CSO Perspectives (Pro) 5.29.23
Ep 5568 | 5.29.23

Bonus: Memorial Day special.


Liz Irvin: Hello, my name is Liz and I’m one of the producers here at the CyberWire. You are about to hear a special episode of CSO Perspectives, please enjoy and if you like this, you can find more episodes by subscribing to CyberWire pro. Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and we are honoring those who have served our nation. Wherever you are, please spare a thought for the fallen, for their families, and for those alongside whom they served. Enjoy this episode, and have a relaxing holiday.

Rick Howard: Hey, everybody. Rick here. I enlisted in the U.S. Army in the summer of 1977. I went to basic training at Fort Dix, N.J. - the home, as far as I can remember, of the dive-bomber mosquito - but eventually became an officer. I served until 2004, some 27 years. My younger sister Tracey (ph) enlisted in the military, too - Air Force. You know, but the family still talked to her. She served 10 years. And one of my fondest memories is that I had the honor the pin on her sergeant stripes at her promotion ceremony. We both followed in the footsteps of our dad and both of his brothers who fought in the Korean War. And as I'm saying this out loud, my wife is yelling at me from the other room.


Nathan Lane: (As Timon) No, no, no. 

Ernie Sabella: (As Pumbaa) I mean... 

Nathan Lane: (As Timon) Amateur - lie down before you hurt yourself. 

Rick Howard: Her dad served in the Army in three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. But he was the luckiest soldier on the planet. He was sick with pneumonia on a hospital boat when his unit fought at the Battle of Anzio, was stationed in Germany during the Korean War and was stationed in Korea during the Vietnam War. In three wars, he never fired a shot in anger. Amazing. And she had a gaggle of cousins and uncles that did their time as well. 

Rick Howard: We never talk about it much, but serving in the military kind of runs deep in my family. And I've noticed that's true for many families. There's typically a branch of the family tree that has served in some capacity somewhere. When I polled the CyberWire team, we have a lot of veterans. And for those who weren't in the military, many are actively supporting family members who are. So as November is the traditional month that the United States celebrates Veterans Day, we thought we would take a beat and honor all the veterans in our lives. 

Rick Howard: My name is Rick Howard, and I'm broadcasting from the CyberWire's Secret Sanctum Sanctorum Studios, located underwater somewhere along the Patapsco River near Baltimore Harbor, Md., in the good ol' US of A. And you're listening to "CSO Perspectives," my podcast about the ideas, strategies and technologies that senior security executives wrestle with on a daily basis. 

Rick Howard: According to the USO, which stands for the United Service Organizations - who knew? - Veterans Day is a U.S. federal holiday that always falls on the 11 of November. The holiday's impetus was the end of fighting in World War I between Germany and the Allied and associated nations. That day ended four years of fighting that had resulted in the deaths of 8 million soldiers and 13 million civilians. The following year, the war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. 

Rick Howard: Following the United Kingdom's example of honoring unidentified World War I soldiers, the U.S. buried four of its own at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery in 1919. The Army assigned guards to the tomb in 1926 to discourage visitors from damaging it. And in 1937, according to the Department of Defense, guards became a permanent continuous presence standing watch. There has been a sentinel on duty ever since, which is appropriate since this quote from an anonymous poet captures the sentiment exactly. Quote, "our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it," end quote. 

Rick Howard: One of my favorite stories about the watch happened in 2003 as Hurricane Isabel landed in the vicinity of Washington, D.C. 


Rick Howard: According to The Washington Post, the watch commander gave permission to the guard detail for the first time in its history to seek shelter if the weather got bad enough. They'd remain in view of the tomb, but not on the traditional black mat in front of it, where they typically march 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Sgt. 1st Class Fredrick Geary, the details commander for the night, made the decision to keep the watch on the mat throughout the storm. I love that he did that. In my mind, I hear him say, not on my watch. 


Unidentified Actor: (As character) Not on my watch. 

