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Exploring back: My personal micro version of war and peace.

ex·plo·ra·tion (µkspl-r³“shn) n. The act or an instance of exploring: Arctic exploration; exploration of new theories. --


Almost 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy came down to see our submarine squadron and thank us for a war that never happened. It was in Key West, the southernmost end of the US Highway 1 and less than a hundred miles from Cuba.  We stood in our dress white tropical uniform topside the old submarine.  As Kennedy walked along the Pier, my mind reflected.  When the Cuban Missile Crisis started, my boat had  passed the Straight of Magellan, around the southern tip of South America, and to the Pacific.  It took a whole month to travel around South America, and yet, on Kennedy’s word, we found ourselves back in the Atlantic in one day.  If it weren’t for Theodore Roosevelt’s dream of a 2-ocean One Navy, connected by the Panama Canal, it would not have been possible for me to see the Key’s tropical sun hovering over my favorite tamarind tree in so little time.  If war were to happen, it would be here at the almost foreign ambience of Key West safely far removed from the U.S. Mainland.  Now we were the warriors cooling down at the various taverns around the Brown Derby, where Papa Hemmingway recessed writing “Farewell to Arms.”  Kennedy was criticizing the Russians for trying to have a hold of the Americas through Cuba, which defied the Monroe Doctrine.  Barely out of teens, my mind drifted to another Monroe whom the President was also fond of: her name was Marilyn.


Only a quarter could buy a gallon of gas, but my submarine pay was enough to also buy a 2-year-old red and white Corvette. The extra pay was on the same scale what astronauts got paid for flying in outer space.  Like the TV show “Route 66”, I found joy in driving along that old US 1. Transforming into a lost aviator on those wide straight away taking off for the final day.  Federal highway construction provided stretch where jets could land and go in case of an all out war.  Bridges and overpass should have the dimension for the mobile silos that made driving a rally in more than a way.   Driving that American road was touching the American dream, like navigating through the country.  Submarine sailors were of a different breed.  War training was executed like as if it were the real thing: a submariner never heard “This is only a drill.”  We gave 100 percent even in simulation play.  We relaxed during our Liberty (off ship) and remained the reckless but romantic adventurer.  I found myself in the middle of the age of guided missiles. We joked that all the bombs would only be flying far overhead while we were safely underwater. This kind of high tech war could never be romantic; Hemingway would not be able to write about it.


Still, firm warning prevailed and the Americas were safe for another century. The Monroe doctrine sustained and the American continents were free from foreign power.  Cubans seeking freedom fled to Florida in mass defection. Though reluctant at times, the U.S. welcomed political refugees on the shore.  With the few Spanish words I knew, I found myself being called topside whenever we spotted freedom-craving Cubans on makeshift boats heading for the coast of Florida.  Everyone knew his or her intentions, but with the rote dryness of giving Miranda Rights, I had to ask “Adonde?” and “Por que?”  The answer of freedom was not assumed.  Freedom is not free.  It is simply the bounty of war: the strong’s revolution forced upon the weak.


Watching the mayhem in the sky the other day I could not help looking back when John Glenn took the first successful space flight and then rested in Key West. The best Navy Filipino Steward in the Keys was assigned to serve him. He let us in his quarters and I still have his signature. It was the beginning of a new frontier though exploration has been with us for a long time. Men could not break through Panama giant construction till medical science discovered the cure for Malaria.  It challenges us and provides discovery.  Recently, John Glenn said that if men live long enough, cancer would consume their prostrate glands. It is probably one of the most feared outcomes for men his age, so what harm is it to take a shot as the oldest man part of the exploration of the universe?  Cdr Laurel Clark started as Submarine Medical Officer, one of the few women in the Space Program who had submarine experience.  Boomer submariners could certainly share the highland tune she fell in love with while working in the icy water in Scotland misty lock. Frustration during exploration is temporary but those who perish from discovery… they are permanent heroes, from Columbus to Columbia shuttle, from the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the moon.

