The Sound of Freedom
UPDATE 9/6: The Whidbey News-Times have removed the ability to comment on the letter to the editor that prompted this article. But you can still voice your opinion in our comments section, at the bottom of the page.
I live in Wisconsin, but I was born and spent a good portion of my childhood in Coupeville, Washington. Coupeville is on Whidbey Island, which is the longest island in the continental United States. Ten miles north of Coupeville, is the city of Oak Harbor, home to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island.
As a kid, I used to watch the A-6 Intruders practice their aircraft carrier landings by performing touch-and-go landings at an airstrip on the outskirts of Coupeville. I have fond memories of watching formations fly overhead, and of the annual airshow that brought the Blue Angels to NAS Whidbey. As a matter of fact, when I think of Coupeville, I picture the view from my grandparents’ house of a pair of A-6 Intruders flying over Penn Cove, and Mount Baker in the distance. I can still hear the sound of the jets as they streaked by.
The noise from the jets has always been a source of contention among Whidbey Island’s inhabitants. When I lived there, NAS Whidbey had a sign at their main entrance that read:
Please pardon our noise. It's the sound of freedom.
I loved that sign. And truth be told, I miss the reassuring sound of the Navy’s best pilots patrolling my stomping grounds. But apparently, not everyone shares my appreciation for the Navy’s vigilance.
My brother-in-law, Rob, met my sister while stationed at NAS Whidbey. Browsing through the stories on my Facebook timeline this evening, I saw Rob had written a scathing comment directed at a piece in the Whidbey News-Times. Clicking through to the source of his irritation, I ended up on this page. Here’s what it said:
Navy should act like our guests
September 4, 2012
Has the Navy forgotten we property owners are not guests on their private island? I think they have. In the North, they want to increase the flight area, and in Coupeville, they want to add more flight hours at the touch and go field.
Most people want the U.S.A. to have the best trained military personnel in the world, but we don’t want them to infringe on our private rights. They already rob us of sleep by the late night practice flights. Yes, we knew that would be a problem when we moved here. I don’t mind, but I definitely would be upset if those hours were extended. We would like to enjoy a full eight hours’ sleep, and we would like to enjoy our decks and patios now and then, which is impossible when the Navy flies.
Listen up, Navy: We pay taxes here. I suspect you don’t. We aren’t your guests. In reality, you are ours.
Now, I don’t know Caralyn Haglund. I don’t know if she’s a lifelong native of the island, or one of the many liberal burnouts from Oregon and California who decided Whidbey would make an ideal retirement setting. I don’t know if she grew up listening to the sound of jets on patrol, or the sounds colors allegedly made when hippies got a little too into the ’60s. But I do have some advice for Ms. Haglund:
Stop using your belly button as a porthole.
The sheer ignorance in Ms. Haglund’s letter is astounding. The Navy “robs” you of your sleep? Lady, those jets should be the most comforting sound you hear on a daily basis. You’d like to enjoy a full eight hours’ sleep? I’m betting that the sailors on those aircraft carriers would love even half the amenities you enjoy. And you suspect they don’t pay taxes? Are you kidding? Do you have any idea how much Whidbey Island’s economy relies on the Navy?
Oh, and there’s also the teeny, tiny issue of gratitude. Gratitude to our armed forces for protecting those “private rights”. Gratitude for living in a country where you are free to own property, vote, and voice asinine ideas. Gratitude for the service of our military heroes whose sacrifices have bought these freedoms so that you and I can sit behind our keyboards and complain to our heart’s content.
Or we can use our time behind the keyboard to thank those braver than ourselves. Thank you, Rob, for your service. Thank you, Grandpa, for your service. Thank you, to my father-in-law for your service. Thank you, to my wife’s cousins, Jon and Joe, for your service. Thank you, to every man, woman, and child who has either served our country or has endured the long wait of having a loved one deployed.
So feel free to whine all you want, Ms. Haglund. We won’t be able to hear you over the sound of freedom.