Some 33 years ago, I left home for the US Naval Academy filled with lofy ideals and a true desire to protect the democracy that our country stood for. Although as a young teenager of a middle class family in America, I certainly did not understand the complexities of global politics and the different strategies that could be undertaken to shape our world. Having said that, looking back with what I hope is the wisdom of age, my reasons for joining the Navy seem as vital now as they did back then.
As a young man, I believed in the dream that America stood for. Freedom. Equality. Civility. A place where all people were welcomed. I held a deep belief in what our founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence:
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–
Powerful words. Powerful thoughts. I know our forefathers were not perfect and many of them owned slaves and led less than noble lives. While unjust, if that is all we remember I think we would be missing the point. What is truly remarkable, is that these men gave America a dream. Without this simple document and these words of inspiration, our country would have nothing to set it apart from others. Nothing to aspire too. Nothing to hope for. Perhaps they had a vision of what could be… of a place where all are equal, regardless of the color of their skin, their sex or their status in society.
As a young man these were the ideals I hoped our country would grow into. However, as I grew older I began to realize that all was not so simple. As I journeyed through life over the years, this belief… began to falter. As I took more interest in what was going on in the world around me, I began to see chinks in what I thought was America’s shining armor. Our country has mades many mistakes over the past 30 years. Some of them pretty drastic.
And yet… the American dream, the American phenomena lives on. The presidential election of 2008 restored my faith in America. Yes, it is inspiring to see that America has grown above the bigotry and racist attitudes of the past, but more imporantly – America woke up. America took an interest in what she was doing to the world and also how the world was impacting her. People began to care again. When people care, great obstacles can be overcome. When millions of people can come together to vote on the direction of our country with no bloodshed afterwards, that is a great thing indeed.
Again – I believe! Perhaps I never should have stopped. The reason I served is still important today, just as it was 33 years ago. To protect America – the land of opportunity, the land of the free, the land of the brave.
A heartfelt thanks to all the men, women and their families for serving our country. To ensure that one place in the world keeps the dream alive… that all are created equal.
All the best… All the time