay during takeoff.

Even in peacetime
the military is still
a dangerous job

That recovery complete, we are ordered back to the coast of South Vietnam, where many are risking death at sea to escape tyranny at home.  Another P-3 directs us to a boat floundering off the coast of Palawan. We bring the twenty-some refugees aboard and sink their crippled boat.

February 1981

Now serving aboard the USS Rathburne, we stop at the New Hebrides, now called Vanuatu, a country so new it does not yet have its own money.

as a footnote
I finally cross the equator
but forgo the hazing

I have only four months left to my enlistment and so now have no interest in naval traditions.

September 1983

Flight KAL 007 is shot from the sky by a Soviet MIG. With tickets bought and a job secured, I arrive in Seoul the following month.

I wasn't about to let
the Cold War change my plans.
I had places to go and
people to meet.

January 1986

Everyone says they know where they were when the Challenger exploded, dashing our hopes for space where across the sky. I did not, had to look it up.

In Japan at the time
with no TV, the news came late
and second hand

April 1995

Driving west on Interstate 40, I decide to bypass Oklahoma City, take the side roads instead, for the sake of photography.

west of the city
I return to the freeway
—the sirens rush past

September 2001

On that fateful morning, I'm working at the Barnes & Noble in midtown Manhattan. A few of us are standing around the fiction info station when we hear that a plane has hit the World Trade Center. This was the only news we have, so we aren't sure what it means; someone suggests a Cessna has clipped an antennae.

When we learned the truth
newsprint US flags appeared every window
motivated solidarity rather than patriotism.

In those first days
when the world was with us
it simply wasn't about that.

November 2008

My wife is in Mumbai on business so when I'm wakened by a call, I expect it to be her. However, it's a woman from her company, saying she'll connect me. I'm sleepy and confused, but she comes on the line and tells me she's okay.

having yet
to see the news
I ask her about
the food

She tells me there's been a terrorist attack, but that she'll be home soon.

March 2011

Living in Tokyo, one comes to accept earthquakes as a way of life, but this one is big (in Tokyo, it feels like a 7, when actually it's a 9, one of the largest quakes ever recorded). Still, with the cats already freaked out and hiding, nothing to do but stand in the doorway and wait it out.

earth and sea tremble
cherry blossoms too soon
swept away
I assume that, sooner or later, History and I will meet head on.

notes
November 1963: President John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.

May 1968: My mother received Kennedy’s autograph and snapped three pictures of him; he is assassinated the next week, on June 5, 1968, in Los Angeles, California. She still has the autograph and photos.

December 1971: The January 21, 1972 edition of Life Magazine read THE ONE BOY WHO DIED to the left of a portrait of SP4 Jerry N. Duffey. Sergeant Duffey (Posthumous Promotion) was killed by friendly fire on December 12, 1971.

November 1973: I successfully enter the U.S. Navy after first failing the physical due to scoliosis (abnormal sideways curvature of the spine). I petitioned the president and received a waiver. My enlistment ends in May 1981, 7 years, 6 months, and 3 days later.

April 1975: Saigon, the capital of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), fell to the People's Army of Vietnam (the army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam or North Vietnam) and the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) on April 30, 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War. The evacuation that followed, called Operation Frequent Wind, was arguably the largest helicopter evacuation in history. For more information, see [link] [link]

April 1976: Clark Field is established as a U.S. Army fort in 1903, it became an air field in 1919, and was eventually expanded to become the largest U.S. military installation outside of the United States. [link] The eruption of Mount Pinatubo ([link]) in June of 1991 caused extensive damage leading to its closure. It was turned over to the Philippine government that November.

