In her introduction to Ben Robertson’s Red Hills and Cotton,Lacy K. Ford points to a pivotal part of Mr. Robertson’s earlier book where he describes watching pitched air battles from the white cliffs of Dover during the Battle of Britain.
Mr. Robertson said watching the air battles “changed me as an individual. I lost my sense of personal fear…because I saw that what happened to me did not matter. We counted as individuals only as we took our place in the procession of history. It was not we who counted,it was what we stood for. And,I knew now for what I was standing–I was for freedom. It was as simple as that…We were where we were and we had what we had because a whole line of people had been willing to die”
In the next passage,Mrs. Lacy summarizes Mr. Robertson’s conviction and lesson from that experience,“I understood Valley Forge and Gettysburg at Dover…and I found it lifted a tremendous weight off your spirit to find yourself willing to give up your life if you have to…I don’t see now why I ever again should be afraid”.
Over the last 70 years,Mr. Robertson’s experience is reflected in the huge tests and rebounding strengths of the American people.
Like Mr. Robertson, I stand for Freedom.
Through my belief in Freedom,I believe in a culture of service,shared sacrifice,and an understanding that even in hard times that better times are not only possible,but within reach given the incredible gifts we share as an American people.
Through my belief in Freedom, I reject the idea that today’s hard times foreshadow darker,bleaker times that will overwhelm our power of will and undermine the strength of our united experience with the tests of time. Through adversity grows strength.
Through my belief in Freedom,I reject the idea that our country is in decline. I see opportunity for America to become stronger by taking the difficult steps to improve our competitive advantage in a changing world economy. Renewal and change are the hallmarks of growth.
Through my belief in Freedom,I reject the idea that our society is in decline. Many years ago,Socrates complained about the “youth of today” ,and it has been common through history to question the coming generations. In America today,we have incredible opportunity in the generations that will lead us through the next age,because with discipline,common goals,and leadership Americans of any age achieve great things.
For you skeptics,I offer simple proof:the average age of our military is about 19,and in their youth they are role models of achievement,honor,and ability.
Through my belief in Freedom,I demand more of myself than to simply be angry,mad or bitter. I exercise my belief in Freedom through acts of faith,community works,and activism. To believe is to act. Anything else and you are a spectator.
Through my belief in Freedom,I know that America is a great nation of involved citizens. Citizens with skin in the game. Our future lies with Americans that serve America,not only in the military,police,or fire services,but also by voluntarily building and developing the social support networks that insulate society from the eventualities of life.
Through my belief in Freedom,I reject the fatalism that has become a growing part of our national dialogue. I reject fatalism because I am an American and our country needs each of us to do our part not just to recover from a recession,but to forge a path toward a better tomorrow.
Through my belief in Freedom, I know that loss can offer salvation. I know that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost many lives,and as a veteran each life lost has pained me. In the pain of loss,I see the returning veterans as a new generation of citizen soldiers that will view their country with the protective eye of a parent. A parent concerned about their child’s future. A parent willing to take tough,moral and bold positions to guide their child along a path toward opportunity and long-term security.
The sheer number of veterans participating in the recent state-wide elections,along with their positive,uplifting vision of the future is a small example of a tide of disciplined,principled veterans that will stand-up in the coming years to continue to serve their country at all levels of elected office nation-wide. This cycle of renewal in government has followed all of America’s wars and the opportunity for new,strong leadership honors our fallen soldiers.
When I consider Mr. Robertson’s explanation of when and where he understood the meaning of Freedom,I think back to my own similar realization which occurred while standing at attention in the first nervous hours of Boot camp. A Master Chief Petty Officer set all us recruits straight by telling us that regardless of what our recruiter had said “the Navy is not a training program!”
He simply said “The Navy serves our country. Your country. The Navy protects our Freedoms. The Navy defends the Constitution of the United States. Some of you might die doing it…”
In the Master Chief’s clear message I recognized the following:I stand for Freedom. Freedom earned and Freedom justified by a commitment to Service.
What do you stand for?
by Henry Wilson