Defense Issues: Volume 12, Number 49-- Concept and Practice of Patriotism Is Still in Vogue
It's a pleasure to be here this evening. . ... First, I just want to report to you that I believe as an organization we are afloat and moving in the right direction. We have just revised our ops [operations] manual, and it should be out in the field shortly. We have also just completed an ombudsman handbook, which will greatly assist us in making sure we are all on the same sheet of music.
We begin regional training meetings this weekend out on the West Coast, and before the end of the fiscal year, we will have had the chance to ensure the leadership of every state committee is trained and up to speed on what is going on at the national level.
In the next few weeks, our long-awaited Mission One video speaker's kit should be out on the street and in your hands. I believe this is a valuable tool and will greatly assist us in reaching our target audience in the National Guard and Reserve.
The 1997 Employer Support Freedom Award will be presented next week by the secretary of defense in a Pentagon ceremony. And after working with the White House for almost a year, we expect to have a proclamation signed by the president declaring the month of November as National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Month.
A lot of things are happening at the national committee level, but when you get right down to it, we still need infantry soldiers down in the trenches, and we still need you to carry the mail to employers and reservists alike and make sure that when the time comes to call upon our reserve components to step up to the plate, they are there.
It's obvious that the members of the Mississippi committee really care about our great country and the role that the National Guard and Reserve play in helping to defend the freedoms we all enjoy. This committee is a reflection of what makes Mississippi a great state -- proud, honest, hardworking, patriotic Americans.
It is your work ethic, concern for others and sense of patriotism that binds this committee together and marks you as dedicated volunteers on behalf of our reserve forces.
Those forces, approximately 4,300 still serving in support of NATO's peacekeeping effort in Central Europe, also know the meaning of the word "patriotism."
And employers of those reservists called to serve in this operation are learning firsthand what patriotism means and what hardships they must endure on behalf of their country.
We have heard many stories of employers of reservists who are providing benefits well above those required by law.
For example, some employers are providing differential pay and maintaining health benefits for their employees while they are gone. And many are actively keeping in touch with their service members and their families to let them know they care and appreciate their sacrifices, too.
The Masonite Corp. and the City of Oxford Police Department, along with those other employers here with us this evening, are but a few examples of supportive employers here in Mississippi that are deserving of special recognition. We appreciate their efforts and the support given to their employees serving in the Guard and Reserve.
Employers derive no monetary benefit from supporting a reservist. Quite the contrary, the loss of an employee and the turbulence caused by that loss can be a real financial burden to the employer, so it is important that we say "thanks" as often as we can. Without their support, the readiness and accessibility of the Guard and Reserve would be in question and our ability to respond to emergencies and to situations with national security implications would be seriously degraded. In short, we can't do it without you, so again, thanks.
This evening I'd like to talk to you briefly about patriotism.
I think this time in America's history, and at this type of gathering, is a particularly appropriate time to do it.
Patriotism is one of those emotionally charged, heartwarming, soul-stirring concepts.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as "love of and devotion to one's country." I have also heard it defined as: "love of country and devotion to its welfare."
I tend to like the second definition better because it makes the concept of patriotism action-oriented rather than just a feeling.
What, then, is a patriot?
I consider someone who is a patriot to be someone who loves their country and who earnestly supports that country's interests.
Let's think about one of America's most famous patriots.
Early in the fall of 1776, Washington needed to know the dispositions and intentions of the British forces. When members of Knowlton's Rangers were asked to volunteer for an intelligence mission behind enemy lines, not one person volunteered.
The second time the call for volunteers came, only one man stepped forward -- Capt. Nathan Hale.
When Capt. Hale told an associate of his that he had volunteered for the mission, the other officer told him that he considered spying a less than honorable mission.
Capt. Hale's reply was that "Every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary."
As we all know, Nathan Hale was captured and hanged, and his final words of "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" have gone down in history as the words of a true patriot.
But America has had thousands upon thousands of other true patriots throughout her history.
- The privates who carried the ammunition and loaded the cannons in the bitter cold during the Revolutionary War;
- The medics who carried the wounded from the trenches and the front lines or tended to the dying while still under fire in World War I;
- Those who landed on the blood-red beaches at Normandy and Iwo Jima;
- Those who stormed up Pork Chop Hill and Hamburger Hill; [and]
- Those who returned victorious from the war and those whose bodies will never be returned from foreign shores.
But not all patriots wear a uniform.
They are the "Gold Star" mothers, wives and children -- the men and women who worked in the factories and shipyards during World War II, contributing as best they could to the nation's war efforts.
They are the police officers who walk their beat and believe in the rules that hold our society together.
They are the local preachers -- men and women who somehow inspire their congregations to reach out and help those in need.
They are the spouses and children who are now keeping the family business going or keeping our service members going with letters, photos, packages and remembrances of home.
Today, our patriotic reserve forces need the help of the Department of Defense and your help to continue their patriotic service as citizens and soldiers.
Both DoD and [Assistant] Secretary [of Defense for Reserve Affairs Deborah] Lee are trying to provide added incentives for reserve service.
One of Secretary Lee's top goals for reserve affairs is to improve the quality of life of the reserve components to support a ready force. It's at the top of her list because she knows there are many elements to readiness, but none as important as family and employer support for attracting and retaining top-notch people.
And she is counting on NCESGR [National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve] to keep her in tune with the concerns and issues confronting the employers of reservist. She considers all of you an integral part of the employer support objective.
Your patriotic efforts to gain and maintain employer support and to help employers, reservists and the military chain of command build a partnership are key to meeting these goals.
Being a patriot requires sacrifice for all who choose to serve. Some find that the cost is personally too high.
Is patriotism becoming a thing of the past? When the younger generation sees the older generation standing proudly during the national anthem with their hands over their hearts, do they think of them as old fashioned, out of touch, living in the past?
I think not. Not when I read about living Medal of Honor recipients like Brian [M.] Thacker [an Army first lieutenant during the Vietnam War], who, armed only with his M-16 rifle, provided cover fire for his withdrawing troops and then called friendly artillery fire on his own position to allow his men more time to escape.
Brian Thacker, who, by the way, considers himself unremarkable, today volunteers his time, along with other fellow Medal of Honor recipients, to speak to children about patriotism, citizenship and honor, as part of the Living Classrooms program. With individuals like Brian Thacker with us, I feel confident that the concept of patriotism will remain a strong part of the core values of Americans.
I also see that same patriotism when I look at you. It is your dedicated belief in your country that allows others to show their patriotism through military service. This committee's efforts, and the efforts of employers everywhere, help ensure that our reserve forces are willing and prepared to defend this nation when and if they are needed.
On behalf of President Clinton, Secretary [of Defense William] Cohen, Secretary Lee and the men and women of the Mississippi National Guard and Reserve, thank you for your dedication to keeping America free and your patriotic service to this great nation.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.