My older son Jens Michaelsen stopped to stay overnight with me in Madison on his way to Seattle, Washington. It was great to see him and hard to see him go. We were both choked up and we hugged several times.
Until he arrived late in the evening on May 31, I do not think I have seen him in person since he graduated from the United States Navy Nuclear Power Training Command “A” school in Charleston, South Carolina in 2004. During the four years that Jens was in Charleston, we talked about once per week by telephone. That is about to change.
United States Navy Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class Jens Michaelsen will be flying from Seattle to Pearl Harbor to join the Pacific Fleet. He will be serving on a Los Angeles-class attack submarine; one of these, the USS Dallas, was immortalized in Tom Clancy’s “The Hunt for Red October.” Even the best cell telephone service does not have coverage underwater in the Pacific Ocean. He will celebrate his 22nd birthday at sea in about three weeks.
I can not think of either son without remembering what they were like as infants, toddlers, school children and the young adults they became. Jens was a far better athlete than I was. He was a great soccer and baseball player until the age of about 10, when he became a devoted inline skater. He became a very good swimmer in high school.
It was in math and science where Jens really stood out from his classmates, yet he never flaunted his academic success. I was sitting with some other parents at the swimming awards banquet. When he received a special award for having a 4.0 grade point average, the gasps were audible.
Now Jens is employing his math and science acumen for us. At the Navy Nuclear Power Training Command, Jens was exposed to instructors and classmates that were smarter than him.
How do you know when nuclear propulsion specialists are doing their job well? When there are no reactor accidents. The United States has not lost a nuclear submarine since 1963, when the USS Thresher was lost with all hands in the Atlantic Ocean when a seawater leak shut down the reactor.
Losing the USS Thresher was huge blow to the father of the nuclear fleet, Admiral Hyman Rickover. It was a bigger blow to the 129 hands that were lost at sea and their loved ones. It is a reminder to all submariners that service underwater is not without risk.