Never mind the fact that I had never heard of “North Krall” before: The end was near, and I hadn’t said my goodbyes, or at least not how I would have liked. I was never going to see my dog again. Or have a Big Mac. I was about to be one of the last men on Earth.
There was no way of knowing how long we’d have to spend in the water, as the surface world would undoubtedly fall victim to a hell storm of nuclear missile attacks once the first domino fell.
As the missile launched, I could feel the deck drop beneath me and vibrate. “It’s all over,” I remember thinking, “or is it just beginning?”
At about that moment, another announcement, “Secure from the drill. This has been a drill.”
When the alarm sounded, I'd had no idea what to do. This was my first time at sea. I was just a dishwasher. It had only been three days. Could this be real?
Still green from seasickness, I tried to focus on what was developing around me. From what I could gather, we were readying for war.
At the time, even though I was new, I could tell this was serious. Everyone was running around with a purpose. All I could do was stand in the scullery and make sure no dishes fell as the submarine fought its way through the Pacific Ocean.
Less than a year before all this, I was a carefree couch surfer. When that alarm rang, however, I was hundreds of feet below sea level as a sailor onboard the USS Nevada, a ballistic missile submarine.
According to the announcement, some country called “North Krall” had attacked the U.S., and we had been given orders to retaliate with our weapon of choice — a nuclear missile.
There was no impending doom. The U.S. hadn’t been attacked. “North Krall” was complete fiction. Later I learned that we were just testing our system, and that we hadn’t launched anything that could threaten my dog or future Big Macs.
Over the course of my time in the Navy, these drills became routine. Only now can I look back and laugh at what was going through my mind that first time. Like I said, I was new.
Naturally, with North Korea in the news a lot these days, I’ve had plenty of time to sit back and reminisce. While I understand that North Korea poses no real or direct threat to the U.S., I’ve struggled to find the humor so many have embraced.
Not surprisingly, those beating the drum of war, advocating we smack Kim Jong Un on the hand for throwing such a temper tantrum and wasting everyone’s time are mostly people who have never served in the military.
This isn’t limited to the various memes or comments making their way across Facebook and Twitter feeds. Pundits and politicians have been running their mouths about what “we” should do.
Regardless of our ability, part of our nation’s problem is our bravado. While Kim Jong Un and North Korea are laughable to most, egging them on puts actual people in danger.
While it seems absurd — even impossible — that North Korea will ever learn how to behave on a global level, I’d like to think that we might be able.
For all the work being done with our children to curb “bullying,” our chest pounding on the world stage isn’t helping matters. There’s more to lesser nations not liking us than because of our “success.”
It’s our arrogance, particularly on the part of those on the couch and not in uniform.
Reach the columns at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @JOMOFO40