Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Dad and Other Heroes

My parents are now in the process of downsizing their living quarters, and I, as their son, am helping them (read "doing most of the work").

While growing up, my siblings and I always knew that Dad worked in a job which imposed significant restrictions upon what he could and could not discuss with us. We were conditioned to never ask Dad what he did; whatever he wanted us to know he would tell us, and nothing more.

Years later, while working for the Department of Defense and holding my own security clearance, I understood far better my somewhat abnormal childhood predicament of not knowing what my Dad actually did at work. And I had several occasions to interact with individuals, military and private sector, who knew my Dad professionally (and sometimes personally).

Going through my Dad's files has been very enlightening. First of all, his security clearance level was a few notches higher than he had led me to believe, even after I had my own clearance. Moreover, seeing his travel and debriefing instructions, and knowing now about the missions and activities of some of the installations to which he traveled, I now realize that my Dad played a major role in the development and production of some very important military projects.

When I was in Israel during the early 1970s, more than one of my Dad's friends and colleagues whom I visited intimated to me, in a rather surreptitious manner, that Dad's work was a major contribution to the Israeli military's technological advancement. One of the documents I found in my Dad's filing cabinet was a letter of thanks from the Israeli Ministry of Defense for the work he did (whatever that may have been). And, of course, several letters from various offices in the Pentagon reflect some big time involvement in some big time projects.

The engineers and scientists who design and perfect the technology used by the military are heroes of a special kind. It is because of those engineers and scientists in the private sector that America maintains its military firepower, global superiority, and historical prosperity. It is because of them that we have had a successful space program, which paved the way for artificial satellites; you owe them all a debt of gratitude each time you speak on your cell phone.

Those engineers and scientists paid (and continue to pay) a price for the work that they do. There are certain stresses, particularly when security clearances are involved, which come to bear upon the engineers and scientists, and upon their families. For those people, it is not "just a job;" complain as they might, they do it because it is a passion which gives them immense satisfaction. Dad could have taken over his own father's business and amassed far, far more money. But my Dad went into his line of work because it is what he wanted to do.

Of course the civilian engineers and scientists do not take quite the same personal risks as the American servicemen and women who are fighting on the front lines in Afghanistan (though many, including Dad, have served in the military). Their work does not warrant all of the perquisites accorded to military veterans. That being said, my Dad is an American hero, as are the thousands of other engineers and scientists who do and have done private sector work on military contracts. To all of you, I give my thanks.

Going through Dad's papers, I saw mention of some interesting names and places. I have every reason to believe that my Dad was involved in even more serious and salient projects than those directly mentioned in the file. For all of Dad's old age issues, he no doubt remembers those matters, and I really am very curious.

But some questions are best left unasked.

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