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This is an
e-mail from a young ensign aboard USS Winston Churchill
(DDG-81) to his parents, written a few days after
September 11, 2001. The Churchill is an Arleigh Burke
Class AEGIS guided missile destroyer, commissioned March
10, 2001, and is the only active US Navy warship named
after a foreign national.
We are still at sea. The remainder of our port visits
have all been cancelled. We have spent every day since
the attacks going back and forth within imaginary boxes
drawn in the ocean, standing high-security watches, and
trying to make the best of it. We have seen the articles
and the photographs, and they are sickening. Being
isolated, I don't think we appreciate the
full scope of what is happening back home, but we are
definitely feeling the effects.
About two hours ago, we were hailed by a German Navy
destroyer, Lutjens, requesting permission to pass close
by our port side. Strange, since we're in the middle of
an empty ocean, but the captain acquiesced and we
prepared to render them honors from our bridgewing.
were making their approach, our conning officer used
binoculars and announced that Lutjens was flying not the
German, but the American flag. As she came alongside
us, we saw the American flag flying half-mast and her
entire crew topside standing at silent, rigid attention
in their dress uniforms. They had made a sign that was
displayed on her side that read "We Stand By
There was not a dry eye on the bridge as they stayed
alongside us for a few minutes and saluted. It was the
most powerful thing I have seen in my life. The
German Navy did an incredible thing for this crew, and it
has truly been the highest point in the days since the
attacks. It's amazing to think that only half-century ago
things were quite different. After Lutjens pulled away,
the Officer of the Deck, who had been planning to get out
later this year, turned to me and said, "I'm staying
I'll write you when I know more about when I'll be
home, but this is it for now. Love you guys.