Norfolk Academy has no classes on Friday, November 11, in honor of Veterans Day. On Thursday, the school Military Appreciation Club led Upper School Chapel, inviting U.S. Navy Lt. Commander Brian Striffler '07 to address students.
A three-sport athlete at Norfolk Academy playing football, basketball, and lacrosse, Striffler attended the Naval Academy, where he played lacrosse and won an award recognizing leadership, toughness, and dedication. He has served as a Surface Warfare Officer aboard several Navy warships and is currently the Navigational Officer on the USS Wasp.
Striffler told students about the USS Samuel B. Roberts, a ship severely damaged when it hit a mine while on duty in the Persian Gulf in 1988. The blast lifted the ship, which started taking on water. It lost its main engine room and more. After two hours of damage control, the captain gathered the crew for an honest assessment: We can't lose any more spaces, he said. If we do, we are going to sink.
The crew, many in their early 20s, didn't blink. They went right to work together, salvaging the ship, which was eventually repaired and returned to service.
“This is not only a story of endurance, will, courage, and sacrifice, but a story of everyday Americans," Striffler said. Just a few years earlier, the crew was in high school. “At some point they decided they were going to raise their right hand, all for various reasons but all to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. And they had no idea what to expect."
Striffler called on students to be strong leaders and help others in any ways they can. That can sometimes be a basic gesture, like playing with a child or leading by example and exercising when it'd be easier to lounge.
“When Veterans Day comes around every year - and really every day - I think about what I am doing to represent them," he said.
Striffler then closed with a thank you.
“It's an all-volunteer force," he said. “It's what makes our country unique. A beacon of opportunity and freedom. To all the veterans who served, thank you."