Continued from page 1

Now retired from Congress, Mr. Hunter recalls that morale and pay were so low at the time Reagan came to office that the Navy was losing 1,000 petty officers a month “because they weren’t able to support their families.” More than 50 percent of the nation’s tactical aircraft were not fully mission-capable for lack of spare parts.

Reagan gave America’s military new equipment, better pay and a sense of worth that had been lacking for the last 20 years,” Mr. Hunter said. “He rebuilt national defense. We started with a 12.6 percent pay raise. There was a sense of value that Ronald Reagan, in his unique fashion, embedded in the hearts of everyone who wore the uniform. Simply, Americans wanted to serve under Reagan.”

Today, Reagan’s legacy includes a massive projection of power — the carrier USS Ronald Reagan launched in 2001, three years before his death. Mr. Hunter said he had heard that sailors volunteer specifically to serve on the Reagan in the late president’s honor.