Rick Howard: In 1938, Congress made the day a legal national holiday in recognition of World War I veterans, quote, "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day." But in 1954, after the country had been through two more wars, World War II and the Korean War, Congress amended the holiday to honor American veterans of all wars. Later, in an effort to create a standard three-day holiday for federal employees, Congress passed a law in 1968 to ensure that four national holidays fell on a Monday - Washington's birthday, Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Columbus Day. But many states didn't agree with the consolidation and continued to celebrate Veteran's Day on its original date. And as you can imagine, that caused quite a bit of confusion. So in 1975, President Ford signed the law that put Veterans Day officially back on 11 November. 

Rick Howard: And just to be clear, it's Veteran's Day, not Veterans Day, not plural. As the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs says, it's not a holiday that veterans own. It's a holiday, quote, "for honoring veterans directly in front of us right now," end quote. But not just for the veterans themselves - we honor the entire system of family and friends who have supported the soldiers in the field since the first days of the American Revolution. As Abraham Lincoln said, quote, "honor also the citizen who cares for his brother in the field and serves as best he can the same cause," end quote. 

Rick Howard: Brandon Karpf joined the CyberWire in September 2021, we’re a start up so we don’t really have official titles for everybody. He’s kind of a jack of all trades guy for the CyberWire business. Think of him as the COO to the CEO Peter Kilpe. He’s a naval Academy grad, did 10 years in the navy, got his masters degree from MIT. Did I mention that he’s really smart? Anyway, he and I were talking on Google Meet the other day about what it meant for each of us to be a veteran, here’s what he had to say.

Brandon Karpf: Volunteering to serve is a very positive thing. It's ultimately optimistic, it means you believe things can get better and you're willing to take on some responsibility of actually making it better. Our country would be better if we had a mandatory year of service for everybody, whether it's military, public service, Peace Corps, doesn't matter, just some program like that.

Brandon Karpf: I joined the military because of 9/11. I'm from New Jersey, and that was a day that severely impacted my community. I was a child at the time and it seared in my memory as something incredibly traumatic, but that's not why I continued to serve, after I joined. It became about my sailors, incredible young men and women all trying to make their way in the world and most from incredibly different backgrounds. They made that job and those sacrifices well worth doing. The experience was not all peaches, I did have some hard times in the service. I lost a few teammates, sailors, friends, that's a burden that me and my peers, we all share, but I also made the greatest friends of my life and men and women who I today consider to be true family, including of course my wife, who I got to know first as a fellow naval officer when she totally whisked me off my feet. So today is a chance to reflect on service and to celebrate peace despite the grief that I still carry today for lost friends. I'm a better man, a better husband, and I think a better citizen for having served my country and my sailors. It was the greatest honor of my life.

Rick Howard: Listening to Brandon, it reminded me of and essay I wrote back in 2000, when I was stationed at the Pentagon called Reborn at Arlington. I was near the end of my career. And a simple fun run, something that soldiers have been doing for decades, made me realize the significance and honor of being part of the military tradition. As Brandon said, giving back to the country in some manner, either in the military or some other public service, a country that provides so much to each of us, is a real calling. As General George Patton said, quote, "the soldier is also a citizen. In fact, the highest obligation and privilege of citizenship is that of bearing arms for one's country," end quote. That's my feeling exactly. After the break, for a special treat, Elliott Peltzman, the CyberWire sound engineer, and I will try to dramatize my essay, Reborn at Arlington.

Rick Howard: Fifteen hundred U.S. Army soldiers stood on the misty parade field at Fort Myer, Va., waiting for the sun rise. The leadership had scheduled another morale building yet mandated fund run, where once a quarter, the entire unit comes together to do PT - physical training - in a show of esprit de corps and unit cohesion. 

Rick Howard: Since we were all stationed at the Pentagon, many of us had been in the Army for a while. We were a little broken down in the body department and had seen our fair share of these types of events. There we were at the twilight of our careers, huddled in small groups during the dawn of one more PT morning. Of course, there was the usual grumbling between the old soldiers, asking one another if we were motivated yet, and if we had a cup of esprit de corps to spare. But there was a sprinkling of young soldiers among us too, and their shiny new faces kept us old timers from getting too cynical and fussy. As the sun poked up above the horizon, the Army's command sergeant major called the gaggle to attention. 


