It was a weekend to remember. First, I spent Friday and Saturday back on ol’ Rocky Top for our University of Tennessee Army ROTC Hall of Fame Dinner and reunion. The goal is to have it coincide with Veterans Day weekend. Friday morning, we old guys braved a cool wet morning and ran 2.5 miles with the University of Tennessee Army ROTC Cadets. They said it would be a 10-minute mile pace – yea right. But how exhilarating to be able to run with those young men and women carrying on the legacy of the original Company of Infantry Dragoons that left the campus and volunteered to answer the call to arms in the Mexican War.
America is still about producing those who will stand and say, as it is in Isaiah 6:8, “Here am I, send me.” And so, as we gathered Friday night to induct ten new members into the UT Army ROTC Hall of Fame, the old guard dined with the new. It was as if a torch was being passed, and it was. It was the torch of liberty and freedom, and a special bond, commitment between those of us who had walked that path … and those who will soon tread that time worn path of service to our constitutional republic.
Yes, in the real America – not that one we are forced to watch on the 24-hour news cycle – honor, integrity, and character still exists. How interesting that there were no news cameras at the 6:00am morning run, or at the 6:00pm Hall of Fame dinner. Why is it that we are inundated with the images of young people rioting, storming the steps of our Supreme Court, or destroying property in black hoods and masked faces? Why do we not portray America, that simple spirit that birthed the greatest nation the world has ever known?
Saturday, before the Tennessee vs. Kentucky game, there we stood waiting, and the moment came when those young men and women of the Tennessee Army and Air Force ROTC programs came marching down Volunteer Boulevard, so appropriate, right before the Tennessee marching band. For all to see, we watched the future leaders of our military, those who would stand upon freedoms ramparts and say, “Sleep well at night, we stand guard.” And during the halftime show, it was the same Tennessee band that played Taps – 100,000 people, and you could have heard a pin drop – reminding us that we still do live in America.
It was a great game. Tennessee, the underdog, defeated the #11 team in the nation, Kentucky, 24-7. Doesn’t that remind us of how our great nation started, as underdogs, given that the British were many touchdowns favored. But in America, as we learn, it is not always about the size of the dog in the fight, but rather the size of the fight in the dog. In America, we embody that premise and that spirit. We do not pay attention to the odds. We embrace the battle. We overcome.
From Knoxville, I took a flight to Cleveland, Ohio. Nope, not to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or even to watch the Cleveland Browns play. No, I went east from Cleveland to a small place, the second highest point in Ohio, a town called Chardon. It was there, in this small little town, that we turned down onto Main Street, and the crowd was gathered in front of the courthouse building. Men and women donning their American Legion and VFW covers stood erect as part of the Color Guard and the Honor Guard. Men and women who had once been willing to make that last full measure of devotion for America. It was a chilly day, but the sun shone brightly, as it should on a Veterans Day in America. There were little children in the crowd bundled up, reminding me that we still live in America. It was a short ceremony, but it was meaningful, prayers, words spoken to remember the day, and the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. And then there was the ceremonial 21-gun salute. And then a young girl raised her bugle and played Taps, her Granddad, a Veteran, was so very proud.
Just a simple reminder that we still live in America.
From the Chardon Town Square we went over to St. Mary’s Church and there, gathered in the great hall were over 300. Yes, that venerable number, reminding us of Spartan King Leonidas’ personal guard who stood in the narrow gap of Thermopylae back in 480 BC against the invading tyranny of the Persians. There in the great hall were the men and women spanning all the wars of our Republic from World War II to the present. There it was, the Brotherhood, not being sexist as some would castigate, but that merry few, those Band of Brothers who have survived that crucible, lost comrades, but live to tell their story.
We ate, we laughed, and we cried…yes, there were tears, tears as a reminder of what it means to take an oath to America’s rule of law, its Constitution. Men one would think too frail were spry, spirited, and happy to tell you about their experiences. There were women there, who had not worn the uniform, but lost their beloved in service to this great Nation.
The event was sponsored by the Ohio Ordnance Works of Chardon, led by one Robert Landies, a former US Army officer…who is the son of a former US Army officer…and the Dad of a US Marine officer. That is what sustains America, not the political, cultural, entertainment, media, or academic elites. It is the fact that we still have families, rooted in tradition, that raise up a new generation of Warriors.
Just a simple reminder that we still live in America.
We still have places like the Ohio Ordnance Works that produces the weapons that enable our men and women to be the esteemed and ready warriors that they are. The Ohio Ordnance Works produces several types of weapons – the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) and the M240 machine gun. They have also resurrected the memory of the Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) and have made a semi-automatic version for civilian purchase, for those whose Dad’s once carried that 20-pound rifle. Lest we forget, that the reason why the British landed and were marching towards Concord Massachusetts in April of 1775 was to destroy an American armaments factory, like that of the Ohio Ordnance Works. Our history began, was forged in the simple understanding that armed people were citizens and free, whereas, unarmed people were subjects.
Sadly, our history is not taught, which prevents us from being reminded we still live in America.
These reminders should not just happen on certain “holidays.” They should be part of our everyday existence. We should never forget that we live in America, but we need to first remember what America is and why we have fought so strenuously for it. Unfortunately, we do not hear these simple stories. So we must create them, and share them. We must pass them on to subsequent generations.
We must remind them that we still live in America, and explain what that means – or else others will.
The views expressed in CCNS member articles are not necessarily the views or positions of the entire CCNS. They are the views of the authors, who are members of the CCNS.
About the Author
Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He served in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, receiving many honors. In 2010, West was elected as a member of the 112th Congress representing Florida’s 22nd District. He is a Fox News contributor, author of “Guardian of the Republic," and a Member of the Citizens Commission on National Security.