Benjamin Scott, III
As a Vietnam era veteran (honorably discharged), four years of army duties/tours was enough for me to want to maintain my distance from all military bases to ease my mind of infantry memories. However, little did I know my daughter would become a career soldier who has served in Iraq (three times) and will now be deployed to Afghanistan.
Needless to say, I'm proud that she is serving our country while earning her stripes in the U.S. Army. In reality, little does she know she cured me from avoiding military bases...
Betty Jean Gilmore
You must continue to secure for yourself the freedom and opportunity to which you are so accustomed. Your citizens toiled at home and fought against potential usurpers of that freedom since your difficult birth. Since you matured into a superpower, you have been so prosperous, so secure, and so free for so long that you have forgotten somewhat the traits and actions that bore these fruits. You must discard the culture of entitlement and rededicate yourself to hard work, personal responsibility, and justice in all things.
Not all of your children have forsaken the noble traits of your conception. Honest, hard-working men and women strive every day to conduct themselves in accordance with your attested values. They do so in the fields of farms, on the floors of factories, in the offices of business, and upon the fields of battle. These true Citizens are hamstrung throughout their efforts by hangers-on who believe that their existence alone is to be rewarded with the fruits of liberty. Even more than these fruits, they believe they should be allowed to live beyond their means, enjoy the trappings of prosperity free-of-charge, and be supported not by their own efforts but instead by those who are productive.
Your birth-certificate, the Declaration of Independence, cites the existence of inalienable rights. Do not misinterpret the nature of these rights. While these rights are God-given, they are secured by the acts and institutions of man. Your rights are inalienable only because your sons and daughters protect them from decay at home and from threats abroad. This was true at the time of your birth, and it remains equally true today.
It is your institutions of government that must set the example in this crucial time of your life. You must stop your acts of indulgence and focus upon the true focus and purpose of government. You must stop living beyond your means. You must stop attempting to create facsimile governments and societies abroad and regain your status as a beacon of liberty worthy of self-determined emulation. You must deal even-handedly with your children at home and your peers abroad. It falls upon your leaders to implement these changes in the halls of your government, and it falls upon all of your children to work for and demand these changes.
Your devoted son,
Benjamin Scott, III
You have been through many trying times during and since I served in Navy. I am worried about you.
You are in a war you should not be in and can't win just like the one I served in.
Your people are worried, confused and getting richer or poorer with the gap between seeming to grow daily.
You are red and blue and as a nurse that usually means bruising and injury I see those injuries in the faces and eyes of your children. I want to help but feel no one really has a good cure for you today.
I do what I can on my job and in my community but I really feel frustrated because your people don't appear to be able to learn from past mistakes.
I put my faith in your Motto In God We Trust and hope for a future of peace and prosperity for generations to come.
Betty Jean Gilmore Dentalman Thirdclass USN
Dwight L Freshley Ph.D.
If you see a service member on the street or in a resturant I appreciate it when you say thank you. Unfortunately times are tough. You already pay for my meals. If you feel like buying me a drink or a meal. Please don't. Instead use that money to help feed a struggling local family.
Staff Sergeant Emily Winslow
Where have you gone? I know I can't expect you to be the same country in which I grew up--what with a depression and three wars. You have become global in perspective and many expect you to be the policeman of the world. You are reluctant to wear that mantle.
I grew up on an Ohio farm during the depression, but hardly knew it what with dairy cows (we delivered milk in a small town) vegetable garden, and fruit orchard. And we had a family orchestra which played for dances for four years, putting one son through two years at Kent State U. Music is as close to me as breathing and has enhanced my life. I have sung in operettas, musicals, and choral societies.
After volunteering for the service, I was blessed to be assigned to the Transportation Corps, and just recently realized that President Roosevelt, General Eisenhower, and Prime Minister Winston Churchill knew early in 1943 that there was going to be D-Day in June 1944, and that my outfit would be guiding the 29th Infantry Division troops down to the hards in Southern England to launch the invasion--the largest military contingent ever assembled. How sad I would have been had I knew that 20% of those 29th division G.I.s would not make it.
So, I have felt a bit guilty all these years, always being a facilitator and not a front line fighter. (Actually, I volunteered for the Battle of the Bulge, but they wouldn't take me because I wore glasses.) Now, people expect too much from Washington. We need to develop more grass roots businesses, and say, "Get out of the way, Uncle Sam, I'll take it from here."
