Proud, As An American: One Reason I’m Proud to Be an American is Because of Those Who Have Sacrificed (and Who Do Sacrifice) So Much for My Freedom
By Ken K. Gourdin
Tonight, my family and I will continue a proud tradition of going to the local rodeo that’s held every year to celebrate U.S. Independence Day. I’m unabashedly sentimental on this day. I might even get a little misty-eyed during a performance of The Star Spangled Banner or of Lee Greenwood’s Proud To Be An American, or when the emcee for the evening asks all those in the crowd who’ve served in the military to stand so they can be recognized.
I come from a proud tradition of military service, and at least four generations of my family have served in the military. This includes a member of The Greatest Generation, who fought in World War II, and an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War. I have been bequeathed a proud tradition of service both to country and to community. Both my mother and my father served in government for many years, my mother as a deputy county clerk and my father as a police officer.
As the debate about whether U.S. troops should have stayed in Iraq have been rekindled by the emergence of the terrorist organization the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, I am reminded that there are rarely (if ever) any simple answers to such questions. U.S. special operators are due enormous credit for their efforts which led to the killing of the evil Osama bin Laden, but I think it’s naïve at best and foolish at worst to presume that his demise ended the war on terror. As I wrote elsewhere on the Blog (in a piece I originally submitted to The Salt Lake Tribune but which was declined for publication):
Our short individual and institutional memories stand in stark contrast to militant Islam’s mindset. That mindset is captured neatly in an old Pakistani proverb: “If it takes me ten centuries to avenge my enemy, I will wait a thousand years for revenge.” Bin Laden’s death does nothing to change that mindset.1
As sympathetic as I might be to isolationist arguments and to the pain of those who’ve lost loved ones in conflicts which the American public and its leaders no longer have any desire to prosecute, I am, nonetheless, honored and humbled by the fact that even today, there are those who are willing to go where their country calls them and to do what their country asks of them – regardless of their personal feelings. Frankly, one of the problems I have with Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is that by all appearances, he, apparently, did not do that. I have written concerning him:
Even if one disagrees or becomes disillusioned about where he is told to go and what he is told to do, provided his orders do not violate widely-accepted norms for the conduct of military operations, he should honor his commitment, finish any pending assignments, and should honorably complete his enlistment before turning his attention to . . . becoming involved in public life.2
In apparent contrast to Bergdahl, millions of others have answered the call to serve. I honor all who have done so with distinction, especially those who have paid what President Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” I wrote another Op-Ed in which I described my visit to the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. There, too, I acknowledged the robust debate that takes place with respect to virtually any military operation undertaken by the United States; that acknowledgment, however, comes with a caveat. I wrote, “At the Tomb, debates about the rightness or wrongness of any given conflict fade into insignificance. What matters is that those who sacrificed so much were willing to answer the call of their country. May we ever remember, and never forget.”3
|1.||Ken K. Gourdin (August 15, 2012), “The man is dead, but the idea of bin Laden lives on,” (Blog post), https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/bin-laden-lives/. Last accessed July 4, 2014. Originally submitted to (but declined for publication by) The Salt Lake Tribune.|
|2.||Ken K. Gourdin (March 3, 2014), “Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl: Hostage or Deserter?,” (Blog post), https://greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2014/03/03/bowe-bergdahl/. Last accessed July 4, 2014.|
|3.||Ken K. Gourdin (June 4, 2013), “Twenty-one steps: reflections on duty, honor, and privilege,” The Tooele Transcript-Bulletin A4.|