Unidentified Soldier: Ten-hut. 

Rick Howard: And the formation began to run. 


Unidentified Soldier: Hup two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four. Double time. 

Unidentified Soldier: (Chanting) C-130 rolling down the strip. 

Unidentified Soldiers: (Chanting)C-130 rolling down the strip. 

Unidentified Soldier: We are the Airborne Ranger, take a little trip. 

Unidentified Soldiers: (Chanting) Airborne Ranger going to take a little trip. 

Rick Howard: The non-commissioned officers, the NCOs, led the assemblage in rousing voice and extolled the virtues of granny, my girl and the C-130. Below the roar of the singing, just in the background, you can hear the footsteps of the 1,500 strong pounding the pavement in syncopated rhythm. 


Unidentified Soldier: One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. 

Unidentified Soldier: My old granny, she's 91. 

Rick Howard: The formation crested the hill overlooking Arlington Cemetery, and the vista of Washington, D.C., opened up before us. The Army colors at the front of the formation started their descent towards the cemetery, just as the rising sun reached the top of the Washington Monument, several miles distant. And still, the singing and the pounding drove the formation as it snaked down the hill towards the front gates. 


Unidentified Soldier: (Chanting) She's 93. 

Unidentified Soldiers: (Chanting) My old granny, she's 93. 

Unidentified Soldier: (Chanting) She does PT in a tree. 

Unidentified Soldiers: (Chanting) She does PT in a tree. 

Unidentified Soldier: (Chanting) My old granny... 

Rick Howard: As the colors passed the cemetery, like a line of dominoes falling, the singing faded away. 


Unidentified Soldier: Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four. 

Rick Howard: One platoon after the other fell silent in mute honor of our fallen comrades in arms laid to rest in the National Cemetery. As the voices muted, the only sound you could hear was the constant beat, beat, beat of the run and the Army colors whipping in the slight breeze. Nobody spoke except the occasional NCO keeping everybody in step with a solid but quiet... 


Unidentified Soldier: Hup, two, three, four. Hup, two, three, four. 

Rick Howard: It was serene. It was sublime. Midway through the run, the command sergeant major called the formation to a halt and commanded us to execute a right phase towards the middle of the cemetery. The morning sun had burned off the last vestiges of mist from the manicured lawns. The breeze trickled through the formation's silence and the army colors at the front. And then we all heard it. 


Rick Howard: That mournful sound of a single bugler playing "Taps." He began low at first, almost whispering the sound through the horn. But slowly, his crescendo wrapped the listener into a cocoon of sadness, memory and gratitude about the lives that could have been or that was. On that misty morning, young and old soldiers alike shed mutual tears as the bugle played on. 


Rick Howard: When it was done, and the silence greeted the end of the song, a chill went down my back. It occurred to me that we were not merely taking a morning jog anymore. We were actually passing in review. These fallen soldiers, some of whom had given the ultimate sacrifice for their country and others who were prepared to do so, were watching us and sizing us up. I hoped that we could pass muster. I had this great desire to let them all know that we had the guide on now and it was in good hands. We would not let them down. I stood a little taller then. My old muscles didn't ache so much. As we began to run home, the burden was a little lighter. As 1,500 boarded the buses to head back to the Pentagon, I realized that this old soldier was less cynical today, less worn for wear. Although I may not have that shiny face of one of those new soldiers, I was reborn this morning. Together, both old and young, we will carry on. 

Rick Howard: And that's a wrap. For all of you veterans out there who have served in whatever country you hail from, and the family members and friends who support you, Happy Veterans Day from the folks here at the CyberWire. We thank you for your service. 

Rick Howard: The CyberWire's "CSO Perspectives" is edited by John Petrik and executive produced by Peter Kilpe. Our theme song is by Blue Dot Sessions, remixed by the insanely talented Elliott Smith, who also does the show's mixing, sound design and original score. And he absolutely killed it for my Reborn At Arlington essay. And I am Rick Howard. Thanks for listening.