Monday, January 2, 2012

The Rose Bowl, My War, and Your War

I write this as I watch the Wisconsin Badgers play in the Rose Bowl. And I also learned a few days ago that one of my academic heroes at the University of Wisconsin has passed away--Emmett Bennett.

And so, as I continue to watch this game, I've decided I need to pen a few thoughts about all that has happened.

I studied Latin for four years at East High School, on the blue collar side of that town. But in my senior year, a professor at the UW, Herbert Howe, came and gave a brown bag lecture at our school. I was entralled with him as he talked about language evolution, things I'd never heard about like the Indo-European Language Family.'

I went to the University of Wisconsin and there studied under Paul L. MacKendrick,
from whom I heard all these wonderful stories about how Classicists has served as code breakers during World War II. And after I declared my major in Classics, I made the acquaintance of Emmett Bennett, one of the men who had thus served. He deciphered Japanese messages despite not knowing any Japanese!

And I resolved that if my country thus needed me, I would serve in whatever war might come.

Now, in those days, that still meant the probability of a war against the Soviet Union (yes, young-uns, I'm that old).

And sadly, my moment came. After my BA in Classics, I proceeded to a PhD in Biblical Hebrew, with a minor in Arabic.

9/11. The government asked anyone with expertise in Arabic to apply for service. I sent my resume on Thursday after 9/11. The next Sunday they were pursuing me for employment.

In June, 2002, I walked into service at the National Security Agency. For over four years, longer than most served in World War II, I worked there. During that time I spent three months serving in Iraq, working three months in a row without a single day off.

After Iraq, I served another more than two years. And then I left the Agency to become a public high school teacher.

And so here I am, in early 2012. I once emulated the service of men like Emmett Bennett during the war. And I did follow their service. And now, tonight, I sip red wine and watch my Wisconsin Badgers play in the Rose Bowl.

God bless you, Herbert Howe, Paul MacKendrick, Emmett Bennett, all of you now passed into the next life. I honor your service to our country and your devotion to Classical Studies. In my generation I did what I could to serve with the skills you taught me. And now I do what I can to further Classical Studies in our world.

I raise my glass to you. Go Badgers!

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