Washington -- It is so difficult to imagine the calamity that has struck the Philippines; UNICEF appeals to me daily with descriptions of the suffering. I hope many Americans are helping with relief and hope. It is the least we can do for a country and a people who are so closely linked to ourselves and to our own history.
The first entry I wrote in this series dealt with the Philippines. I remember so well the day in 1967 when the USS Rainier (AE-5) made landfall in the San Bernadino Straits after a three-week ocean crossing. Cooking smoke curled up from forest villages in the mountains; the aroma of sampaguita (the Philippine national flower) blew across the narrow channels we navigated.
Many Americans can never get their Philippine experiences out of their minds. In the summer of 1990, former Concordia University president Dr. Ralph Reinke and his wife visited me in Berlin. We went into East Germany together. One of our topics of conversation was Ralph's recent trip back to the Philippines, where he had once served in the U.S. military. He had to visit Subic Bay again.
I'm glad the USS George Washington, with its huge evaporators producing drinkable water and its cavernous storerooms filled with food, is on the scene providing relief. During our years of service, many of us in the Navy welcomed chances to provide humanitarian help whenever possible. My Rainier division's sailors and I once helped build and paint a school on the edge of the Bataan peninsula, a day's bus ride over the mountains from where Americans once battled Filipinos, decades before, in an ill-conceived war that was started, most unfortunately, by Nebraskans.
Americans saved the Philippines from a brutal military regime in World War II but it is time to help the Philippines again, as the country struggles to recover from a year of natural disasters.