I've been very lucky to be able to travel to many foreign (every continent except Antarctica). I have taught in Athens, Greece,(on a Fulbright grant--thank you Senator!) and Beijing, China. So I appreciate other cultures--I have experienced the meeting of East and West, and I have been enriched beyond measure. But I would not trade my U.S. citizenship for all the gold in Fort Knox. (Not so incidentally, very recently we lost our dear 46 year old daughter to thyroid cancer--she was the youngest of four and the only girl. That gold in Fort Knox? If that would bring her back I would start the process; you can have it all.)
Let me close with a quintessential American success story. Not long ago I buried a high school friend, Forrest Ramser, who was year behind me in school. He joined the navy but never went to college. Instead he and a fellow worker invented a poultry and swine mechanism that went from basement invention to world wide distribution, with a factories in Belgium Indiana, and Georgia. In 1996 I nominated him for a distinguished Alumni Award at Alliance (Ohio) High School. (I was taken back when I was also nominated for an award for the same ceremony) In his acceptance speech, he extolled the virtues of the capitalistic system and the country that provided the environment for us to thrive. His voice rose to a crescendo at the end as he declared, "This is the greatest country in the world. God Bless America!" Not long ago, this man who apologized for never going to college, gave a million dollars to each of his three children.
Is this a great country or what?
Dwight L Freshley Ph.D.
University of Georgia
Lehigh Univeristy 1951-53
Vanderbilt University 1955-63
University of Georgis 1963-1996
Thank you for being my home. I hear the news about tragedies and troubles in other countries, and I am grateful for the many things you offer me that are found in too few other places. If only more of your citizens understood what I see.
I know there are too many homeless here, but there are many who have a home, who have a bed and a roof over their heads. I know there are too many places within your borders that are not safe, but there are many more places that are, where every day people leave their homes and vehicles unlocked without a care. I know there are too many people who go hungry, but there are many people who have plenty of food, who have never worried about where their next meal will come from. I know that there are too many who don't have healthcare, but there are many who are able to take advantage of some of the best health care in the world.
For those who don't have and can't do, don't despair and don't give up. There are people out there who care about you. Don't stop looking for help. Don't stop fighting for something better.
For those who don't have and can, do it. Stop making excuses. Stop taking advantage of the rest of us. You aren't entitled to a free ride – it's not free. I know men and women who paid with their life for the things you take for granted. You don't have a right to take my money from my family and loved ones. You do have a right to get up off your duff and care about someone besides yourself.
For those who have, be grateful. Share your wealth, for you are indeed wealthy. Open your home. Give of yourself. You are not alone in this world, and your indifference, your inaction is in fact an action that affects those around you. You have many good examples in both our history and our present to look to.
I know you're not perfect, America. Neither am I. There are things I have done that I am not proud of, and how many of your citizens are the same as us. We can all be better. But thank you, America, for all you offer. Thank you for being my home.
Staff Sergeant Emily Winslow
I keep hearing so many of you talk about how the military defends your freedom. And I need to point out that we of the military don't do freedom. We do national security. And don't get me wrong. National security in itself is a virtuous endeaver. And I'm proud of the part I played in national security. But we don't do freedom. Freedom is whatever liberties any given government grants to its people. It is not accomplished through military power.
As the government continues to erode the civil liberties of its people, we of the military continue to keep the country safe. But we don't do freedom. We didn't do anything about warrantless wire tapping. And we shouldn't have. That's not what we do.
We didn't do anything to stop the Patriot Act.
We didn't do anything to stop all the media mergers which put the control of information in the hands of a small group of people.
We didn't stop elections from being stolen.
The only thing a military can do is keep its fellow citizens safe from attack. Take China for example. They have a huge military. They can keep anyone from attacking them. But that doesn't give any freedom to their people.
I'm proud of having served my country. And I know that all veterans would agree with me that our military service is a huge part of who we are. Even my email address shows that I still carry this identity.
But America, it is you who defends freedom. You who vote. You who march. You who stand up and demand that your leaders not ignore your rights.
