Monday, December 6, 2010
The Puget Sound region of Western Washington State is rife with military bases, defense contractors (think Boeing), and current and retired intelligence officers. I personally know of places on private islands that have been protected by Secret Service details at times.
I am purposely going to leave this story a little vague, so as not to get anybody in trouble:
We were on the mainland a couple of days ago, at a great bar we visit for drinks and music. Sometimes when I go to these places, it seems that the oddballs are drawn to talk to me. I must have a sign on my forehead that says "tell me your life story".
It had been a fairly long day, we hadn't had dinner yet and I was primed with at least six Beers. Shortly before the music was supposed to start, a guy in a green military-style coat approached us. He had shoulder-length black hair, a short goatee beard and carried a small day pack. He wanted to know where the other bars in town were, as a popular pub up the street had been closed recently. We gave him directions to a more up-scale jazz club a few blocks away, and while we were talking I realized his partner was a few bar stools away watching us. The other guy stood up and introduced himself by handshake, no name. Both these guys had obviously been drinking a fair amount themselves. For some reason, we were the people in the Bar they chose to approach. Guy #2 was more clean-cut and wore a ball cap. As we talked, he told me "We protect America". I see a lot of Coast Guard types in our area, so I said "Homeland Security?". He said "No. Higher up". I looked at his partner with shoulder-length hair and I said "DEA?", thinking they might have been an undercover team. He said "No, we kill people>". Now, I was fully primed with plenty of Beer by this time, so I decided to play the game too. I said "Kill people in this country or outside the country?". He said "Wherever they send us".
I started to get the picture, so I probed a little further. It seemed like these guys really, really had to talk to someone and just didn't fit in with the young-punkish crowd that filled the bar. I asked " Do you ever question the motives of your mission?". He said "All the time, but it's our job." Meanwhile, the guy with longer hair in the military jacket tells the person I'm with "The town has changed since I was here last. Lots of pot smokers and Liberals." -"When were you here last?" - "Seven years ago." He added: "We're on a Navy Munitions ship." -"Over at (location)?"- "Yes, over at (location)."
Well, we had seen the ship and are familiar with the facility.
Now, people talk a lot of shit in Bars after they've had a snootfull. But here we were in "Navy Land". You could wrap the guy with the long black hair and beard up in desert garb and he would fit right in in tribal Afghanistan. These guys were obviously having trouble fitting in with the crowd in the Bar, and for some reason, they identified with us. They had a somewhat vacant look in their eyes, like they had a serious disconnect with civilian life. We thanked them for their service.
The next morning we left our hotel room and there was a big white bus parked outside the American Legion Hall, waiting to pick people up. By the drivers window, in small blue letters was "US. Navy".
We thought about those guys on the ride back up to our place.
While waiting for a ferry back to the islands, I saw something I had only seen once a couple of years ago; a large passenger jet, with a small fighter jet in escort, right on it's tail.