Subic Bay, located about 100km northwest of Manila, with its deep water and sheltered anchorages, is a natural choice for a military harbor. Despite its obvious strategic value, the Spanish, which had colonized the Philippines in the 16th century, did not develop it until the late 1800s, shortly before the colony passed to American control following the Spanish-American War (1898) and Philippine-American Wars (1899-1902). The Subic Bay Naval Station was eventually expanded to become the second largest U.S. military installation outside of the United States. [link]

Summer 1979: USS Beaufort (ATS-2) was a salvage and rescue ship active from 1972 until 1996, until sold to South Korea. It was based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. [link]

The Lockheed P-3 Orion is a four-engine turboprop anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft developed for the United States Navy in the 1960s. The aircraft is easily recognizable by its distinctive tail stinger or "MAD Boom", used for the magnetic detection of submarines. A total of 734 P-3s have been built, and by 2012, it will join the handful of military aircraft such as the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress that have served 50 years of continuous use with its original primary customer, in this case, the United States Navy. [link]

Events resulting from the Vietnam War led many people in Cambodia, Laos, and especially Vietnam to become refugees in the late 1970s and 1980s, after the fall of Saigon. In Vietnam, the new communist government sent many people who supported the old government in the South to "re-education camps", and others to "new economic zones." An estimated 1 million people were imprisoned without formal charges or trials. According to published academic studies in the United States and Europe, 165,000 people died in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's re-education camps. Thousands were abused, tortured, and executed. These factors, coupled with poverty and the total destruction of the country that happened during the Vietnam war, caused hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese to flee the country.

February 1981: The USS Rathburne (FF-1057) was a Knox class frigate of the US Navy. Despite the different spelling, she was named for Continental Navy officer John Rathburn (1746-1782). The Rathburne was commissioned 1970, decommissioned in 1992, stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in 1995, and sunk as a target during fleet training exercise on 5 July 2002. [link]

The Republic of Vanuatu is an island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean, is some 1,750 kilometres (1,090 mi) east of northern Australia. Vanuatu was ‘discovered’ by the Spanish in 1605. France and Britain claimed parts of the chain in the 1880s, and in1906 agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago as the New Hebrides. Vanuatu gained its independence in July 1980. [link]

September 1983: Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was a Korean Air Lines civilian airliner that was shot down by Soviet interceptors on 1 September 1983, over the Sea of Japan, near Moneron Island just west of Sakhalin Island. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed, including Lawrence McDonald, a sitting member of the United States Congress. The aircraft was en route from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage when it strayed into prohibited Soviet airspace around the time of a planned missile test. The Soviet Union initially denied knowledge of the incident, but later admitted shooting the aircraft down, claiming that it was on a spy mission and a deliberate provocation by the United States, to test the Soviet Union's military preparedness, or even to provoke a war. The United States accused the Soviet Union of obstructing search and rescue operations. The Soviet military suppressed evidence sought by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) investigation, notably the flight data recorders, which were eventually released eight years later after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The incident was one of the tensest moments of the Cold War, and resulted in an escalation of anti-Soviet sentiment, particularly in the United States. [link]

28 January 1986: The Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight. [link]

April 1995: The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was bombed by domestic terrorist on April 19, 1995. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil before the September 11, 2001 attacks. [link]

September 2001: [link]

November 2008: On 26Novemeber 2008, Islamic terrorists conducted more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city. The attacks resulted in 146 deaths, with 308 people injured. [link]

March 2011: A magnitude 9.0 undersea megathrust earthquake struck off the coast of Japan at 14:46 JST (05:46 UTC) on Friday, 11 March 2011, with the epicenter approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (20 mi). It was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900. It was so powerful the island of Honshu was moved 8 feet eastward. The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 40.5 metres (133 ft) in Miyako, Iwate, Tōhoku, in some cases traveling up to 10 km (6 mi) inland. In addition to loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami caused a number of nuclear accidents, primarily the ongoing level 7 meltdowns at three reactors in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex, and the associated evacuation zones affecting hundreds of thousands of residents.
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Daily Deviation

