One of the benefits of being a Marine stationed in Massachusetts was our access to the Navy’s oldest commissioned ship, the USS Constitution. As a young corporal and sergeant, I participated in a number of retirement and re-enlistment ceremonies on the deck of “Old Ironsides,” and it would be difficult to overstate how it feels to be able to so directly connect the modern service of today’s Sailors and Marines with the service of those who were there soon after the very birth of our nation.
Over this past weekend, a man was caught on board the Constitution after hours, which is in dry dock for renovations, and was quickly escorted off the ship. Through what was likely a mistake on behalf of the ship’s security, the man was allowed to leave before they could verify who he was or identify the damage he had done below deck. As a result, law enforcement in Massachusetts is currently on the lookout for this man, whose face was clearly captured on security camera:
In the scope of global issues, terrorism, and tensions with near-peer opponents like Russia and China, a little bit of damage being done to an old boat near Boston doesn’t seem all that important, but having to spend a fair amount of time struggling to work under the low ceilings of the Constitution’s lower decks, and sweltering in the summer sun in my Dress Blues up above has granted me a skewed perspective on this sort of thing, and I couldn’t think of any way to articulate that without allowing what could have been a cut and dry reporting of events to devolve into a full-blown op-ed. So here goes nothing.
The USS Constitution is bigger than each of us, and indeed, remains incredibly important independent of the pressing news of the day. Today, we’re wrapped up in our concerns about a nuclear threat from North Korea, as Old Ironsides sits steadfast in its dry dock in Charlestown, Massachusetts. On September 11th, 2001, when terrorists attacked our nation, the Constitution was tied to its dock as a reminder that America has been strong since its very inception. In October of 1962, when the world sat on the verge of nuclear war during the standoff between America’s Navy, the Russians, and the Cubans, the Constitution was afloat, harkening back to a different era when the U.S. relied on its ships for security. In 1815, the Constitution engaged in battle with two British warships, the HMS Cyane and HMS Levant, and emerged victorious from its third major naval battle in three years. When Alexander Hamilton died dueling Aaron Burr, the Constitution was there at sea, defending our nation for any potential threat.
Countless conflicts, times of national mourning and celebration, two World Wars, an American Civil War, forty-four presidents, and millions of visitors have come and gone since the Constitution first took to the water. Under the Constitution’s watchful eye, our country has grown into a super power, changed internally through struggle and strife, and emerged time and time again as a newer, stronger America regardless of the obstacles we’ve faced along the way. Our nation is not perfect, but it has always strived to improve, and the Constitution, which was named by America’s first president, George Washington, has been there all along, to remind us of how far we’ve come, and that we can be proud of where we started.
Serving in ceremonies aboard the Constitution gave me the opportunity to share some experiences with great men and women throughout our nation’s history. Democrats and Republicans, northerners and southerners, men and women, Americans all.
The damage this schmuck did to the USS Constitution was admittedly minimal, though who knows what else he may have done if he hadn’t been caught, and it has already been all but repaired… but the rancid smell of disrespect remains. Like the document it’s named after, the Constitution isn’t partisan, it doesn’t represent the ideologies of this presidency or the last one, it doesn’t have an agenda or a position, it exists as a powerful reminder of the strength and sacrifice our nation has always cherished, and of the history we all share.
It doesn’t matter why some idiot decided to take his negative feelings about whatever out on the oldest serving ship in our nation’s Navy. It doesn’t matter if he was making a statement about Trump, or Clinton, or Syria, or the price of beer. What matters is that the Constitution is bigger than the struggles of our day, because it’s seen them all before, and God willing, will see them all again. Some things have to exist outside the team-picking, the bickering, and the debates that admittedly play their own important role in the progress of our nation.
Few things in this world are more valuable as a symbol than the sum of their parts, and the Constitution is exactly that.
Here’s hoping the cops find this guy and throw the book at him, because Massachusetts has a fairly sizable population of Marines, and I know what we would have done to him if we’d caught him first.
Images courtesy of the U.S. Navy, Wikimedia Commons, Boston 25