MEMORIAL DAY 2020: Looking Back… To See the Future

USS Doris Miller – CVN81

By William “Duke” Smither

“I can imagine no more rewarding a career. And any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile, I think can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction: ‘I served in the United States Navy.” –  John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States of America


I totally agree with the 35th President of the United States that, “I can imagine no more rewarding a career…” than serving in the United States Navy. That includes the other satisfying and productive careers I experienced following my military service.

But, watching the current political winds swirling about, whipping up its bizarre approach- the “silly season”– to yet another clownish and chaotic presidential election year, I’m convinced most Americans already have their minds made up when taking in to account the oft calamitous events of the last three and a half years. Yet, on this particular Memorial Day, 2020, I’m most thankful for the unselfish, generous and brave displays of this nation’s front-line “Covid-19” public health and safety workers.

Like the sacrifices of many military veterans, especially our fallen brothers whom we honor, today, I’m grateful for their services and proud of the legacies they’ve also left behind. It’s somewhat remindful of the uniqueness of our mixed-cultural, multiracial nation and its enormous capacity to come together at a time of crisis, as we have many times before. I have personally witnessed this, during the period (Viet Nam Era and Cuban Missile Crisis) which I served. It wasn’t ‘peaches and cream’ all the time; there were rocky times, but we got the job done… together. It’s what I remember, most.

However, I’m also remindful of just how far our military brotherhood has come, during my own lifetime, as well as those serving long before me. On the other hand, as with many “families,” during peacetime or wartime, there will always be some family members who can stress you out, have problems communicating with you, plum disappoint you, or who seem to always be looking for a fight or forever looking to argue!

But, right now, this very minute, on Memorial Day, 2020, my thoughts include previous posts, concerning a Naval hero at Pearl Harbor, Dori Miller, and the honors bestowed upon him, posthumously (also, see:

I’d simply like to point out that on December 7, 2017, a nine-foot bronze statue honoring Dori Miller was unveiled on the banks of the Brazos River in Waco, Texas.  He was also memorialized for his bravery during the Pearl Harbor 

Dori Miller Statue

attack, on December 7, 1941.

On May 27, 1942, Admiral Chester William Nimitz personally awarded Dori Miller the Navy Cross, making him the first African American to receive the award, for his actions on the USS West Virginia (BB-48), “helping move wounded soldiers to safety and manning a machine gun to repel Japanese planes.” 

About two years after Pearl Harbor, he was killed in action when his ship Liscome Bay was sunk by a Japanese submarine during the Battle of Makin.

Earlier this year, on January 19, 2020, Martin Luther King Day, at a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, the United States Navy announced that aircraft carrier CVN-81 would be named after him. The future USS Doris Miller is scheduled to be laid down in 2023 and launched in 2028, making it the fourth carrier in the USS Ford-class of carriers and will enter service in the early 2030s. 

USS Gerald Ford Class
Artist concept

According to the Navy, the reasons for the naming are twofold: to honor the U.S. Navy’s enlisted sailors and their heroes, as well as to honor the contributions of African American sailors. The USS Miller will be the first aircraft carrier in the history of the U.S. Navy to be named for either.

As former Vice President Joe Biden was once overheard dropping an ‘F-bomb’ when privately congratulating President Obama on the passage of health care reform, I’m almost certain that he’d likely say, today, on the naming of the USS Doris Miller (CVN-81), “This too is a big ‘F*ng deal’…!”

Frankly, it’s just one of the many reasons why I’m proudly looking back, today, to see the future… 


About William "Duke" Smither (formerly, penname "Backstreet D'jeli")

William "Duke" Smither, author of "Passage(s) to Saint-Domingue..." and “Backroads to 'Bethlehem'..." is a Frankfort Kentucky native; Richmond Virginia resident. Retired Public Utility Sr. Investigator and nuclear site worker, Married w/ 3 children and 6 grandchildren; U.S. Navy Viet Nam Era & Cuban Missile Crisis Veteran; Member of "Cuban Blockade Survivors" & The American Legion; B.S. Degree (Business Mgmt) w/ independent studies in Ancient African History and African-American History. Post-graduate studies in Criminal Justice Administration. Former Sports & Feature writer for the weekly Richmond Afro-American Newspaper, during Freshman year of college. Retirement activities include: Freelance writer, playwright, actor and director of faith-based community theater productions; founder of "Backstreet's Blog" ("Talking Drum Dialogues") at and former contributing writer for "BlackPast.Org," the international, on-line reference center for African American History. His debut novel, “Backroads to 'Bethlehem'...,” is the first installment of a Trilogy on marronage and resistance. The second installment ["Passage(s) to Saint-Domingue: Jakobe's Journey..."], was released on December 30, 2021. Book #3 is underway, pending completion in the not-too-distant future.