The Phone Call


It was an older man on the other end of the line. Some organization must have been conducting a phone campaign working against HR 1246, because every five minutes I was getting calls from constituents voicing their opposition to it.

Even though it was apparent that this wasn't another "Vote no on HR 1246" call, I tuned him out. Many of the elderly people who call the office are conspiracy theorists who just need someone to rant to for a minute. As soon as I hear a geriatric voice on the other end of the line, I tend to lapse into not-really-listening-but-I'll-validate-you-with-an-mmm hmm-here-and-there mode.

But this man wasn't blabbering on about how Obama's birth certificate is a forgery, or how Sharia law is taking over the world and BY GOLLY WE GOTTA GET ALL THOSE MUSLIMS OUTTA HERE. He was talking about how the US could easily foil cybersecurity threats from China.

"It's quite simple, really. We gotta teach them boys in the military the basics again. Like how to use dead reckoning. Nobody knows how anymore. Did you know China shot down one of its own GPS satellites just to prove it could? But if our guys don't need GPS to tell them where they are, who cares? They could shoot down all our GPS satellites! That's how you can deal with cybersecurity, too. Go back to the basics so that we can survive no matter what China does."

I didn't really have the heart to tell him that the US has sort of crossed the technological rubicon, but he made a good point. I asked him a little about himself and how he knew about dead reckoning.

"Oh, we used it all the time in the Marines."

"Really? Thanks for your service! Where did you serve?"

He told me about his infantry division and used a whole lot of other military jargon that was lost on me. All I could really muster as a response was "Wow! That's amazing. My grandpa was a Marine, too. He served in the Pacific theater during Korea."

"You don't say! I had a lot of buddies in that war." He told me their first and last names, division numbers, and where they served. Then he paused. " . . . But a lot of them have passed away."

"Well, sir," I continued, awkwardly, "y'know, I'm glad they're up in heaven now. Being rewarded for their service. Finally getting what they earned."

The other line of the phone fell silent for a moment. I heard a sniffle.

"Oh, I gotta hang up now," he said, his voice quivering, "you're gonna make me cry."

Luckily, he didn't hang up. I provided some segue back into dead reckoning and talked to him for just a bit longer. But to hear this old man literally break down at the thought of his Marine friends meeting their Maker was so powerful. It made his sacrifice real to me.


Dead reckoning is "the process of estimating one's current position based upon a previously determined position." After every conversation I have with a veteran, I feel like I have a better sense of who I am because I know where others have been to get me here.

Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered the call 
to defend a country they never knew
and a people they never met.


  1. cool story. actually v. hudson complained about how the navy had stopped training people how to use sextants (it was only a few years ago when they stopped). the u.s. has long operated on the assumption that we will continue to maintain space dominance, in which case it makes sense to abandon old practices like that. however, whether we will have the will and/or ability to actually maintain that dominance in the future is a valid question; and if there is any doubt, it is probably still worth the investment to maintain those pre-satellite skills.


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