In my column here every couple of weeks, I share stories and projects as they relate to military and aviation history and current doings. Sometimes they hover on the edge of personal opinion, but I always try to back up my ramblings with other sources of information from multiple mediums in my research.
But this week, I will just come right out and say that this column is going to be me putting out an opinion regarding a current program that has people, both pro and con, at odds over the need for it at this time, as we here in America struggle with daily worries over the coronavirus and how it affects our daily lives.
From the moment the President Donald Trump gave approval for a joint Thunderbirds/ Blue Angels program — for which the teams will unite and fly over American cities to promote national unity and support of our first responders — the public debate took an ugly turn. Those opposed filled the airwaves and internet with negative opinions: everything from “It’s a waste of taxpayer’s money,” to saying we should be more focused on finding medical answers and helping struggling families. That doesn’t really sound all that bad and how could anybody disagree with those opinions? However, our nation’s history has shown that many times the answer to national crises is not solely about the nuts and bolts of whatever is testing our national resolve. It also comes down to probably the most important thing of all, when we are tested and dark clouds fill our skies. Hope is a simple word, but it’s the one word, the one emotion, that carries people onward when they are faced with the unknown during difficult times. That’s right where we are today, facing the unknown and wondering what tomorrow holds for us all.
I was looking at a lot of exchanges in the social media world and I could see that we have a generational divide on this topic, which shows that opinions formed today are a lot different than those formed by people who have an understanding of our nation’s history during its times of struggle. With that being said, I will share an historical event that shows the importance of symbolic actions, big or small, and how they can lift up and give hope to those who are feeling overwhelmed.
February 1945: The United States was about to deploy its young military men to a small island in the South Pacific called Iwo Jima. With all the plans in place and the understanding that failure would not be an option, it was realized that whatever the casualty count was going to be, it was just what had to be done at that point in the Pacific conflict to achieve success and ultimately, a victorious outcome. The history books and programs tell the story of how those days played out and how an enemy who was determined to fight to the death sucked the fighting spirit out of those Marines, as the chaos and death toll kept rising, and the task at hand looked increasingly hopeless.
But then something happened that did not have any military or combat-related significance. It was a simple action that spoke so loudly that it changed the course of the invasion. Men died attempting to achieve this one simple gesture and in the end, the symbol of hope not only became a motivator on the battlefield, but also a symbol of national unity and of hope that we were going to persevere and win the fight.
When the American flag was raised on Mount Suribachi by a handful of American Marines, the fighting men on the beaches below began to cheer and the ships offshore began blowing their horns and ringing their bells. Victory was going to be had, regardless of the terrible cost that was still to be paid. At that moment a small seed of hope was planted in each individual that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel and before long they would all be going home. It wasn’t a bigger gun or a special weapon that turned the tide of battle — it was the most powerful tool at their disposal. It was their pride that came out to shine, when that one lone flag atop a desolate Pacific island gave them hope and strength to carry on.
Americans are into symbolism. We see this in our history, time and time again. In the midst of difficulty and challenges, there does come a time when we need to look toward the greater good and give our nation’s people a chance to take a few moments and look to something that takes their minds off of their daily struggles and gives them hope. What they will be seeing in the skies during Operation America Strong is the very best of our nation. As the military steps up to encourage us and thank our first responders, we can remember that their service provides us a safe homeland, where we can find the answers to who or what challenges us. Our men and women in uniform make sure that the freedoms we hold near and dear will be there every morning when the sun rises over America.
Is this a bit too much red, white and blue? Will this reflection change any minds? I don’t know, as the world we live in today is filled with such a divide that it hurts me to see us at such odds over such things as this. It’s a simple flyover of American cities, to raise a flag and to show that America is still here and yes, America is its people. Yes, it can serve to bring a bit of hope in the current climate of doom and gloom and give American families a chance to share with their kids a bit of distraction from the news of the day. I will just say that would be a fine expenditure of my tax dollars, because what good is it if our resources can’t be used to help us turn a corner and press on to a better tomorrow? Like the Marines on a Pacific beach so long ago, let’s use this as a way to help our citizens cheer a bit and feed their spirit for a better tomorrow, in the climate of fear and the unknown. Let’s celebrate all those on the front lines, not only in the military but in the critical medical and service positions. They are giving their all to keep America safe and thriving, doing the essential jobs that are required to help give the word “hope” a real meaning as we all pull together.
Peace my friends, Bob out …