Get ready to put stamp of approval on Tomcats
The year was 1981: Eight years had passed since Col. Moammar Gadhafi declared a "line of death" 200 miles from his coast, turning international waters into a free-fire zone against commercial traffic. The U.S. Navy was given orders to sail in the Gulf of Sidra to enforce freedom of navigation and to deny recognition of Gadhafi's 200-mile territorial claim. On the morning of Aug. 19, 1981, two F-14 Tomcats assigned to the USS Nimitz and operating in the Gulf of Sidra were attacked by Libyan Su-22 fighter planes.
Up until that day, the United States had known only the memory of shame, defeat and frustration in Vietnam. Until that moment, it was questionable if America had what it took not only to be a world player, but also to fend off the Soviet Union. But on Aug. 19, 1981, when the Navy planes clashed with the Libyan planes, America emerged the victor and was given a new heroic icon: the F-14.
It's been 26 years since that fateful August day, and over the course of these years, America's F-14 Tomcat developed a legacy as hero of the silver screen and champion of the wild blue skies around the world. Before retiring in 2006, the F-14 Tomcat distinguished itself with a long career that included capturing the Achille Lauro terrorists, ejecting Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and keeping U.S. airspace safe during the turbulent months that followed the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Countless Americans were compelled to become Navy sailors (and ironically, even Air Force pilots) from learning of the Tomcat's exploits in the news or watching sizzling hot movies like "Top Gun" and "The Final Countdown." All across the world, the Tomcat was America's premier representative of our will to defend our freedom, giving us a symbol to rally to in a time of uncertainty and low national self-esteem.
Earlier this year the Hawaii state House of Representatives unanimously passed House Concurrent Resolution 180, "Respectfully requesting the United States Postal Service to commemorate the honorable service of the F-14 Tomcat in defending freedom" as a means for preserving the F-14's spirit and unique legacy in the wake of its recent retirement. The Postal Service, which has stamps commemorating Superman, Mickey Mouse and many other American icons, has long been the caretaker of memories with its colorful stamps and stationery. Many who either flew the F-14 or were a part of the manpower that kept it flying would like to see the Tomcat added to the list of Postal Service stamps as a means for reminding the older generations how we won the Cold War, and sharing with the younger generation what it meant to fly for freedom.
HCR 180 crossed over to the Senate in early April with an incredible voting record of all members of the Public Safety and Military Affairs Committee voting yes, and passed the House floor with not a single state representative voting no or with reservations. During the time that HCR 180 was considered before the House, dozens of former F-14 Tomcat pilots and crews sent in waves of emotional e-mails in support to the members of the Legislature. All this stands as a testament to the worthy nature of the resolution and the broad support out there for the 1980s icon to live once more in our hearts through commemorative stamps.
Admittedly, HCR 180 is what some might label a "feel-good" resolution, but this is a time in our history where Americans need to feel good again about their history, their place in this world and, ultimately, their future. I encourage all of you to contact the members of the Senate Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee who currently have HCR 180 referred to them, and to urge them to hear this worthy measure in the upcoming 2008 session.
Daniel P. de Gracia II lives in Waipahu.