Friday, June 28, 2013

Good Fourth

It is so easy to get mad at those we have chosen to run our government. We often doubt that “representatives” actually “represent” our interests. Or, we may question their judgment or their wisdom or their experience. So many aspects of submitting to the government we ourselves set in place are troubling. We ask ourselves, “Have we created a giant monster with an enormous appetite that just keeps growing and growing and growing?”

Century-before-last, the cantankerous American Henry David Thoreau wrote that the best kind of government is the kind that governs least. He was committed to individual liberty in the same way Jefferson, Franklin, Hancock and the others were as they signed the Declaration of Independence 237 years ago. These men wanted a government that would protect our fledgling country from tyranny and dictatorship, from taxation without representation and from the kind of leaders who thought they knew what citizens needed better than the citizens themselves did.

Since those early days, Americans have fought and died for a government formed on the principle of individual liberty, a government of, for and by the governed. So far, such a government has not perished from the earth thanks to those brave fighting men and women who have been committed to our brand of freedom.

Fifty-four years ago down at the Shreveport induction center, I took the oath that I would defend my country to the death if necessary. It was a moving moment for an 18-year-old with my life in front of me because I had lost close family members, an uncle and a cousin, in World War II, kinsmen who gave the last full measure of themselves to protect others from tyranny and dictatorship and other thieves of freedom. To paraphrase scripture, no one has greater love than the one who gives his life for others.

While I was in the service, my just-older brother gave his life as a B-47 pilot. He was only 25 with a pregnant wife and a three-year-old son. I knew from conversations with him that he would not hesitate to die for our country. Another brother, quite a bit older than I, flew 50 missions in a B-17 in World War II. He is 93 years old now and it is a joy to sit in his living room in Wetumpka, Ala. and peruse his plaques, certificates, wings, photographs and other honors he received in his career as an Air Force officer. My late sister, who was also quite a bit older than I, served in the Women’s Army Corps during the war but later transferred to the Army Reserve, where she served honorably as a sergeant.

As I was reflecting on my family’s patriotism, I recognized that almost everyone I know exhibits a similar kind of loyalty to our country. Perhaps it is not the overt, flag-waving kind, but more of a deep love and appreciation for our country and our countrymen who do not hesitate to step up to the plate for freedom, no matter what the cost.

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