Major, US Air Force
Kristen M. Buhr
When two families escaped from East Germany by drifting away in hot air balloons, both Soviet and East German military units tried to shoot them down. Those of us working at Field Station Augsburg that night were listening intently to this event that defined the stark difference between my country and those that deny freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.
That was thirty years ago. The world has changed. Even a basic interpretation of our Constitution has changed. The First Amendment, the core of our personal freedoms, can now be defined as money. As wealth has become increasingly concentrated in fewer hands, freedom of speech is increasingly used to broadcast ridicule, insults, and lies over and over again for political and economic gain. What is the direction of our country? That depends on who has the most money to buy the most airtime and influence. If the January Supreme Court Ruling includes the right to spend endless amounts of money to say anything, whether true of not, as it seems to, then I'm very worried about where this country is going. We are drifting the wrong way.
Russian Language Intelligence Analyst
Augsburg, Germany 1979-1981
I was born in one of your most beautiful states, Virginia. I crossed you many times to find my personal niche in your borders. At the age of 18, I joined your military to protect you from harm. Why do you criticize me for that? Why do I feel as though I would have been better off just going my own way and minding my own business?
I spent four wonderful years in your military. I loved it because it showed me places I had never been before. You took me to the hot and humid state of South Carolina, where I received my basic training. Then you took me to beautiful North Carolina for my combat training. From there I went to sunny California, where I learned what job I would do to help support you in our time of war. I was then sent back to North Carolina, where I enjoyed over three years of your beautiful summers and mild winters. Though you gave me a chance to explore you, I felt the resentment of many of my brothers and sisters here. Resentment for supporting what I thought was right.
Many of my brothers and sisters told me that I should get a real job. To me, supporting you, keeping you safe, was the best job in the world. You let me travel for free to beautiful and sometimes exotic places. I guess even the most awesome things have a dark side. Your dark side is the people that believe that we should just leave you to defend yourself. But I will never let you fall. You have given me so many memories that I could never forget, and for that I thank you. So keep your chin up America, you will always have me there to support you and keep you safe.
Kristen M. Buhr, Cpl. USMC
Leslie A. Carroll
Even though I was quite young, I had already traveled to and lived amongst other countries and cultures. It became very clear to me that if not for the US military, the rights and freedoms that we enjoy would not exist under other types of government. I realized for the first time how much I enjoyed the freedom and rights that the Constitution and Bill of Rights give us and I wanted to do my part in protecting it. So, I joined the United States Navy as a Journalist and did my part. Although not perfect, I think that you America, have the best form of government and the US is the best country in the world.
Leslie A. Carroll
CPT Matt Alexander
I am disappointed in you!
What has happened to you that has caused you to adopt this continual display of hate and anger towards your fellow American? Do you think you are better than the others? Do you think you are special because you are a differnt color or religion then the person down the street?
You use to be a country that displayed respect, honor, honesty and compassion. I remember when everyone wanted to be your friend. Now you carry guns to meetings, are over weight, express your anger at every little thing that displeases you and are a spoiled brat! You whine, you scream and your rude!!!!! Its always the other guy's fault.
Don't you have any value of where you came from and what your family history is.
From now on "YOU" are going to straighten up and be responsible for things right here in the USA. You are going to get your children of the country off the poverty lines and back to school------ ALL OF THEM! And you are going to show respect for everyone you meet--do YOU understand!!!??
Yes, that is right----you are going to GROW UP or you are going to be permanently grounded!!!!!!!!!!! and some one else will take your place. Got IT!!!!!!!!?
Now go sit down over there and behave your self for a change!
Former Air Force
Hilton Head, South Carolina
I have suffered
And not just because of my memory
holding my soldiers still hot helmet.
But because you say "you volunteered."
Does that cancel the weight
Of a mission without meaning?
Does that mitigate
The fact that seven years later
I can't plan the birthday of my child?
Every day I ask if you were worth fighting for
And your shallow words are answers enough.
I hear nothing but seagulls
And I want to hear waves.
Where are you?
Are you in the land? These eroded landscapes
No painter would ever paint?
Are you in the words I hear
No poet would ever say?
Should I look this hard for something
I no longer love?
Was it a love or did you just use me
As you did my friend
Whose heat I still remember
Standing here in fall leaves holding my child
Touching his pillow white cheeks to mine.
