Traditionally, the highest praise the Navy can bestow on its heroes are two words: "Well done!"
So apt those words are for the skipper of the Maersk Alabama, Capt. Richard Phillips, for the sharpshooters who ended the siege, for the cool heads in the Navy who managed to pull off a daring rescue on the high seas.
Phillips comes from Vermont, a state with a great military history. Back in the Revolutionary War, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys defeated the British at Fort Ticonderoga, a major victory for the Continental Army. It seems fitting that Richard Phillips comes from Vermont. This heroic man turned himself over to pirates to save his own crew from harm, then escaped his captors briefly, was recaptured and, finally, with his hands tied behind his back and an AK-47 pointed at him by one of the pirates, was saved by a Navy sniper's bullet.
It had all the elements of a Hollywood film -- the brave sea captain risking his life for his crew. The cool determination of the Navy brass and the brilliant marksmanship of the sharpshooters. They fired just three bullets, killing all three pirates aboard the lifeboat bobbing in the rough waves. President Obama signed on to the operation, authorizing the shooting by the Navy men if Phillips life were in danger. Three pirates were slain. A fourth surrendered.
The President said he joined all Americans in applauding the captain's bravery and the skill of the Navy men involved. The crew of the Maersk Alabama was joyful. They cheered their skipper. In Phillips' hometown of Underhill, Vermont, there was cheering too. And the captain's wife laughed and said -- after having spoken to him -- that despite all he's been through, "his trademark sense of humor is still intact."
At a time when America needs heroes, Capt. Phillips gave us something to cheer about. In line with an old New York tradition, we ought to give the captain a ticker-tape parade. He deserves it -- and so do the Navy men who saved his life in a most delicate operation.
I'm an old relic of the Navy from World War II -- and these guys made me proud. The President should pin medals on Phillips -- and the men who saved him -- and say those simple words that mean so much to Navy people: "Well done!"