January 31 came and went. I was so busy with getting Bianca a bike that I forgot to talk about two January 31’s from long ago. The first was 57 years ago in 1958. Russia had put two or three satellites in orbit. Our efforts to launch a satellite into orbit with the U.S. Navy’s Vanguard program had failed. Dr. Wernher von Braun and his team from Huntsville, Alabama stepped up. The organized a quick satellite launch and Explorer One became the first US satellite to orbit the earth.
On January 31, 1968 I was a young man in the US Navy. I reported on board the USS Haynesworth DD-700 home ported in Galveston, Texas. Those of you with experience on the sea know that in winter the sea is dark and cold. As we walked down the gang plank to board the destroyer, a first-class boatswain mate was carving on a piece of wood. His words to us were as follows: “Greasy grim and gopher slim. Guts of snails and octopus tails. That’s what we’re going to feed you boys before you walk the plank.” It was freezing cold. I looked at all of the gray metal and 5-inch canons. The reality hit me that my job in this organization was to kill my fellow human being. It was a sobering moment.