Saturday, June 29, 2013

Independent Thoughts for Independence Day - 2013

I live in "The Two Thousand and Thirteenth Year of Our Lord" still breathing the pure air of liberty, liberty given me by God and defended by many a patriot over the years.  My father was one such patriot.

He was born after the "Great War" and was just 10 years old at the onslaught of the "Great Depression."  He was a proud member of the class of  '37, Daniel Webster High School, Tulsa, OK.  He died before his time in 1966 at the age of 46 at Hampton, VA.  He was my dad.  He was my hero.  He was an American patriot.

Russ McCullough, Jr. was truly a Renaissance man.  He was an accomplished musician, an engineer of extraordinary merit, a marksman of no small talent and a father of rare dedication to his family.  He somehow sensed the need for service to country while he was still in high school.  Instead of taking advantage of a full music scholarship at the University of Tulsa, he joined the Navy upon graduation.  In 1938 many a patriotic Oklahoman wanted to serve on the proud and mighty U.S.S. Oklahoma, a battleship "of the line."  In those days, one could enlist to serve specifically on the ship named for one's state of residence.  Many "Okies" were on board between the wars.  Even today her lines stir both pride and sorrow.   From 1938 until the fall of 194l my dad served aboard Oklahoma.  He received orders to go to New York where he was to wait for reassignment.  He was there the day Oklahoma rolled over at Pearl on December 7.  Few sailors survived.  He never really talked about his service.  I know very little of it.  One time he said he had to discharge his weapon while off North Africa.  I do know this...though in the Navy, he was a marksman with the 1917 Remington 30.06.

During the Korean War, of all people, the U. S. Army contracted Russ to train its sharpshooters at the Lafayette Gun Club located between Newport News and Williamsburg.  He loved to sing and play the piano.  He was proud of his sharp shooting ability.  He was, however, very focused on his work.  He possessed an uncanny ability to see things in 3D.  Between 1949 and 1953 he went from designing floor furnaces in Tulsa to designing catapults for aircraft carriers at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Company. One of my first memories was standing on the bank of the James River with my mother and my sister Carol as we watched the USS Forrestal ship out on her shake down cruise.  Dad was on board to check out his designs. 

She's now stricken since 1993 awaiting the scrap pile.  She will be sold piecemeal to who knows who...the Chinese perhaps?  She served proudly for nearly 40 years, quite a feat for an "oil burner."  From Lebanon to Desert Storm she projected the power of the United States where ever needed.  In her day, she was the very first "flat top" to have an angled deck, steam catapults and an optical landing system.  Fully loaded she weighed in at little over 81 tons!  She was the largest ship in the world for a number of years, and the most revered.

I was only 14 when he passed away.  I still miss him today.  However, his love and dedication to liberty allows me to write this account in 2013.  Though I can't read music, shoot a rifle or design catapults I CAN write about liberty and those who made it possible. The life of Russ McCullough, Jr. was part of that mosaic of sacrifice and dedication.  Thanks, Dad!  Happy Independence Day.