Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Shipping Out Again

Air Battle off Guadalcanal November 12, 1942, USS Atlanta in lead

Burial at sea off Tarawa November 1943

Before anyone gets any ideas, the title comes from a post I wrote last year, Why I Joined The Navy This Time. Well it is that time of year again when Project Valor IT kicks off its pre-Veteran's Day drive to raise money to provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries.

Here is how this fine organization came about.

SFC William Ziegenfuss served 17 years in United States Army, as a medic, and later a nurse. He fought in the Vietnam War from 1968-1969 and was decorated for actions during the Tet offensive. His military decorations included the Vietnam Cross of gallantry with Palm, and the Army commendation medal, which he was awarded three times.
But his military record isn't what made "Bill" special. Bill joined the service in 1967. In 1976, while everyone else was celebrating the U.S. Bicentennial, he found out that he had cancer when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, for which there was no cure. He would later find out that this cancer could only have been caused by his exposure to Agent Orange while serving in Vietnam. Always a fighter, he decided to stay in the army, where he could continue to treat soldiers and serve the country he loved so much.
Bill still continued to serve the Army and the military, and continued to help soldiers. But finally in 1985, his medical condition brought him to a point where that was no longer possible. He would continue to fight the cancer for the next 16 years while he worked as a government employee, and he raised a family that would produce a daughter and son who would continue in his footsteps. He left a daughter in the Air Force and a son in the army when he passed away. Today these children carry on his legacy: a daughter raising a family after returning from a deployment to Afghanistan with the United States Air Force; and a son who now serves as a major in the United States Army.
The injuries Bill's son, Major Ziegenfuss, received in Iraq became part of the inspiration for Project Valour-IT and Major Ziegenfuss honors the memory of his father, SFC Ziegenfuss, by his participation.

With the readers permission, I will reprint the post explaining why I am shipping out with the Navy.

Anyone who has followed my blog for a time will know that I served in the United States Army in my youth. My pride in that service moved me to dedicate the photo of my deployment to Vietnam as "The beginning of a quest to understand our world." For the past several weeks the link above that photo calls attention to the Operation Valor Fundraiser for Soldier's Angels. Looking closer you will notice that I am supporting the Navy in their effort to beat the Army in a competition to raise money for this excellent program.

Although I still love the Army, I was moved to "join the Navy" as a way of honoring the service of my father Jay B. Wade, who served in the Navy from December 8, 1941 to October 1945, and my brother Vince, who followed our father down to the sea and proudly served aboard the Spruance-class destroyer USS Ingersoll in the 1980's. Vince so loves the Navy that he served for a three years as a live aboard caretaker on the USS Hornet museum ship. His fondest memories of our dad, is the day he came home from boot camp in his "Cracker Jacks" and saw our father weep with pride.

My father did his duty as a gator sailor aboard the USS Zeilin AP-9 in five campaigns from Guadalcanal, the Aleutians, and back to Tarawa and Kwajalein. He was then sent home for leave and became a plank owner on the new Essex class carrier, USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31) and participated in 15 air strikes against the Japanese home islands, the last being recalled on August 15, 1945 the day Japan surrendered. When he came home, the transition to civilian life took it's toll and before I was six he disappeared from my life. He returned to my life after I went searching for him and found that he had passed back in 1985, leaving a legacy of three long-lost brothers, two of which I have reconnected with. My brother Vince had the strongest memories of our father, and was able to relate the lost time and how much our father cherished his service in the Navy. The stories of what our father saw and experienced only came to Vince's ears after he returned home on emergency leave as our father lay dying. They talked and Vince learned about the sights and ghosts that our father saw in his dreams every night for the rest of his life. Our dad never wavered from his pride in that service and the memories of war that were burned into the mind of a young man in the last years of his teens.

So here I stand, ready to serve to honor the spirit of my father by supporting the United States Navy in this cause to raise money for our injured service people. The cause is every bit as important as the mission they were originally tasked to complete. I urge everyone to click on the Operation Valor widget and contribute however much you can to honor the sacrifices these fine people made for all of us.

A few days later I wrote this post about why in this past decade of land wars and nation building exercises, Why the Navy Has Such An Essential Role in Our History.

So in the immortal words of Marine Sgt. Dan Daly.

Sign up here
Project Valor IT Team NAVY

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