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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Still the shining city

The other day caused me to think about Cleo.

Cleo – who’s last name I won’t use here – was an amazing young woman in the Air Force Security Police. She once took down nearly seven teams of aggressors – by herself during training in a Ground Launched Nuclear Cruise Missile System exercise at RAF Greenham Common, which used to be located outside of Newbury, Berkshire, in the U.K.

Greenham is gone – as is the 501st Tactical Missile Wing - as I think, is Cleo. The system was traded, slated for destruction and finally dismantled so that the Russians would in-turn destroy their SS-20 missile system. Cleo was seriously injured in an accident on the British M-4 roadway. One day she was there with us - the next she was gone.

Cleo and all the folks like her, were just military people caught in the big political shell game that was being played at the time – a shell game we as a society basically won due to the actions of President Ronald Reagan.

But we were part of something special. There were moments when I could feel history flowing around me. When I was called out for field exercises, I operated usually as a Listening Post / Observation Post (LPOP). I was good in that role. Basically camouflage, watch, listen and report back in on suspicious movement.

I know. It doesn’t sound hard, but try remaining completely still, perfectly concealed and totally alert for 14 hours in freezing British winter temperatures, then get back to me on how that worked out for you. It was OK, though, because on the other end of that field phone, was Cleo. When things really sucked, you knew she would be there – on the line.

Throughout my time in, there were a lot of folks who had my back, like Cleo. I think about the many great officers and enlisted guys I worked both for and with, during 1992-1993 in Somalia. I remember it all. And I remember what it was for. I remember why we were sent there – a humanitarian mission to feed the starving people of that country. I still could feel the tide of history, even then.

And I remember a September 10 not unlike this one, where, I went to sleep and was awoken the following morning by my young daughter telling me a plane had hit a building in New York. I was thinking Cessna – but when I saw the pictures on the TV, I knew history had always been flowing around me, and had now taken a darker turn.

I look back on each September 11 with the same feeling, but I am not the man I was when I wore the uniform – and I would give so much to be able to wear it again. Now, other young men and women, like those of my memories, are joining and going to the hard places. They are going on your behalf and mine – because we won’t or can’t.

History passed me by. It’s waters I haven’t felt for a very long time.

And today our young people leap into the current to protect us from a repeat performance of that September 11 of so long ago. They sacrifice the chance to be with their families and see their kids born or grow up – they are injured and maimed and killed on our behalf; to protect our way of life. To give you and yours a fighting chance to grow up in a country where freedom and opportunity comes before everything.

And the best we have to offer to their future and the future of their children is massive inflation, unemployment, and a government, which, like a malignant tumor is growing into every facet of day-to-day life? We would give them this?

But this year is different. September 12 this year marks the beginning of a political movement to take the country back. I call it the beginning, because this morning I felt the tug of history – faint, but there. It was the same feeling I had watching Reagan say "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall," on a TV in the dining hall at RAF Greenham Common. We can all still make a difference. We can do it for all the Cleos who are out there – our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, who despite what the administration says, are still fighting a war on terrorism.

And who want to come home – to the shining city on the hill.

Reagan said what follows, at the end of the "city on the hill" speech; and if we want it to be, it can be still true today. But we must truly want it, and work for it, and believe. We must care enough and fight enough and not set aside our responsibilities to our younger generations:

“We are not a sick society. A sick society could not produce the men that set foot on the moon, or who are now circling the earth above us... A sick society bereft of morality and courage did not produce the men who went through those years of torture and captivity in Vietnam. Where did we find such men? They are typical of this land as the Founding Fathers were typical. We found them in our streets, in the offices, the shops and the working places of our country and on the farms.

“We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall of Philadelphia. In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the dark ages, Pope Pius XII said, “The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.”

“We are indeed, and we are today, the last best hope of man on earth.”

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