“Fear of attack on home soil is a new feeling for this generation of Americans. The crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt has been working practically non-stop since September 11 to combat terrorism. We feel fortunate in that unlike most Americans, we were actually in a position to take action in response to the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon.”
These words of Captain Richard J. O’Hanlon, Commanding Officer of the nuclear aircraft carder, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (the “Roosevelt”), demonstrate the dedication and patriotism that those in the military and naval services quietly bring to their roles in the war against terrorism. Less visible, for security reasons, than society’s other protectors — the firefighters and police officers — it is perhaps easy to forget the sacrifices that military and naval personnel make in order to keep America safe.
At the time of writing (March 1), the crew were on their 123rd day on board ship, the statistics of which are truly awe-inspiring. The Roosevelt carries 5,500 officers and over 80 aircraft with a flight deck area of 4.5 acres. The catapult speed of the flight deck can send a 70,000 pound aircraft from 0-150 mph in two seconds and the ship has over 3,000 televisions and 2,500 telephones which go some small way to keeping the officers in touch with their loved ones.
Irish Americans, Rear Admiral Mark Fitzgerald; Senior Medical Officer Captain Michael D. McCarten; Commanding Officer, Captain Richard J. O’Hanlon; Executive Officer, Captain Dennis Fitzpatrick; Commander Patrick Rainey; and Dental Officer, Commander Kathleen Kenny — are all proud to be taking part in “Operation Enduring Freedom” on this huge “floating city.”
Rear Admiral Fitzpatrick speaks for the whole group when he states, “We will not let these terrorists bring down the way of life that we love. Many great Americans serve in the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group and have made great personal sacrifices being away from home, working 14-18 hours a day, seven days a week to support Operation Enduring Freedom. Young or old, black or white, enlisted or officer, everyone is out here pulling together to support our country and coalition.”
Commander Kenny agrees, “Being attached to the ship that has played an important role in Operation Enduring Freedom has given me tremendous pride in my country and my chosen profession.”
Being away from home means that the officers are very reliant on friends and family not just for keeping them up to date with what goes on in their personal lives but also for keeping them current with political affairs and domestic issues. It also allows them time to think about the wider implications of being part of a war effort. Captain McCarten says that he has relied on family and friends for letting him know what the mood of the country is, “I have lost touch with what is happening back home. For myself, I have had a sense of sadness since September 11. War has always been a tragic part of human events. What happened in the terrorist attacks is that any and all tactical options became fair game. While I’m concerned about that as a member of the military, I am more deeply concerned about what that implies for us as a nation and for all citizens of the world.”
The officers on the Roosevelt are foremost Americans and patriots but take pride in their Irish heritage. Captain Fitzpatrick says, “My Irish American heritage is a great source of comfort and pride. My parents own a [vacation] house on a lake. When we arrive one of the first things that goes up is the American flag and then an Irish one. As long as we are there, both flags fly.” ♦