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  • EM1 Rod Van Wort and EM1 Frederick Smith were doing a routine inspection on the flight deck, looking for fire hazards and ensuring the firefighting team was prepared for flight operations. This was just one of the daily duties they performed as the senior firefighters aboard the USS Enterprise, the world's first nuclear aircraft carrier.

    For Fred, this was more than a ship, it was a legacy. His father, Chief Petty Officer Jack Smith had served on the Enterprise almost 15 years ago. Every inch of the ship reminded him of his father. In many ways, it was as if they were together, serving their country, sharing their duties and dedication. In many ways, the Enterprise was home.

    The two enlisted men were about to head up to the control tower in the Island to tell the Air Boss the firefighters were prepared for the operation and there were no visible fire hazards, when Rod asked Fred if he had ever thought of flying an F-14.

    It was a thought that crossed through every man's head on the Enterprise. These planes were state of the art aircraft that could maneuver rings around anything in the air at the time. They required months of training to fly, and were the first line of defense in America's arsenal.

    "No," he said somewhat sarcastically, "I've never thought of flying an F-14." Then he reached down to the Polaroid camera they carried with them to document fire hazards. "But I wouldn't mind having a picture taken in one."

    Rod waited until Fred was in the cockpit and took the shot, and when he had climbed down, Rod asked if he would take one of him.

    After the photos were taken, they headed up to see the Air Boss, reported readiness, and went about their day.

    I still have that photograph. I look at it and am reminded of a time when my father and I shared a common vision, and my friends and I stood together to keep a nation safe. I am sure Rod still has his.

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