Dear Friends of the Family,

The weather forecast for this weekend looks pretty good, despite the rain of the past couple days.  Many of us will have an opportunity to barbecue with friends and family, or spend a day or two camping.  But let us remember that on Monday we as a nation will recognize Americans from all walks of life — men and women — who have given their lives for our country in the Armed Forces. Through their courage, dedication and ultimate sacrifice, we have the freedom and opportunity to live in this most unique land and enjoy the simple pleasures of a long spring weekend.

Since 1868, our nation has observed Memorial Day to remember the 1.1 million men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf in 11 major wars and armed conflicts.  We pay tribute to them, as well as the 42 million other men and women who served in those wars. Their courage and sacrifice secured freedom for ourselves and others. They endured under the most hostile conditions, from the harsh winter at Valley Forge, to the battlefields of Gettysburg, to the trenches of France, to the beachheads of Normandy, to the mountains of Korea, to the jungles of Vietnam, the sands of Kuwait, and most recently the plains of Iraq and valleys of Afghanistan.   Indeed, we all owe these patriots a great debt of gratitude.

But how does one define patriotism?  Webster defines patriotism as love of one’s country; as the relationship between the individual citizen and his or her country; as an attitude of commitment.  Where does commitment begin? Certainly it begins in our homes with a commitment to love and loyalty; continues in our schools with a commitment to discipline and learning; advances in our professions with a commitment to quality and productivity; and is essential in marriage with our commitment to sharing and faithfulness.

Our nation was born out of individual commitments as stated by the signers of the Declaration of Independence: “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

Commitment does not come easy, it costs. It’s not always fun to obey ones parents or teachers, to follow an employer’s orders, to stick to the speed limit, pay taxes, or support our elected officials, and ultimately, to answer the call of our nation. My call began three weeks after graduation from high school when I entered the brand new Air Force Academy in Colorado. Homesick and a long way from Massachusetts, I was heartened by the election of John F. Kennedy. As a freshman cadet, I had the distinct privilege of marching in his inaugural parade where I heard his immortal words, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” Three years later in my senior year, the dreadful shots rang out in Dallas and I had the solemn duty of marching in his funeral parade. It was then that I began to truly realize the cost of commitment, of being willing to risk your life to ensure that the lives of others will be worth living.

Two years later, I, and most of my Air Force Academy classmates found ourselves in air combat over the skies of Vietnam. There, in the valley of the shadow of death, we lived and died by the American Fighting Man’s Code of Conduct: “I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense. I will never forget that I am an American Fighting man, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”

Trust in God you ask, in this day and age of political correctness?  To which I must say a resounding, “Yes!” Indeed, it is no coincidence that our nation was founded on the God-given principle of Judeo-Christianity. The Founding Fathers had no reservations about God: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
To achieve these goals, our nation wisely chose our motto to be, “In God We Trust.” Without God, life is impossible for “in Him we live and move and have our being.” Without God, liberty is perverted because “only where the Spirit of the Lord is, is there liberty.” Without God, happiness is self-serving for “happy is the nation whose God is the Lord.”

As veterans, Andrew and I will be participating in Memorial Day events in our home towns, and we encourage you and your families to do the same.  God bless America!

For our families,