Washington, Hamilton, Lincoln, T.R. and Truman…presidents and statesmen who have many things in common, but none more striking than their military service and courage.
While I am quite aware that President Lincoln did not serve in the military, he visited the front lines enough times that I give him a pass.
Just imagine this imposing figure…a tall, lanky man…looking through a pair of binoculars, standing erect, beside Union soldiers who were crouched down as they discharged their weapons toward the Confederate front line.
One of the most amazing things about Mr. Lincoln is that he lived long enough to be shot by John Wilkes Booth. His stature made him a target which, even through a cloud of gun smoke, stood out like a sequoia in a forest full of saplings.
One of the things these five veterans had in common was their undying belief in American ingenuity.
Overlooking New York Harbor after they had won the Revolutionary War, Washington and Hamilton stood side-by-side and envisioned our country as an industrial giant that would be the envy of the world.
President Lincoln’s enthusiasm for new technologies and inventions was one of the driving forces behind the Union’s victory. He encouraged gunmakers and the Department of War to invent superior weaponry that eventually helped put an end to the Civil War.
After the war ended, he refused to punish the South any further because he saw a united country that would be more powerful and inventive than any other country in the world.
More than any other president, Theodore Roosevelt (T.R.) epitomized the greatness of our country.
T.R. understood that American ingenuity was so powerful that something as uncompromising and difficult as building the Panama Canal was not only possible, but achievable.
Where the French had failed in building the canal, America would succeed. And succeed we did, making fools of the critics.
On a visit to America, H.G. Wells visited President Roosevelt at the White House. They had a long conversation after which a reporter asked Mr. Wells what he thought about President Roosevelt.
Wells replied, “I’m the pessimist, and the president is the optimist. He sees the future in a way I cannot even envision. That is the type of faith he has in the American people.”
Think about the depth of that statement for a moment. Wells, a prolific author, envisioned Martians invading Earth in WAR OF THE WORLDS, time travel (THE TIME MACHINE), hybrid human beings (THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU) and the ability to change one’s body to refract light (THE INVISIBLE MAN) …all written before 1898.
When a four-time Pulitzer-Prize-winning science fiction author marvels at another man’s ability to envision the future, that is a sincere compliment.
After making what was arguably the most difficult decision the world has ever witnessed, President Truman undeniably ended World War II, resisting attempts to punish the German and Japanese people any further.
Along with one of the great cabinets in U.S. history, Truman instituted the Marshall Plan. He rebuilt Europe’s ravaged continent with American ingenuity and instilled democratic values in our adversaries that have withstood the test of time.
The above veterans, like so many other veterans, witnessed the horror of war first-hand. They saw fellow soldiers killed and maimed.
Yet their vision for our country never waned.
They believed in something much bigger than themselves.
They believed in a country with unlimited possibilities and creativity.
People speak, with awe, at the technological revolution that is taking place in our country, but I can assure you that Presidents Roosevelt and Lincoln would have expected nothing less.
In fact, they would have been greatly disappointed if we had not improved our capacity to communicate with each other…to cure diseases that once were thought to be incurable…or to live a more comfortable life with such things as air conditioning and microwaves and, of course, cable TV.
They also all understood that none of this would be possible during their lifetimes or in the future without a strong, second-to-none, military.
The soldier is our first line of defense…the safeguard that makes everything else possible.
Statistics on veterans committing suicide after returning from war zones and combat are a relatively new thing. As of now, we have no exact statistics on the number of veterans who committed suicide after returning from our most deadly and costly wars.
Our profound gratitude goes to the veterans who came back with debilitating injures and emotional scars that will last a lifetime.
And we send a silent prayer of thanks to the servicemen and women who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can be free.
Thank you to all our veterans. We are, and will remain, grateful for your service.