Today is a day of sorrow for the Sailors of Coastal Squadron One. Upon awakening this morning, most of us learned of the passing of your husband, and our friend, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr. He held a special place in the hearts of the sailors of Coastal Squadron one. I never met one sailor who was not proud that he had served under your husband's command in Vietnam. He gave us something we had never had in the Navy until then. It may not have meant much to others but to us it meant the world. There is a simple word for it, its called respect. No longer did we have to fear when we came back from a combat patrol if our hair was combed just right, if our shoes were shined or our beards had grown. We had a job to do and he let us do it. I feel that many more of us would have been lost if we had to concern ourselves with those things rather than fighting a war and trying to stay alive.
Although it is natural that we should mourn his passing on this day, I think it is also important that we celebrate his life and what he meant to each of us. I have a medal and a citation to go with it, as I am sure many of the sailors of Coastal Squadron One have. It came with a Combat "V" and leather bound case that says "United States Of America" on it. It means more to me on this day than it ever did because your husband's signature is on it, not once but twice. I am viewing it as I write this. The second signature is dated September 23, 1991. I heard that he was going to be interviewed on the radio in Cleveland, Ohio, so I cancelled my work that day, drove to the radio station and waited. I wore my Navy shirt with my Swift Boat Pin on it and waited in the lobby. When he came in the lobby and saw me, not a word was spoken. He walked over to me, he hugged me, we both shed a tear, and he said, "God Bless You Son." He also signed my book, Brown Water Black Berets, "To my comrade in arms." It is because of that signature that we the sailors of Coastal Squadron One dedicate this picture to "Our comrades in arms," Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr. and LTJG Elmo Zumwalt III.
I have had other people say to me, "God Bless You Son," but it never had the same meaning. They said it because they were old enough to be my father. I do believe he said it because he felt like we were his sons. This is evident in a speech he gave in an interview to the American Legion. When asked, "What was your toughest decision as a leader?" His reply was, "It was when I had to send people into battle instead of being with them. In World War II, I was with my men. In the Korean War, I was with my men. If my ship got hit, I was at risk along with them. In Vietnam, although I was in a helicopter every day visiting sites, I had to send boats and aircraft into battle. I couldn't be with them. That's much tougher." He not only said that; he meant it and I know that he was chewed out by the brass for putting himself in harms way. He fought for our freedom in WWII. He fought for us in Korea. He fought for us in Vietnam. Most importantly, he fought for us when the battle was over and others chose to forget.
Each time I think of one of my children I cant even imagine what you both must have gone through with the loss of your son, Elmo Zumwalt III. My heart goes out to you. I do believe that if the Admiral did not make the decisions he did that many more of us would have our names on "The Wall."
The true measure of a man is not how long his candle burns, but how brightly. Your husbands candle did not burn long enough but it did burn ever so brightly as is evidenced by the letters I have read from all those that loved him.
My thoughts turn now to some beautiful words that I once read which remind me of Admiral Zumwalt. They are written on the tombstone of the author Jack London. I do not remember them verbatim, but they go something like this:
"I would rather to have lived my life as a flaming meteor burning but for an instant brightly across the night sky in all my magnificent glory for all the world to see than to have lived my life as a burned out asteroid drifting aimlessly across the heavens, devoid of all meaning of life and existence."
That is how the men of Coastal Squadron One believe Admiral Zumwalt lived his life. Each time we gaze at the night sky and see a meteor streaking across the heavens we will know that it is the Admiral telling us one more time, "You can do it son, and I will be by your side." It has been said that you have never truly departed until the last person who remembers you has passed on. If that it true then Admiral Zumwalt will live on for a very long time, for he lives in the hearts and the minds of all of us who he touched with his kindness his generosity, his devotion to his duty and his sailors both then and now, and most importantly, his love.
From The Sailors Of Coastal Squadron One
January 3, 2000
Goodbye My Comrade
We Love You
Written by RD2 Joe Muharsky U.S. Navy
PCF 78 Dannang, 1968. PCF 94 An Thoi 1969. U.S.S. Brister DER 327, 1967.
January 10, 2000
1400 hours EST
At 1400 hours, the entrance hall appeared as the quarterdeck of the US Navy Battleship, U. S. S. Arizona. Since December 7, 1941, this has been the welcoming station for all deceased US Navy personnel.
On this day, the honor guard forms in full dress whites.. The Officer of the Deck is a Lieutenant. As the eye sweeps over the assembled guard, one cannot help but to notice that while all wear various medals on their uniforms, they all have the same device to go along with their medals. It is a simple oval blue pin with the silhouette of a USN patrol craft from Vietnam. The entire honor guard is composed of those who served on these small boats.
Today they will welcome someone that they consider to be one of them even though he did not ride the boats. Today Admiral Elmo Zumwalt joins the ranks of those who gather in the halls of Valhalla.
The boson's pipe shrills as the Admiral enters the quarterdeck. Respendent in full dress blues with rolls of medals, he too sports the simple blue oval on the breast of his uniform.
As he salutes the OOD, their eyes lock and tears form as the OOD returns the
salute. "Welcome aboard, Dad!"
Written by John Vincent Hecker, RDSN
PCF 5, An Thoi, Vietnam 1969
This is a picture of the completed painting to be presented to the Zumwalt family on behalf of
"The Swift Boats Sailors Association"
The picture does not do the painting justice as to just how beautiful it is. The colors are much more vivid than this photo shows.
The artist is Mr. Mike Deibel. Other examples of his work can be viewed at http://mwweb.com/ndc/Aviationart/aviimigas/arthome.htm