 You wont see me in this countdown but I was  hundred feet  underwater. We were at Cape Canaveral, Florida for telemetric missile testing circa 1977.


Great site about Columbia7 Nestor Palugod Enriquez



The following is from Nelson Garcia:

Filipinos in US military:
'Please pray for us'
Posted: 1:37 AM (Manila Time) | Feb. 11, 2003
By Tonette Orejas and Joey A. Gabieta
Inquirer News Service
Shedding tears
"MAMA, please pray for us. We're being sent to war." 
Isabel Miclat remembered what her children, Jose and
Johanna, said in separate telephone conversations with
her two Saturdays ago from Egypt, just outside the
border of Iraq. 
Their last phone calls were, to Miclat, more
disturbing. "They're now in Iraq," she said, shedding
tears at the thought. 
Filipino-Americans in the US military are going to
play a "very, very significant role" in the Iraq
crisis because of the top positions they held or
because of their big number, Armed Forces chief of
staff Dionisio Santiago said. 
Lieutenant General Edward Soriano, a native of Alcala
town in Pampanga province, received his third star and
took over the command of Fort Lewis, becoming the
highest-ranking Filipino-American in the US Army.
Brigadier General Antonio Taguba, who was born in the
Sampaloc district ofManila, is the commanding general
of the US Army's Community and Family Support Center
based in Virginia. 
The two children of Miclat, 79, of Minalin town in
Pampanga, are serving in a US Navy unit that began to
move in last week to the theater of conflict. Now
master sergeants, they have been in the service for 17
"Because they chose to join the US Navy, I knew that
someday they would be in hostile situations," she
said. "But while I have prepared myself to accept
that, that's always the case for those in the
military, my mind could never be in peace because I
always fear for their safety." 
The eldest son of Lina Suarez, 60, a public school
teacher in Tacloban City, is also a US Navy man,
assigned at the MSS Missouri. 
"I will just pray hard for the safety of my son"
Suarez said, referring to Jose Maria, 34, who is
preparing for a possible encounter with Iraqi forces
for the second time. Jose Mari was deployed in the
Middle East during the 1991 Gulf War, she said. 
"He told me during our conversations that they have
been training for months now in preparation for the
war," Suarez, a teacher at the Rizal Elementary School
in Tacloban, said in a telephone interview two weeks
ago. "I even told him that I might die ahead of him." 
Since Feb. 1, when her two children called from Egypt,
Miclat said she had spent much of her time crying,
praying and monitoring the statements of Bush on Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein and on the United Nations
inspection of Iraq's alleged weapons of mass
"I've often been crying. They're going to be in a
difficult situation," she said, after recalling what
Jose and Johanna -- the youngest in her brood of three
boys and five girls -- asked her to do. 
"I hate Saddam Hussein," Suarez said emphatically, but
she is still hoping that war will take place, but for
the safety of her son. 
Jose Mari has been with the US Navy since 1988, a year
after he graduated from college with a degree in
banking and finance at the now defunct Divine Word
University, Suarez said. 
His father Angel said Jose Mari applied with the US
Navy after reading a recruitment notice advertised in
the newspapers by the US military, then holding base
in the US naval base in Subic, west of Manila. 
Jose Mari is married to Danette Lopez, a Filipino
nurse from Bacolod City whom he met in the United
States. They have a 3-year-old son, Matthew. The
family lives in California. 
"As a mother, I am really worried. But what can I do?
It's a call of duty," Suarez said. 
During the 1991 Gulf War, Jose Mari suffered hearing
impairment, she said. She did not know how her son had
his hearing problem. She advised him to take a leave
of absence, but "he did not obey me," she said. 
The last time that they saw each other was in 1999
when her son came home for a vacation. 
Suarez said all they could do now was pray because she
knew that they could not stop her son from doing his
"He is brave. It's part of his job," she said. 
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