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Thanks for the sacrifice

It was my privilege on Wednesday to be on Pier 14 at Norfolk Naval Station as the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze and aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower left in service of our nation.

Crew members pulled in the ropes, sounded a long horn blast and manned the rails in their dress whites. The tugboats chugged, the gargantuan ships moved slowly but surely, and the harbor pilot was waiting out in the water to guide the ships past hazards until they hit the open ocean.

Back on the pier, family members waved and held signs. A few wiped away tears, but all tried to keep in mind that, as one woman’s sign put it, “deployments don’t last forever.” An obviously experienced sailor who was staying behind walked around telling the families that they could get another great view of the ship from the observation pier at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel — if they got there fast enough.

Indeed, this deployment is only planned to last seven months. Carrier Strike Group 10 includes about 7,000 sailors on seven ships, as well as several squadrons of Carrier Air Wing 3 and Destroyer Squadron 26.

It might be a lifetime to dads who miss the births of their children, parents who miss first steps, birthdays, graduations or holidays, or sailors who aren’t able to be there for siblings, parents or friends who need them.

But fortunately for our nation, there are millions of people in our armed forces who are willing to give up these personal privileges so that we all may enjoy privileges such as practicing whatever religion or non-religion we choose, having free speech and a free press, electing our government officials and petitioning them when we want them to do something different, and more.

As if that weren’t humbling enough, we just commemorated Memorial Day, when we honor and remember those who gave their lives in service to this country. Everyone who enters the military knows this is a possibility, but comparatively few of them actually wind up dying in the line of duty.

For this non-veteran, non-military-brat, who’s grown up in this military area but never interacted much with the military world, it’s an incredibly humbling experience to know that millions of people I’ve never met are fighting for my livelihood and the livelihood of all of America.

Thank you to all who are serving and have served, and a special thanks to the sailors in the Eisenhower Strike Group and their families who will be spending the next seven months sacrificing.