Given 2012-12-15
:iconthesilentking15:
TheSilentKing15 Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Is this a true story? Or do I sound like an idiot? XD
Great work
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2016  Professional Writer
Thanks! It is a true story, and no, you don't sound like an idiot.
Reply
:iconthesilentking15:
TheSilentKing15 Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Phew!
Well it's quite interesting
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2016  Professional Writer
It's been over 5 years; I'm waiting for the next one. =P
Reply
:iconthesilentking15:
TheSilentKing15 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Maybe the UK leaving the EU propa
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2016  Professional Writer
Except I'm not in Britain.
Reply
:iconthesilentking15:
TheSilentKing15 Featured By Owner Oct 8, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
True, it was just a thought. Maybe the first manned mission to Mars
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2016  Professional Writer
I now live in Shaky Town, so in could be another quake.
Reply
(1 Reply)
:iconjules-101:
jules-101 Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
This is fantastic. I never connected the dots to your DA account here in all this time. Congratulations a few years late! :D
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016  Professional Writer
Thanks so much. I also did not connect them They are connected now, which has inspired me to spend more time here and less time on fb (which is now mostly about the election). 
Reply
:iconjules-101:
jules-101 Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2016  Hobbyist Photographer
Sometimes dots are smaller than bread crumbs and lots easier to lose ;)
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2016  Professional Writer
Yep, so true.
Reply
:iconforcedlactationlover:
Forcedlactationlover Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015  Hobbyist Writer
You're just enough younger than I am (some 7 years) to possibly not remember the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. It was the first to impact my life the way the others seem to have struck you, as they did me. Eventful times, with implications and aftereffects still echoing throughout the world. One big difference is that no-one died during that event, although we seemed to be, for a week, 30 minutes away from nuclear war. It altered my perceptions of life, and its possibilities, like no event before or since (It was no help that I lived only two miles [by air] from a known target, a missile base).
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016  Professional Writer
I wish I could say I did remember it, but except for snippets, I can't get beyond the assassination, which I realized only later impacted me very deeply. My view power is quite cynical, and I now see the foundation was laid here. 

Have you written about this experience? 
Reply
:iconforcedlactationlover:
Forcedlactationlover Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
Never in an organized essay form, but casually, yes. Also, it was discussed with my psychologist when we were talking about how various events in my life had affected my outlook. Not one of the causes of great optimism, although I often have a positive take on events. 
 There are at least two other seminal historical events that have marked me; as with you, the Kennedy Assassination. Also, the 9/2/01 attack.
I worked nights then, sleeping mornings. Getting up and going out that afternoon was a shock. Flags at half-staff for no known reason, and the Post Office being closed. Only when I got to the local liquor store, where I had sometimes worked part-time, did I find out what had happened. Worse, I personally knew some of the victims of the attack. We have lived in eventful times. (As have many others.)
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2016  Professional Writer
You've no doubt heard the Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times.

