Although the anniversary of one of the worst disasters in U.S. Navy history passed this month largely unobserved, the near-sinking of the USS Stark off the coast of Saudi Arabia in 1987 killed 37 sailors and wounded 21 others. Two Exocet missiles fired by an Iraqi fighter jet had slammed into the Stark hull. In what was surely a night of hell forever seared into their psyches, crewmembers fought gallantly to extinguish the inferno that consumed their ship and threatened to send her to a watery grave. The Stark listed back to port and somehow survived.

The tragedy occurred during the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq, said to claim more than 1 million lives. The United States, naturally, had to pick a side - and it went with Iraq, whose brutal dictator our government eventually would go to war with twice, sacrificing billions of dollars and thousands of brave souls to topple him.

Saddam Hussein said he was sorry that his military mistook the Stark for an Iranian tanker. Although a U.S. guided-missile frigate and an Iranian tanker are about as similar in appearance as Christie Brinkley and Chris Christie, Hussein's apology was accepted and all was forgotten. But we Navy veterans will always remember - and so should all Americans.

Vin Morabito, Scranton,

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