Friday, August 11, 2006


I just got back from the Fort Knox Army base in Kentucky, where I got to watch my little brother graduate from the Reserve Officers Training Camp. To my surprise, what I anticipated as being a “yada yada yada” type event, turned out to be, in fact, a truly moving experience and I came away with an enlightened opinion of my Country, her Soldiers, and my little brother.

Pride is not always thought of as the best of feelings. Pride is often thought of as being an egotistic and power hungry love of ones self. The phrases “Pride goeth before a fall” and “ stubborn pride” come to mind. But in this case, I think that Pride is one of the best feelings a person can carry. In this situation, when I say I’m PROUD to be an American, and I’m PROUD of our soldiers, and I’m PROUD of my brother, the word holds so many more meanings. For instance:

I’m thankful for the men and women who have already chosen to be in the Army and who are so sure that it’s the right choice that they are willing to help train and nurture and protect these youngsters who are just starting the journey. I was so impressed to see those seasoned men and women watching over their charges like mother hens. Don’t get me wrong, they were rough and tough, but you could just feel the compassion and desire to instill in these kids the concepts of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Honor, Personal Courage, Selfless Service, and integrity and make them into heroes. With guidance like that, I don’t think there’s too much worry about.

I’m grateful for the blessings that God has showered upon us by allowing us to live in a Nation where we can feel safe in our individualities. I’m grateful for the men and women from countless years gone by who have had the courage to stand up and fight for Right and Good, even when it wasn’t the most popular opinion. I’m grateful for the sacrifices that have been willingly made in order to fight that fight. Some give up precious moments with families, such as births, and school plays, and quality time. Some make financial sacrifices to make sure that the fight can continue. And way too many have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives so that we can live in comfort and peace. For that, my gratitude is boundless.

I fear that those who have grown to take our freedom for granted, who feel that freedom is their right, or those who are in positions of power, and are more consumed with matters of wealth and popularity than with the well being of our country, will someday be able to lure the people of our country into believing that freedom is indeed free. Which will in turn surround us with a false sense of security that says all we have to do is sit back and practice tolerance and all will be well. Then, when our morals are crushed, our ethics destroyed, and our entire way of life threatened, my greatest fear is that it might very well be my brother who makes that ultimate sacrifice with his life.

Because as I watched the ceremonies, and the people involved, I realized that all “kids these days” are not clueless, helpless and hopeless. I saw approximately 225 young men and women who, even though they may not all continue to follow the Army path, are obviously made of some real tough stuff. They purposely and willingly gave their time and effort to complete this training. They made it through grueling physical and mental exercises and sleep deprivation. They gave up creature comforts such as TV, cell phones, ipods, and real beds. They ate MRE’s and Army food. All this was done with the full knowledge that should they choose to continue with the Army, their next training sessions and challenges will most likely be even more difficult.

And yet, as the Cadets from Alpha Company stood on that Fort Knox field under crystal blue clear skies, on what had to be one of the most gorgeous days ever, and even though there were no smiles during the ceremony, their eyes were sparkling, and their posture was straight to the point of statuesque. Their movements were sharp and precisely placed. They exuded such strength, confidence and anticipation and they seemed comfortable and at peace with the decision to become a part of this Army.

I have always considered myself to be patriotic, and appreciative of this country in which we’re blessed to live. I have always stood with my hand over my heart for the National Anthem, and have always maintained that the pledge of allegiance should remain an integral part of our school systems. I’ve always understood and appreciated the sacrifice our soldiers have made throughout the years so that we may enjoy a freedom unknown to others outside these United States of America. And I have always been disappointed that so many of my fellow Americans seem to take that blessing so lightly. Yes, I have always thought that I knew what it meant to be “ Proud to be an American”.

However, after this visit and after having seen the men and women who are in training to become the soldiers that secure our freedoms, and after having seen the men and women who are providing the training for our incoming soldiers, I must say, in the words of
the Mad Dogs of Alpha Company, 4th Platoon, 2nd squad,

Am I proud to be an American? “HELL YEA!!!”
Am I proud of the United States Army? “HELL YEA!!!”
Am I proud of my little brother? “HELL YEA!!!”

HOOAH SOLDIER BRO’!! I love you man!!

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