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I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United State 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.

I took that oath as a very young man and served as a Security Policeman in the United States Air Force during the Cold War.  My service was stateside, but like every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine and man and woman serving the Coast Guard, as I willingly and proudly took that oath, I was writing a blank check in any amount up to and including my life.  I didn’t realize that then—not really—but as I took similar oaths post-military as a police officer, and as I watched over the years a seemingly unending train of flag-draped caskets returning from foreign lands—13 most recently from our shameful retreat from Afghanistan–I came to cherish not only my service, but my good fortune to have served and survived.   Far too many of our actual, not self-imagined, best and brightest have not.

Say what you will about George W. Bush, he was an accomplished fighter pilot. credit: AP/Scott Applewhite

Over a long and adventurous life, I’ve seen many commanders in chief.  Some were worthy of the role, and of the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.  They truly cared for servicemen and women, and understood the depth of the sacred responsibility with which they had been entrusted.  They understood themselves to be the employees of the American people, and the responsibility to order Americans into battle weighed heavily on them.  Our service people know, beyond any doubt, who truly cares about them, who truly values their service and sacrifice and their lives.

They also know who sees them as disposable, deplorable, as little more than momentarily useful props for photo opportunities.

‘My Job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.’

President Donald J. Trump

During my career teaching in Texas, I was fortunate to work at a school with a truly outstanding NROTC program.  Run by Lt. Col. James Davidson (USMC ret.) and Master Chief Charles Linville (USN ret.), it was award winning on a national scale, and always sent cadets to our service academies.  As I watched the kids, many of them my students, learn military custom and discipline, grow in maturity and confidence, I often swelled with pride and brushed away a tear.  As long as we produce such as they, America has a future.

Real Soldiers
credit: http://www.military-history.us

Those kids are a part of a long, unbroken line extending back to the Colonies, a tradition of sacrifice and excellence, of prevailing against all odds, and of, at key points in history, actually saving the world to preserve liberty, always at terrible cost.  In so doing, we have asked nothing more of those we saved than the land necessary to bury our dead.  Many of those we saved have never forgiven us for doing what they would and could not, yet we protect them still.

On this Veteran’s Day, 2022, we face an uncertain future.  Our military struggles to recruit.  Applications to our service academies are dropping, and woke lunacy and anti-white racism are primary factors in promotion, not military excellence.  While we are not in a declared war, our terrorist enemies, armed by President Biden, are again ascendant.  Known terrorists in unknowable numbers stream across our open borders.  Our Chinese enemy is in the midst of an unprecedented military buildup, much of it fueled by stolen or otherwise obtained American technology. We fight a proxy war against Russia in Ukraine that could easily escalate to nuclear conflict at any minute.

For decades, we understood America had to be capable of simultaneously fighting two major wars.  Now, we can’t be sure we can fight one.

Foreign enemies always work to dominate the world, but circa 2022, domestic enemies seek to force “our democracy”—a tyranny of the majority—on us all.  They seek to destroy our constitutional, representative republic and uncertainty wracks our nation, making the future of our military and Republic hard to grasp.  During the Trump years, our service branches were largely rebuilt and had the equipment, supplies and support they needed.  It took less than two years to not only run us terribly short of munitions, but to demoralize and decimate the ranks of our military.  Will the next two years see restoration, or further deterioration?  Will the domestic forces intent on the destruction of America succeed in convincing most young Americans their country is not worthy of preservation, not worthy of their blank checks?

Let us turn, as I often have, to William Shakespeare, the voice of the English speaking world, who in King Henry V, wrote what is one of the greatest battle speeches ever imagined:

Kenneth Brannaugh as Henry V in the 1989 film

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he’ll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

This speech, these words, have ever passed the lips of the thoughtful American serviceman and woman:

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…

It was 25 October, 1415, King Henry V, at the battle of Agincourt, fought and defeated a far larger French force. Fighting spirit, the spirit handed down over the centuries to British, then American, fighting men—and now women—prevailed then, as it has prevailed to build and preserve western civilization.  How many, in America, circa 2022, are willing to write that blank check?  How many hold their manhoods cheap in comparison to veterans?  How many yet shed a tear at the thought, the memory, of men and women far better than they who died so they could tear down the statues of giants, burn our cities, stir up racial hatred of people who gave all their tomorrows so they could have what some Americans now so cruelly and foolishly take for granted?

Shakespeare’s words are fiction, a play, yet they live on because they so well express the spirit of liberty, of patriotism, that has filled the hearts of American patriots.  It is trendy, oh so terribly woke, to ridicule the patriotic, to attack the very idea of patriotism, yet it is that quality that stirred the hearts of Henry V’s Englishmen, and the hearts of Americans to fight, and die, for people unfit to shine their combat boots.  They died for them, yes, for those that hate them, that think them intellectually and morally inferior, but in their sacrifice, they demonstrated a selflessness that puts their ankle-biting detractors to eternal shame.

Theodore Roosevelt understood.  On 23 April, at the Sorbonne, he gave this speech, this part of which has come to be called “The Man In The Arena.”  He prefaced it thus:

Teddy Roosevelt
credit: taraross.com

The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer.  A cynical habit of thought and speech, a readiness to criticize work which the critic himself never tries to perform, an intellectual aloofness which will not accept contact with life’s realities—all these are marks, not … of superiority but of weakness.

Like Shakespeare, Roosevelt understood the soldier, the man in the arena:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

credit: imgkid.com

Perhaps as never before, we are, as a nation, deciding our future.  Will it be a future of totalitarian nihilism, of people who know only to hate, complain and destroy?  Or will it be a future lit by the light of those who love, learn and build?  Will it be a nation of hateful social justice, or a nation under the rule of law with equal justice for all?  Will we be one nation under God, or a divided nation under the least and most malign of us? 

Regardless what the future holds, we must resolve that every veteran shall not have died in vain.  We must ever honor them, living or dead.  We too must support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and we too must ensure that the nation—the idea and noble experiment—for which they sacrificed so much, and for which so many gave their last, full measure of devotion, shall not die, but shall ever serve as the shining city on a hill, the last, best hope of mankind.

It’s little to ask to honor those who have given so much, that have given everything that we might have such abundance, and to ensure a United States of America still lives that liberty might live in the hearts of men—so help us God.