Must know our heroes when we see themRecently, I was...

Letters

August 14, 1996

Must know our heroes when we see them

Recently, I was sitting on my porch in Ocean City watching the crowd go by when I spotted a senior citizen coming my way in the tow of a little girl. As he drew closer I estimated he must be in his 90s. He was stooped by the years and his head was down. What caught my eye was the hat he was wearing. It was a very old twisted blue ball cap. On the front it said USS Pompon and below the lettering was embroidered a set of submarine dolphins.

I stood and moved to the porch rail and said ''excuse me'' as he approached. He had a bright face and had to turn his whole body when he looked up, as if he had a neck problem. I asked if the hat was an original. He answered that it was. I told him that I used to be a submarine sailor and in the early '60s had tied up next to the Pompon in San Diego.

The man's eyes sort of lit up at meeting another submarine sailor here in Ocean City and he asked me a couple of questions about which submarines I was on and when I got out of the Navy. Then he said he had gotten off the Pompon in 1946 after six wartime patrols.

Knowing a little about war patrols by U.S .submarines, I realized what this man had been through. The all-volunteer U.S. submarine force lost more men as a percentage than any other branch of service during World War II.

During the early months of the war after Pearl Harbor, it was decided that the fight must be carried to the shores of the enemy: They simply could not be allowed to strike such a blow and go unpunished. The people of Japan must know what war was and what their leaders had engaged them in. The role fell to the submarines. They were the only credible sea-going fighting force immediately after Dec. 7, 1941.

Their boldness and bravery served them well, they succeeded in their mission and gave our country the time needed to regain strength on the high seas. But what a terrible price the submarines paid in loss of life and equipment. A full 50 percent of the submarines were lost, most through hostile action.

So, here I was talking to one of those brave fighting men of my childhood that time has forgotten. I have reason to believe he lived in the Baltimore area but before we could say any more the little girl tugged at his shirt and said, ''Come on, grandpa, they're calling us."

As he began to move on he put out his hand and I gladly shook it. He asked if he could come back later and sit a spell and talk. I told him he was welcome anytime and he moved on down the street.

As I watched him go I was struck by the notion that I had just shook the hand of a real American hero. Not one manufactured by commercials, but one that willingly put his life on the line for all of us. For the next few days I waited and watched for him but he didn't show. I regret not getting to spend more time with him. I'm sure his stories would be spellbinding. More than that, I regret not saying, ''thank you."

Harold C. Earls

Ocean City

The rich get richer under Dole's tax plan

The latest study on distribution of wealth in the U.S. shows the gap between rich and poor is growing larger. Now presidential candidate Bob Dole wants to make a bad situation worse by recommending a huge tax cut that favors primarily the wealthy.

Repealing the 1993 tax increase, which he claims was the largest in U.S. history, would make the rich even richer. Almost all of the 1993 tax increase was imposed on the high-income population, with little or no increase on low- and middle-income taxpayers. In fact, the income tax credit for the poor was increased.

Mr. Dole's other proposal is a 15 percent across-the-board decrease in taxes. Obviously, the major beneficiaries of such a tax cut would be the wealthy. There would be insignificant savings for middle-income families and no benefit at all for the poor, whose income is so low that they pay no income tax. . . .

Bernard Siegel

Baltimore

Governor always opposed slots

The Sun did a disservice to its readers by misrepresenting Gov. Parris Glendening's position on slot machines at Maryland racetracks.

After Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke told The Sun he had made a ''deal'' with Mr. Glendening to legalize slot machines, the governor issued a statement that explicitly denied any such agreement.

Contrary to The Sun's front-page stories, the governor's position never changed from being the same as it has been for the past six months. In fact, the governor's position on slots is the same as The Sun's editorial position.

Bernie Horn

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of NOcasiNO.

Hypocrisy revealed in welfare debate

President Clinton, who originally was going to increase funding for job training and day-care in order to "end welfare as we know it," has instead decided to cave in to the most mean-spirited elements in the U.S. Congress.

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