FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. – I often write the words “powerhouse” and “pinnacle” to describe my top commanders and officers on the bottom line of their performance reports. It is one of my strongest compliments.
As I reflect on our nation’s 237th birthday and all we as a wing have sacrificed this year, these two words also aptly describe this incredible All-American holiday. Without freedom, nothing else matters. Without freedom, our daily toils, our hopes and aspirations for ourselves and our next generation are for naught.
When terrorists attacked us on 9-11 or more recently in Boston, they were attacking freedom itself…In some small way these attacks diminished certain freedoms as increased security measures removed or amended travel freedoms we used to take for granted. These attacks renewed the question of how to balance security with individual freedoms, as we see in the current debate on cyber collection.
For Americans, freedom is our core principle…it is the inspiration which compelled Thomas Jefferson and our founding fathers to write the Declaration of Independence declaring us free from the tyranny of Great Britain in 1776…a declaration the founding fathers knew could very well lead to their arrest and execution. But for them, freedom was worth it, and we are eternally grateful to them for blazing a trail that scores of American generations afterward continued to follow and defend, ensuring our posterity will always know freedom.
Our current generation now blazes this trail as we evolved from the ‘Greatest Generation’ to the ‘Go-To Generation.’ Indeed as Airmen we fuel freedom as our tankers ensure air dominance across the globe, our deployed warriors defend freedom on the ground, and our noble Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape warriors teach Airmen how to survive in lands where there may not be free. We do all this daily.
July 4th, following on the heels of Flag Day, is a day to boisterously celebrate American freedom. Author Robert McCracken declared: “We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs but to secure liberty…” It is apropos that as Americans, we take a day off to congregate, enjoy fireworks displays, picnics and listen to patriotic music all in celebration of this principle we so virtuously defend.
This year, the honored memories of our fallen Airmen, Capt Voss, Capt Pinckney and TSgt Mackey, starkly demonstrated how far our Airmen will go to defend freedom–they made the ultimate sacrifice for us, much as our Founding Fathers vowed to do. Their precious sacrifice demonstrates the value we place on freedom, putting our young men and women in harm’s way, and that this principle is never free.
President Ronald Reagan reminded us freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. Our generation showed from the nearly 3,000 patriots who perished on 9-11 and the 6,659 service members who subsequently gave their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom that we are willing to bear every burden to preserve our freedom. There can be no mistake–freedom is a calling, it is a way of life for you and me. July 4th is therefore a momentous celebration of the principle we so ardently protect. There is no question – it is a powerhouse holiday that represents the pinnacle of American values! Recognizing this and teaching it to our children is how we ensure that we remain the home of the free because we are the land of the brave!