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Sunday, October 25, 2009

This week, it’s about an old man’s dream

Richard Learned

Today is being celebrated as Reformation Sunday in Lutheran churches.

As a retired Lutheran pastor, I suppose I should be writing about that. But Martin Luther had his reformation voice more than 500 years ago, and there isn’t much that can be said about that except by theologians who love to rehash things. The actual Reformation Day is Saturday.

No, I find that I’m more interested in Tuesday, which is Oct. 27, and which almost nobody will be celebrating. Oct. 27 was my sister Lil’s birthday. She would be 101 this year.

But Tuesday also is the anniversary of the day in 1922 that it was officially declared United States Navy Day. It isn’t a national holiday, but it definitely has meaning for many of us who have served in that branch of the service.

Actually, there was an official adoption of a resolution to establish a U.S. Navy on Oct. 13, 1775, by the Continental government. The Continental Authority gave the go-ahead to equip two ships that would operate directly under the Continental Congress to capture British supply ships.

There had been a debate in Congress as to whether the use of armed ships against the British might “provoke” them. The debate ended when the news arrived that Washington’s ships had already captured several British ships.

After more successes and greater information as to the travel of British supply ships, which were notably unarmed, the Continental Navy was approved.

It was successful in a number of engagements and raided many more British vessels, but it also lost 24 of its own.

There was a brief suspension of Naval forces, and it wasn’t until the U.S. Constitution was being written that any push for an official Navy was advanced.

The U.S. Navy was engaged in many wars in our history, but it wasn’t until after World War I that it was given true recognition, and Oct. 27 was declared Navy Day in 1922.

At any rate, as the church celebrates Reformation Sunday with the hymn that Luther wrote, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” and I wear my red stole in recognition of the day, my mind will be elsewhere.

I’ll be silently mouthing the words to the official hymn of the United States Navy: “Eternal Father strong to save, whose arm doth bind the restless wave, oh hear us while we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.” The text of this hymn was written by William Whiting.

I’ll be wondering if it’s politically correct for the Navy to sing it anymore.

I’ll be remembering the panic of Pearl Harbor when we thought my brother was still there. His ship, the Philadelphia, had left the week before.

I’ll be remembering the wounded coming back to St. Albans Naval Hospital. One of these had a plaster bar that stretched from knee to knee. It was the only way we could safely move him around. Many were mentally affected, but that wasn’t a concern in those days.

I’ll be remembering the Sullivan brothers and how all five of them perished as their ship was torpedoed.

I’ll be remembering Buddy Waldron, a boyhood friend, who went down with his submarine, the Wahoo.

And I’ll be praying for an even greater Reformation Day when all the navies of the world can freely sail with their guns silent and their colors blazing.

But that’s just an old man’s dream.

Keep in touch.

Richard Learned can be reached at 279-4039 or, or by writing in care of The Sunday Telegraph, 17 Executive Drive, Hudson, NH 03051.