I asked a friend who I’m pretty sure has done significant
national security-type work to nominate someone to be honored as part of the
Brandenburg 300 Project. He
immediately nominated Oleg Penkovsky because he had stopped an imminent
shooting nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. I had never heard of him, but learned that
during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the early 1960’s, President Kennedy had
reason to believe the nuclear missiles installed in Cuba, and pointed at the
United States, could be launched at any moment. They were armed and ready to go. President Kennedy’s hand was hovering over a button, that if
pushed would have altered history irrevocably, with millions of people dead,
and vast areas of radioactive wasteland.
Oleg Penkovsky, a Russian General, sacrificed his and his
families lives to get the information to the President that the fueling and
guidance systems for the missiles would not be operational for three days, and
that a diplomatic solution was possible.
Kennedy acted on this information and the closest the world has come to
a major nuclear war was averted.
Oleg Penkovsky was caught by Soviet Agents and executed. I can only imagine the price his family
paid. I can only imagine the
feelings he must have had. I think
he must have known he was going to get caught, and that he and his family would
be sacrifices in the cause of peace.
I don’t know anything about the secret parts of law
enforcement or national defense.
I’ve never applied for or held a security clearance. Friends who I’m pretty sure – but don’t
know –have done secret-type work tell me that films and news reports don’t tell
the real story, and I believe them.
What I do know is that the people I’ve personally met are
good people and real public servants, and they have all made huge sacrifices to
do their job. The big sacrifice I
personally see is they can never come home after work and share the daily
triumphs or difficulties with their families, loved ones and friends. They have to use a filter none of the
rest of us do before they talk, and when they are listening. Sometimes this has taken a tremendous
toll on their families, and I think that is a real sacrifice, a real price they
are paying to help protect me and my family.
Right now in the news, as often happens, there is a swirl of
publicity about alleged abuses of authority and discretion by various
agencies. I don’t know the right
and wrong of all of that – I feel like I just don’t have enough information to
make any kind of judgment. What I
do know is that the people I’ve met are patriots doing their work for the right
reasons, and I believe we are safer because of it.