Washington D.C. – The Pentagon

This past weekend I visited my son in Washington, D.C. where he is working as an intern with a non-profit organization that deals with stability operations. For those of you who don’t know- stability operations are the various military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.

As my son is a political science major focusing on international relations, and I spent approximately 20 years in Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations it is a topic that we can enjoy discussing in detail.

I was especially looking forward to the visit as we were going to the Pentagon. A few quick facts- the Pentagon is the world’s largest office building. It has approximately 30,000 military and civilian workers. Ironically, construction started on September 11th, 1941. Legend has it that the small café in the center courtyard was mistaken by the Soviets for the main headquarters as they noticed people constantly going into and out of the building.

Several of my friends from the Army work in different areas of the Pentagon. It was good to see them again and we had a great time talking about the things we had done throughout our careers. There is a special bond that is formed when you share experiences with a select few who can truly comprehend what you felt at the time. After reliving a lot of the really humorous incidents the discussion turned serious as we started to reminisce about good friends we have lost throughout the years.

The day was made even more somber when we paused for a few minutes in the chapel that was built on the site of the 9/11 attack. Later we went to view the Pentagon Memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed into the western side of the building, killing 189 people (the five hijackers, 59 others aboard the plane, and 125 working in the building). Seeing the displays of that dreadful day and the portraits of those who have lost their lives since only served to further my belief in one main constant-

During both my time in the service and in the past few years since I retired, what sticks with me the most is looking in the eyes of a warrior and knowing they are prepared to execute any mission and give it their all in defense of the United States.

Ronald W. Shaw