"For those who were not alive during 1962, it was a heart stopping event. For 13 nerve racking days, the world really did teeter on the verge of nuclear war. We were doing "duck and cover" drills at school on almost on a daily basis."
It has been a great Mother's Day. My oldest daughter, her husband, and my grandson were over and we did all kinds of "stuff". My son-in-law made us a brunch (delicious) and once it was over, we decided to all hop in the car and go over to one of our county parks. It being such a beautiful and warm day, we thought the boy would like to play on the swings and slides.
When we got to the park, there were a few folks who were already there. I had forgotten to wear my John Deere hat (to match the boy's hat) and just had my old Navy work hat on. A few minutes after we had arrived, a slightly older gentlemen came up to me with his hand outstretched. "Navy, huh? Me too. Were were you stationed." So I told him and then asked him the same question. His answer was most unexpected.
"A few places around the Med. We were a part of the Enterprise task force. But my most memorable stop was Cuba in 1962." He must have seen my jaw drop. "Cuba?" I asked him. "Yup. Cuban Missile Crisis. Thought I was going to die."
In all my years, I have run into one or two folks who served on the USS Liberty, the USS Pueblo, former "Brown Water" sailors from Viet Nam, submarine sailors, and one who survived Pearl during WWII. But I have never met anyone who had been part of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
For those who were not alive during 1962, it was a heart stopping event. For 13 nerve racking days, the world really did teeter on the verge of nuclear war. We were doing "duck and cover" drills at school on almost on a daily basis.
The man at the park went on to tell me how they would stop and board Russian ships. Some had missile parts, some did not. Each day of the blockade, we did not know if we had reached the tipping point. Why? Blockades can be considered an act of war.
In any event, none of the Russian ships made it through the blockade. It was a terrible way for our young President (JFK) to really get to know the Russians. But he held his own and did not back down. The Russians did (finally), and the world stepped back from the brink.
The man's kids and grand kids were starting to leave, so we shook hands and said good-bye. After he left I was deep in my thoughts. I remember living through that event. I remember my Dad taking us down to the basement and telling us this is where we would be in case of an attack. I remember both my parents being scared to death. I remember not understanding what this all meant. And I remember reading about the 13 days in history books.
But to meet someone who lived through it, to hear how scared he was as a young sailor, to hear once the crisis was over and the Enterprise task force was harbored in GITMO, how scared the ship's crew were that the Cuban Air Force was going to launch a surprise attack on them, was riveting.
This all happened because I forget to change hats. If this man had seen me in a John Deere hat, he might have just nodded and been on his way. But my old sweat crusted Navy hat was the gateway for me to learn a bit of history I had not learned as yet. It may be Mother's Day, but I also received the most unexpected gift.