Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Talk of the Town

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Talk of the Town

Article excerpt

Byline: Lamar Thames, County Line editor

I cried again Wednesday. Cried at the memory. Cried at the heartbreak. Cried at the sunrise.

I didn't want it to happen, but it did. I didn't have any choice.

As the morning grew into first light at 7 a.m., a spectacular sight flashed briefly in the eastern sky -- a red-hued serenade of color that coincided with the playing of Ray Charles' America The Beautiful on the radio.

Don't tell me there wasn't divine guidance in the confluence of those two events -- a masterful hand manipulating the sun, the clouds and the radio to prepare the heart for a day of remembrance.

I hope others were up at that hour to witness it. The impression it made on me, like the one from a year earlier, won't soon be forgotten.

-- Over the years, I've had the opportunity to listen to a few high-ranking Naval officers talk about their military experiences.

The officers have been sobering, thought-provoking, entertaining and -- most of all -- funny. I don't know why that is, except that maybe after you stare down the guns of the enemy you retreat to humor.

The latest example is Rear Adm. Steven Tomaszeski, the commander of the USS John F. Kennedy Battle Group, which recently returned to Mayport Naval Station after a 6-month deployment to the Middle East and Persian Gulf region.

The actual words he used in a speech to an Orange Park civic club meeting Tuesday weren't as funny as was his delivery -- wry, but with a punch.

He told about how the Kennedy group was about to leave port on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists sucker-punched an unsuspecting nation.

"By 9 a.m., three of our ships were already in the Atlantic," Tomaszeski said. "I didn't know what else to do but get them into the ocean."

Soon, one of his commanders called and ordered him to deploy the battle group.

"We had six of the nine ships already out, so I thought we were looking pretty good," he said, ruefully.

The next couple of days were intense as the Kennedy group took charge of the sea all the way to Boston. …

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