He smells like leaves and milk
And I would fight for him
But not you
For you are a waste
A waste of dreams and men
A clucking of birds.
I want to fight for those
Who can breathe the new days sky
Who can hold a leaf to their head
And imagine a hat
Those who can see
But haven't heard the waves
CPT Matt Alexander
Michael K. Shrout
I joined the United States Army the day I was born. My Dad was career Army,
like his dad, his brothers, my mom, and many others in our family. So I am
a military kid, who lived the military life with our family.
My Dad served you with intelligence, hard work, and humor, in World War 2,
Korea, Vietnam, England, Japan, and all over the US.
Many military members understand "Fighting is not the first choice. Solving
problems is." My Dad worked to bring people together in a room, to get to
end results. It's about not always agreeing on every issue, but
understanding the value of sharing opinions and respecting each other.
I hope for your sake, America, that we stop our anger and divisive slurs.
We came out of WW2 by coming together around problems, not driving people
Thanks to the veterans who serve you. Thanks to the folks willing to go
into politics and serve all of us, as well.
Daughter of Major General Vincent H. Ellis
and Lieutenant Phyllis Anne Lawson
We are living through hard, dark times. It is important to remember we will pass through them, though it's hard to keep the faith. We are unemployed, angry at our politicians, losing our manufacturing base, unable to resolve armed and political turmoil in the Middle East, and generally don't feel very good about ourselves. We have lost the American dream of owning our own home and it seems we are less a "melting pot" and more a vast collection of special interest groups, with our own languages, religions, cultural heritage, and regional loyalties.
Sure, some of our malaise will pass when the economy improves, but many of our problems will remain. Are there solutions for our problems? Absolutely! There are probably dozens maybe hundreds of ways we, as a nation, could be change things. I have an idea I'd like Americans to consider.
Let's bring back a national work obligation that would commit every American between the ages of 19 and 24 to two years of service for the country. It may be military service, but could also be police and fire, health care, teaching, or construction services. Only our imagination would limit the ways young American could serve. Every single American would be expected to contribute.
The benefits of such a program are obvious. The two years of labor speaks for itself. The fact that some 20 million people would grow up knowing they have a responsibility to serve their fellow Americans, I believe, would change their attitudes toward their country and fellow Americans. The opportunity for the under-classes to get training in a field and contribute to the greater good would also surely change their attitudes toward their country and fellow Americans. Every youth would learn, first hand, about the pleasures of holding a job, earning their keep, working with other diverse Americans, and contributing to the country. Those who earned a college degree prior to serving may be able to expand on their baccalaureate training or pursue another area all together.
I strongly believe the vast majority of veterans are the better for their service. My proposal would give every young American a similar opportunity. Probably most would not go into military services, which could even remain "all volunteer", but all would have a chance to work together to resolve the types of problems we face today.
Lt. Col (USAFR) Michael K. Shrout
Sean P. Ziegler
You probably don't remember me because it's been a while since I've seen you. I was born in Wichita, but soon moved away to live in other lands, such as Mexico, Romania, and, together with about a thousand friends from the 1st of the 16th Infantry Battalion, from your Fort Riley, even lived a while in a far-away place called Iraq. I'm in Georgia now, married to the love of my life, and about to
apply for teaching jobs, but you're never far from my mind. I miss your sky.
While your compadre up north, Montana, claims to have the biggest sky, I would
put yours up against it any day; especially when combined with a gorgeous,
golden field of wheat gently blowing in the wind. My family have gazed upon
that beautiful American scene for years, and shed sweat, blood, and tears
working hard to make your beautiful land bountiful and proud.
You know, it's not always easy supporting you. Wearing a Chiefs, Royals,
Jayhawk, Wildcat, and Wizards jersey has not always made me the most popular
person in the room. But I wear your colors with pride. Because no matter where
I live or what I do I will always be your boy; I'll always be a Kansan.
Augusta, GA 30909
Stephen A. Mooney
I spent 10 months in Baghdad in 2004 and 2005 as a member of the 1st Cavalry Division. Many soldiers stop in Bangor, Maine on their way to Iraq or Afghanistan. You've probably heard of the volunteers who greet the troops who stop there. What you might not have heard about is the huge crowd at D/FW airport who meets flights landing from Kuwait.
