4 July 2007 - Baltimore Examiner Commentary
Gordon England: We Must Remember the Sacrifices for Independence
By Gordon England
On July Fourth the rocket’s red glare will be seen over Fort McHenry as Baltimore, my hometown, celebrates our nation’s independence. I remember as a boy seeing the Star-Spangled Banner proudly flying high over Fort McHenry. I also remember my mom telling me stories about my uncles’ service with the Army in World War I. Baltimore has sent many heroes to defend freedom.
One of my first experiences with the military and the profound sacrifices made for us was as a 7-year-old growing up in Baltimore in 1945. One day at the tiny square of grass where a number of city streets came together and where we kids played, workmen erected a small sign that read, "Francis Callahan Jr. Square." That night, I learned from my Mom that the Callahan family lived in one of the row houses on the square, and that their son was a Marine who was killed during the battle of Iwo Jima.
For 231 years thousands like Francis Callahan Jr., have given their lives so that I, and all Americans, could live the lives we have lived. Throughout our history, there have been and continue to be heroes like Francis Callahan Jr. who have fought to preserve our independence, freedom and way of life.
The lesson of previous wars and from the conflict facing the nation today is that the courage and honor of people who serve needs to be matched by the resolve, commitment and determination of America’s political leadership and its citizens.
Ultimately, success in any war is about national commitment and political will. It’s about looking beyond the rhetoric of the present and boldly addressing the long-term threats to our nation.
Former President Ronald Reagan understood this well when he said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same."
During this time of reflection it’s important that Americans remember the lessons of the past and never forget the sacrifices of people like Francis Callahan Jr. and the heroes of Fort McHenry. Valor and sacrifice like theirs and political resolve, are the best possible guarantee that our children and grandchildren will live in an America that is free and independent.
Gordon England is the 29th Deputy Secretary of Defense. He previously served as the 72nd and 73rd Secretary of the Navy and as the first Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. A Baltimore native, Mr. England graduated from the University of Maryland in 1961 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.