The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is a part of the US Fish & Wildlife Service – an Agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.“
Sometime around 1995 (give or take a year) when I was working as the Maintenance Mechanic at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge on Kodiak Island Alaska, I had a very unique opportunity to come ‘Face to Face’ with some ‘Real Live’ enemies of mine from the ‘Cold War’……. That’s right, those damn ‘Borscht’ ‘eat’n, Vodka drink’n, Commie stink’n…. RUSSKI’S that we played underwater ‘Bumper Tag’ games with when I was a submarine sailor in Sailfish back in the early ’70’s!!
I loved my job at the Wildlife Refuge on Kodiak! Being the only Maintenance Mechanic on the almost 2 Million Acre Wildlife Refuge was the ‘Dream Come True’ job for this 1960’s vintage Mid-America Maryville Illinois Troop 79 Eagle Scout! Weeks on end were spent in the Alaskan ‘bush’ building and maintaining remote public use cabins, maintaining various administrative sites, and at times assisting with the occasional biological survey or law enforcement activity.
With Russia and Alaska separated by only 53 miles of Bering Strait waters, and with the recent destruction of the Berlin Wall, ‘Resource Management’ entities on both sides of that narrow strip of water began interaction in an effort to enhance wildlife and habitats that, “Know no boundaries, and know no politics.” In this particular instance, I was asked to be available to assist in what was to be several days worth of biological “On and Off Shore” surveys with a team of Russian Biologists who were to accompany and assist with the surveys aboard the 48′ Fish & Wildlife Service vessel MV Ursa Major.
In preparations for the arrival of our guests, one of the main things that we did was to ensure that we had plenty of Vodka on hand. Living on a secluded island like Kodiak, local liquor stores only stock the least expensive (at most expensive prices) varieties of liquor available which meant that Smirnoff Vodka was to fill every available Refuge cooler! One thing that I did learn when drinking with these guys was that Smirnoff does not make real Russian Vodka. Actually, they kinda made fun of it, especially since they had brought with them plenty of their own…..
Although the surveys were interesting, (and a refreshing break from the everyday activities of building, jury-rigging, welding, painting, and all the other ‘Jack of All Trades’ activities an Alaska Bush Mechanic deals with), it was the ‘End of the Day’ activities and interaction that I had with these ‘Commies’ that I enjoyed most. When they first found out that I was stationed aboard an old diesel submarine that played underwater games with their underwater comrades, they made everyone around raise a cold glass of vodka every evening before dinner and drink to the ‘Crazy Ivan’…..
But I’m not writing any of this down to just record the alcoholic preferences of those Red Star guests……. You see, one of the major discussions I had on several occasions revolved around the term “Freedom”. It was during one of these vodka enhanced discussions when one of the Russian biologists made the comment,…..
“The only difference between you and I is that you ‘Think’ you’re free…….. We ‘Know’ we’re not!”.
Needless to say, this comment has stuck with me for many years…. And now, looking back to the America of my youth, and comparing it to the America of today, I can only shake my head in disgust….. Sad,….. so damn sad…..
For many years our country was of one mind and spirit in the defense and protection of our great nation. Our common enemy was the same, yet only 53 miles away from us at the closest point however, we still stuck together as a Nation.
It would appear that now our common enemy is ourselves – our own nation – torn apart farther than a mere 53 miles of water, and unwilling to embrace the two key phrases included in the mission statement of the US Fish & Wildlife Service – “working with others to…”, and “for the continuing benefit of the American people.” ………so I pray…….
“May God Save America!”….
But then I think to myself,……. “Hasn’t America pretty much already eliminated God from everything our Country was founded and built upon?”….