In 1948 I served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Philippine Sea (CV-47). My rating was Electronic Technician’s Mate, 3c. The ship’s itinerary, through the spring and summer, included cruising into the Caribbean and then circling around the Mediterranean. We dropped anchor at many ports on the north and south shores. I went ashore everywhere. At the places visited along the coasts I usually walked alone with nothing much better to do than peer into shop windows at signs I couldn’t read, shoo away children who would follow and ask for cigarettes (I don’t smoke), or visit a bar to try the local beer. Perhaps the most unfamiliar to me were the cities in North Africa: Bone, Algeria; Sfax, Tunisia; and Tripoli, Libya.
As interesting as these explorations were, the realization nagged me that I was far from home. I felt a discomfort that bordered on the fear of being stranded. But there was one event that cured that problem. At the end of my tour one day when I returned to the dock, I looked out toward my ship, sitting deep in the water, waiting for me. From a jackstaff at the bow, gleaming in the sunlight, waved the stars and stripes. I paused and let it sink in. Seeing the flag that way gave it a new meaning. Never in all the years as a child reciting the Pledge of Allegiance had I ever felt the emotion I experienced that afternoon when I realized what Old Glory meant to me.