America: Still the ‘sweet land of liberty’

A bald eagle, the symbol of American pride, in Grand Lake,

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers flew two
commercial jets into New York City’s World Trade Center towers and
a third into the Pentagon. The fourth hijacked airplane was driven
down in an empty field near Shanksville, Pa., due unequivocally to
the actions of the brave but doomed heroes aboard that ill-fated
flight.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers flew two commercial jets into New York City’s World Trade Center towers and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth hijacked airplane was driven down in an empty field near Shanksville, Pa., due unequivocally to the actions of the brave but doomed heroes aboard that ill-fated flight. President George W. Bush reportedly entered into his diary that night, “The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today … We think it’s Osama bin Laden.”

On the evening of the attacks, President Bush spoke to the nation, saying “I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice.” And in what would ultimately become the Bush Doctrine, he held that, “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

For nearly 10 years, the search for justice continued.

Since that attack on 9/11, nearly 6,000 military men and women have lost their lives in two separate wars; tens of thousands have been injured. At home, opinions about the war flared, although the gratitude we felt for the sacrifices those brave men and women made – and continue to make – was never in question.

The end of this month marks another Memorial Day, a day honoring those who lost their lives in the field of battle as well as all who have risked their lives to serve our country, yesterday and today.

It seems in times of war, stories become more poignant, such as that of Suzie Montgomery – my friend who stood stoically yet proudly by as her two children answered their country’s call by joining the military; one went to Iraq; the other to Afghanistan. And while Alan Jr. is safely home and stationed stateside, beautiful Melina continues serving her country in Afghanistan.

Most families have been touched in some way by loved ones who went off to war. In my family, the military tradition goes back nearly 150 years. My great-grandfather fought with the Union Army in the Civil War. My father saw aerial combat in World War II. My uncle, now 87, joined the Navy after Pearl Harbor and was assigned duty on a submarine for the duration of the war. My brother spent two years in Germany as a serviceman in the Army.

So it seems somehow fitting and proper that this month, when we remember and honor servicemen and women of all branches of the military, members of special forces, Team 6 of the Navy SEALs, undertook a courageous mission that reverberated the world over. Two dozen of our bravest fighting men breached 12- to 18-foot security walls of a fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and took out the evil mastermind who attempted to bring our country to its knees on Sept. 11, 2001.

Osama bin Laden hated America, and he trained others to hate us, too. As the leader of the terrorist network al-Qaeda, bin Laden held to a policy of violence and oppression, masking his actions in the cloak of religious extremism. Sending others to carry out his deadly missions was his trademark.

The promise made to hunt him down extended through two presidential administrations. Finally, on May 2, the U.S. military and countless members of the CIA located the symbolic head of al-Qaeda and fulfilled that promise.

It is poetic justice of sorts that it was U.S. military forces, 24 exquisitely trained Navy SEALs, who arrived on bin Laden’s doorstep where he’d been hiding in plain sight for years, and let him know beyond all doubt that his mission to bring America down was an abject failure.

While I’m never glad to see a life end, this mass murderer’s life was the exception because he wasn’t finished with us, friends. Evidence brought back from bin Laden’s compound demonstrated more killing plans were in the works. It’s a certainty al-Qaeda will attempt more murderous efforts and retaliatory strikes even without its malevolent mastermind. So America remains watchful.

But for now, it is good knowing Osama bin Laden will never kill again. As President Obama said so eloquently the night we learned of that perilous mission: “We give thanks for the men who carried out this operation for they exemplify the professionalism, patriotism and unparalleled courage of those who serve our country.”

So this Memorial Day, we express gratitude to God and to our brave U.S. military men and women. We live in liberty thanks to the blood spilled here on our soil and in every corner of the earth. We give thanks for those lives dearly given in sacrifice so America can go on standing. Indeed, “from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

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