The scariest moment of my entire time in Iraq was being the first to round that corner in an American airport. The unexpected cheers that greeted me were deafening, and frightening. My mom greeted me with a hug, and we nearly ran to their car. Once we were in the quiet sanctity of my parents' car, and hurtling down the freeway without a radio, crew-served weapon or map, they explained to me the "love the warrior, hate the war" reasoning for the pep rally that had met that planeload of soldiers. They told me how it was the opposite of what soldiers returning from Vietnam had experienced.
The huggers in Bangor, Maine, the pep rally at D/FW airport and all the yellow ribbons strike me as hollow penance by a guilty collective conscience. If Americans really wanted to support the troops, they would keep them home, protecting the United States and training for a real war. I would like to see more Americans protesting the war, writing letters to their legislators and asking candidates for office about their thoughts on the wars. While we were engaged in World War II, ordinary citizens planted victory gardens, rationed sugar, steel and rubber, and almost every male of age (even some not of age) joined up.
Today, no US citizens have been called to sacrifice for the war effort. Americans are still consuming resources like usual, and that consumption, of mostly oil, is why we are ensnared in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
As a combat veteran, I would appreciate if you would do more than putting a bumper sticker on your shiny new truck, hanging a yellow ribbon, hugging soldiers or financing a new television. Write your legislators to tell them to bring our troops home. Give them the confidence to decrease the military budget. Decrease your carbon footprint by buying less and saving more. Those are the best ways to support our troops.
Sean P. Ziegler
Walter J. Relling
To those who approached me when I wore the uniform and thanked me for my service, I am deeply grateful for your solidarity. When I returned from Afghanistan, I always had questions after such encounters, but I never asked them.
If you knew what Soldiers did in their day-to-day execution of this war, would you still thank me? Or are you as conflicted as I am now about the suffering that this nation inflicts in your name, but you wanted to "support the troops?"
If you aren't conflicted, I must ask: does the military really defend you, or does it bomb, invade, occupy, spy on and infiltrate others? Who profits? Or is this an ideological crusade? If it is, how good does that ideology look against the mound of corpses piled up to support it? If we could predict our foreign adventures would result in this butchery, what does this say about our values to the people we are "liberating?" What does our global network of bases and thousands of nuclear weapons say about our enlightened intentions?
What did we actually intend to do in Afghanistan after the first months when our aerial bombing campaign had killed as many Afghan civilians "collaterally" as the September 11 hijackers killed deliberately?
If we look back at Saddam Hussein and call him a murderer because he ordered people killed, am I not also a murderer if I have done the same?
When did the government ever ask you for permission to invade another country, using your dollars and the blood of your children? Can you remember ever signing some contract saying that you were fully informed of all this and that you agreed with it and would pay its bill? Is there anything you'd rather do with the half of your tax money the federal government spends on the military?
If you realized that Soldiers would be duty-bound to slaughter just about anyone who put up a fight if given the order, including unruly Americans if it came down to it, would you still thank me for my service?
Is the good soldier braver for doing what they tell him is right than the resistor is for doing what he knows is right?
What will you do the next time someone calls for a war?
Former Captain, Unites States Army
As a young man I decided to join the US Navy. I thought I was doing it for me. When I arrived at my ship, the USS Kidd DDG-993 the Captain, Bud Flanagan held a meeting with myself and the other new crew members. He asked each of us why we had joined the Navy. After we all finished telling him we had joined for reasons such as "to earn money for college, to gain experience and training for a civilian career" etc etc the captain told us we were all full of sh*t. He reminded us exactly why we were there and what we were sworn to do:
I, Walter Relling, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.
Powerful words don't you think America? During my 5 years on Kidd the ship saw considerable activity in Lebanon, Grenada, the Persian Gulf. Considering all the events in a five year stint on a destroyer I find comfort in knowing I served YOU, and I will always appreciate and remember my Captain so plainly reminding me why I was there.
Our Founding Fathers were so amazing in their thought processes as they formed this great nation. Notice the oath, no allegiance to a king or any particular person, an allegiance to a document. Remember America you ARE that document.
Walter J. Relling
Former Petty Officer 2nd class
United States Navy
PS: Do yourself and your children a favor. Rent "Taking Chance" and watch it together, in this film you and your kids will learn what it means to serve your country!