scouts-l Mail Archive for August of 2000: A War Story
Anthony Mako (ajmako@NLS.NET
Thu Aug 03 2000 - 00:18:29 CDT
I want to tell you a story about a 12 year old boy. I don't know his full
name, or where he lives. I don't know what he likes to do, who his friends
are, or how much he likes school. In fact, I don't know anything about him.
I've never met him.
Ten years ago, Iraq invaded and occupied Kuwait. That's why I need to tell
this story. Eleven years and eight months ago, I joined the Navy confident
that chances were pretty good I would never have to go in harms way. Chances
were pretty good that I wouldn't be called upon to fight in a war. Even
while I was watching the news reports on August 2, 1990 it never occured to
me that I would end up in a war.
Almost everyone knows what happened next, so I really don't need to go into
all of that. Suffice it to say, my squadron left on deployment just a little
early in December, 1990. I didn't know it then, but DOD had planned
everything to the last minute - ensuring that the USS Ranger would enter the
Persian Gulf on January 15, 1991. That was the infamous deadline President
Bush had given the Iraqis.
At about 2 am on January 16, 1991 Medium Attack Squadron 155 (VA-155)
launched from the deck of the USS Ranger (CV-61) to drop bombs on targets in
Iraq. One of the six A-6E aircraft in that first strike was NE404 flown by
Lt. Charles Turner. His Bombedier/Navagator was Lt. Tom Costen. I was a
Petty Officer 3rd Class in charge of aircraft maintenance records for
VA-155. Luckily, all of the planes and their crews returned about 2 and a
half hours later safe and sound.
Lt. Costen and Lt. Turner were both the same age as I was (27), and when I
saw them after their flight I could see in their faces that the flight
hadn't been a typical flight. I personally don't have even the slightest
idea what they went through during that flight. I heard plenty of stories
from the pilots and B/Ns. All I can say is that I gained a great deal of
respect for those men.
My experiences during the war were unremarkable, save one. I spent most of
the time doing my job pretty much the same way I had always done it. The
only major difference between doing my job during peace and doing my job
during war was the couple pounds of C/B/R gear I had to carry around. The
closest I ever got to experiencing war was the look in the aviator's eyes
when they returned from a strike.
It wasn't until January 18th that the reality of being at war was brought
home to me. Even then, it still took a long time for that reality to sink
in. At 1630 (4:30 pm) a strike of six planes left USS Ranger to drop mines
in the Straight of Bhasra. Shortly after starting their run, NE404 exploded
after being hit by a surface-to-air missle. The crew of the aircraft didn't
know what hit them. None of the other pilots or B/Ns in the flight saw the
ejection seats or 'chutes.
Lt. Tom Costen was single. Lt. Charles Turner was married with a 2 year old
son. It's that boy, now about 12 years old, that I wanted to talk about. I
had a great deal of respect for his father, but I never met the boy. I don't
know what made me think about him. I don't know what I would say to him if I
could meet him. All I know is that his life was permanently changed because
of something that started ten years ago and the dedication and patriotism of
I'm not sure why I decided to write this, or what the whole point of this
story is. Perhaps I just needed to tell it, or perhaps something a little
more profound compelled me to tell it. I don't think it matters, really. The
boy will likely never know that a complete stranger thought about him today.
He'll likely never know that his very existance inspired that complete
stranger to reflect on a few things. It will likely never occur to him that
that complete stranger might suddenly feel a need to renew his commitment to
A. J. Mako, Scoutmaster, email@example.com
Old Portage District, Great Trail Council