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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Reminders of war are obscure for masses

A cold front had come through, clearing the air so that you could see forever.

We were sitting outside at a place called Taste of Boston at the foot of the Ballast Point pier. From there we could see across Hillsborough Bay to the Tampa skyline, lighting up in the gathering dusk. Fishermen and families walked by, heading out onto the pier. On a cool evening, sitting here was about as close to paradise as it gets. It was made even better with a glass of iced tea and an order of buffalo shrimp.

As we sat there, across the bay to the south you could make out two star-size lights seemingly hanging in the sky. After a minute or two the lights appeared to grow in size and it was obviously an aircraft heading more or less in our direction.

Both of us grew up on Air Force bases, and it was a familiar sight watching as the huge tanker loomed ever closer. A few people at other tables looked up, and two younger boys stood up to stare as you could now hear the engines turn to a thundering growl as the plane rolled by, seemingly close enough to touch as it came in to nearby MacDill Air Force Base.


Then it was back to where we were, now working over fried oysters and talking about parades and fireworks and the daily gossip.

About thirty minutes later, the same spectacle was repeated as the two lights in the sky turned into a massive flyover just above us.

You know, if you’re not down here near MacDill it’s easy to forget or not even realize the never-ending activity that swirls around the base.

Maybe that’s one reason it is so easy for us to not think about the war that never ends or that there are young Americans constantly at risk.

I’m sure if you happened to be across town at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital — where so many of our finest have come through, conflict after conflict, and where amazing doctors and technicians perform miracles to save lives and repair bodies — the war would not be a distant memory.

I’m astounded that our so-called media, including us, ignore the daily strife in Afghanistan unless a terrorist explodes a bomb in some restaurant or marketplace, but then maybe that’s what it has all become. How would we know?


In Pinellas County, the campaigning for the Congressional District 13 seat is underway. I watched the first TV commercials from the Republican and Democratic candidates.

War? What war?

The issues of immigration and health care are certainly campaign points, but Congress also is supposed to be aware of the lives of our military sons and daughters and the realities of putting them in harm’s way.

At least it seems like an issue that should not be an afterthought, or like a tanker ship passing by in the night and then forgotten.

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