I keep dodging these events, but sooner or later, history may get me. That I now live on a volcano doesn't help.
Reply
:iconforcedlactationlover:
Forcedlactationlover Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2016  Hobbyist Writer
If I may, which volcano?
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2016  Professional Writer
Kīlauea
Reply
:iconcradleframe:
cradleframe Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2015  Student General Artist
woah, i love this piece. Simple, powerful, evocative.....Nice
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2016  Professional Writer
Thanks so much. 
Reply
:iconcradleframe:
cradleframe Featured By Owner Feb 29, 2016  Student General Artist
welcome
Reply
:iconellorna:
Ellorna Featured By Owner Apr 19, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
This is amazing. Thank you for linking me to it. I absolutely would enjoy reading more.
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you so much. Expanding it is in the works, though I've got other things to finish first. I'm glad you like it.
Reply
:iconsquibble9:
squibble9 Featured By Owner Jun 15, 2013
Woah
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Woah is good. I'll definitely take it. And thanks. Also, very sorry for the delay. I've been immersed in novel-writing and subsequently neglecting DA.
Reply
:iconbrowncoatmando:
BrowncoatMando Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2012  Hobbyist
This is so powerful, that you could have seen and done so much, that history has left such a mark on you.
I only remember the last 4 and only the last 3 with any clarity but these words, so simple and so powerful are a potent reminder.
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you so much. Yes, when it hit that I'd been close to so much, I was actually surprised (though Challenger I have in there because so many people remember it and I do not). I suggest the you and any of your generation will have a chance to write similar things since we are living in momentous times. There's an ancient Chinese curse: may you live in interesting times. That's us. :lol:
Reply
:iconamberelix:
amberelix Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2012
One of the few prose pieces I've wanted to finish. Very interesting.
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you. I'm glad to hear that it pulled you along.
Reply
:iconemiko-catonfire:
Emiko-CatOnFire Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Student Traditional Artist
Very powerful, especially after what just happened..
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you. Yes, and I suspect that are more powerful events on  the horizon. Many of my generation wanted to make a better world. We have obviously failed. I hope you guys can do better. Sorry for the delay in answering. I've been away from DA.
Reply
:iconriruka7:
Riruka7 Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012
:iconepicclapplz:
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you so much. I'm pleased you liked it. Sorry for the delay in answering. I've been away from DA.
Reply
:iconsakuradreamerz2:
SakuraDreamerz2 Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012
Wwooaahh..
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you so much. Sorry for the delay in answering. I've been away from DA.
Reply
:iconsakuradreamerz2:
SakuraDreamerz2 Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014
You are welcome, sir! ^^
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2014  Professional Writer
=^.^=
Reply
:iconredoctoberrising:
RedOctoberRising Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is simply beyond words...
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
That is a fantastic compliment. I'm embarrassed that it took me so long to get back to you.
Reply
:iconredoctoberrising:
RedOctoberRising Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's alright. I'm honored that you kept my comment for so long and appreciated it.
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Professional Writer
I don't delete comments; you took the time to comment, so I feel I should respond. :)
Reply
:iconthelordfanboy:
TheLordFanboy Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Sounds like a story a grandfather tells to his children.
Reply
:iconliliwrites:
LiliWrites Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012
Powerful. I wonder what you'll say about yesterday. :+fav: Congrats on the DD.
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you so much, and very sorry to have taken so long in getting back to you (I've been immersed in other projects). I have some connection with most of the events here, so I'm not sure what I can say about Sandy Hook. At the same time, I believe I need to say something. As the final version takes shape, I'll doubt think of something.
Reply
:iconpearwood:
pearwood Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Five years my junior. They signed the Viet Nam cease-fire while I was at Fort Benning for IOBC. I flew UH-1H helicopters out of Fort Richardson. It was my wife who had the airfield commander knock on the door with ashen face. "Steve's ok." The glaciers and box canyons kill them just as dead as rifles and rockets. I'm not sorry to have only brushed up against history.
Reply
:icontychoaussie:
Tychoaussie Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Excellent; Most well done.
I'm riveted by your storytelling and the memories are well formed and told with concise imagery. I am about ten years behind you on the history timeline; For me, it was the fall of Saigon I remember as a nine year old. Everything beyond that appears very pertinent & accurate. I was in the USAF in the late 80's and have similar tales of those times.

Now, it seems, we have yet another national tragedy to mark upon our historical timelines. It seems to me that there's a fundamental shift and a corrosive influence within; I suspect no deliberate conspiracy but instead think the toxicity of today's mainstream media and electronic entertainment venues are taking their toll on our youth and children.
Reply
:iconqvxvctxzero:
QVxVCTxZero Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
As I read this, the events are playing 3 different ways in my mind. The first way is where I was during the time of these events (albiet it's completely blank for all but the last 4 of them, as I'm only 23. The second way is as if I was at the events themselves. The third way is in Hetalia terms. I'm not talking turning everything into lighthearted fun, I'm talking as if a natural disaster was a sickness, a bombing a heart attack, a war a war, but the nations themselves were high ranking soldiers. No matter how you look at it, it makes one realize that human life is a precious thing, despite age, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. and also it reminds one how history has shaped a nation, a city, a state, a group of friends, or even a single person.
Reply
:iconpepper-the-phoenix:
Pepper-the-phoenix Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2012  Professional Writer
This is beautiful.
Reply
:iconalmcdermid:
almcdermid Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014  Professional Writer
Thank you so much. So sorry to have taken so long to get back to you.
Reply
:iconpepper-the-phoenix:
Pepper-the-phoenix Featured By Owner Apr 23, 2014  Professional Writer
No problem. It is a very moving piece brilliantly written. Well done!
Reply
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