During a visit with U.S. and coalition combat troops in Southwest Asia in 2005, I gave 23 speeches on 12 bases, and on the U.S.S. Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier to more than 30,000 of our bravest soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar.
Among the remarkable military officers I met, one leader made a huge impression on me. During a conversation with Colonel Blair Hansen (now Major General USAF), Commander, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, he pulled a book from his pocket. It was a copy of the U.S. Constitution. He carried it with him 24/7 to remind him why he was in harm’s way, away from his family, and fighting bad guys who didn’t recognize the God-given rights of every human being.
Colonel Hansen emphasized that our troops were not fighting for a U.S. President, or for any elected official, but only as defenders of the Constitution. Tears filled my eyes as I realized in the military we honor those who willingly sacrifice themselves so that others may live; and in the corporate world we give bonuses to those who willingly sacrifice others. Shamefully, we have it bass-ackwards!
In our 21st century consciousness of over-emphasized political correctness, our beloved Constitution guarantees everyone has the privilege of worshiping, or not worshiping, God according to the dictates of their own conscience, with the expectation that each of us will afford one another the same privilege, especially defending and protecting the inalienable rights of those who disagree with our theology.
Those who threaten or execute hate crimes must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, no one is a bigot because he/she disagrees with our purpose of life, our definition of marriage, or our views on morality. The First Amendment clearly defines “self-government” as the personal responsibility of each of us to defend the rights of every religion and its members to worship how, where, or what we may, protected by the rule of law.
I have returned many times to our war zones to inspire and entertain our servicemen and women. Each experience solidifies my appreciation for the sacrifice of their families, their personal commitment to service before self and what they teach us about being an American.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists did not attack our landmass full of natural resources and breathtaking forests, lakes, mountains and plains. They did not attack a race, gender or specific group of people. They attacked what we believe in. Which means living in America does not make you an American!
America is an experiment in self-government, founded on specific ideals and preserved through obedience to a set of core values couched in an incentive-motivated economic system of free enterprise. America is a land of opportunity, not entitlement, which is clearly spelled out by our divinely guided Founding Fathers.
As you study the Constitution, I trust you’ll conclude that being an American requires as part of our civic duty, we must be moral in our conduct toward all people. As a group of immigrants who have all arrived in America on different ships, we are all in the same boat now. May we come together to heal our beloved country and unite as citizens living together as “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”