A Symbol Of Peace Through Strength

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - July 05, 2006
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Last Wednesday, my wife Susan and I loaded the dogs in the car, grabbed our American flags and camera and headed out to Ford Island. The aircraft carrier USS Reagan was coming in.

From the old sea plane ramps on the diamondhead side of the island and at the narrowest part of the channel, we stood in awe as the great leviathan - like a modern skyscraper on its side - made its closest point of approach. The massive flight deck, with its fighter/attack jets packed toward the bow, towered over us, and the hiss of the bow wave blended with the deep hum of electrical life and somewhere deeper a nuclear reactor, now in near idle. It all projected an aura of unfathomable power at rest.

But at the perimeter of the flight deck the inanimate became animate as the Reagan’s crew members, in crisp, white uniforms, stood at “parade rest” two feet apart, in a tradition of honor and respect for their host. And passing the USS Arizona - still a commissioned Navy ship - the crew came to attention, rendering a salute in respect for the sailors still interred in the sunken battleship.

As I stood there waving my little American flag in a greeting of gratitude and aloha to our fighting men and women “manning the rail” of that huge flight deck, I thought, “Wow, what a way to bring in the Fourth of July!” I actually had a lump in my throat as it slid by. That great American warship - and others like it - symbolizes so much more than the awesome destruction it can project upon our enemies when necessary.

It symbolizes the strength in the philosophy peace through strength, which has allowed us to enjoy peace through most of the past century, and even now the “peace” we enjoy daily even though we are actually at war.

It symbolizes the hope America brings to desperate souls around the globe, from the tsunami-ravaged shores of Southern Asia, to the earthquake decimation of Northern Pakistan, to the choking ash and mud of a Philippine volcano, and even to the hurricane shambles of our own Gulf Coast.

It symbolizes liberation and freedom, from young American pilots flying “shoulder-to-shoulder” with RAF pilots in the Battle of Britain, to the boulevards of Paris where the victorious “Yanks” were cheered, to the line in Berlin where the wall use to be, to the democratic capitols of every Southeast Asian country that escaped “communization” because the Vietnam War gave them the time to democratize, to the cruel Islamic dictatorship imposed by Afghanistan’s Neanderthal Taliban and, yes, to the nascent democracy in Iraq where the people - disregarding threats of death - turn out for democratic elections in even greater numbers than we do in America.

The great ship Reagan symbolizes how far we have come in the past 230 years. I chuckle to think what would have gone through Gen. George Washington’s mind if, while crossing the icy Delaware in his flimsy barks to actually turn the tide against the British in Trenton, he had encountered the Reagan gliding down the channel and the captain booming out into the night on his loudspeaker, “We’re from the government, and we’re here to help!”

This Fourth of July there are the distractions of a Senate which refuses to prohibit the desecration of our flag - the very symbol of our country, without which the world would be a far meaner and darker place; a naive young Army officer who refuses to obey the lawful orders of his superiors in part because of bad advice from a naive father and a host of naive well-wishers, all of whom are absolutely clueless about why they live in the freest country on earth; and a mainstream media which, in their “freer-than-thou” wisdom apparently think their freedom to publish security secrets is greater than their fellow Americans’ freedom to live.

So this Fourth of July holiday in particular, I don’t buy into the sideshows, didn’t become distracted. Seeing the American flag leading a marching unit on parade, or over a U.S. ship, or a schoolyard or post office, or a neighbor’s doorstep, or the red, white and blue bunting announcing a “Fourth of July sale,” or the “oohs and ahhs” of fireworks bursting over the water, don’t be distracted from the significance of this birthday celebration for the freest, most democratic, most powerful - militarily and economically - yet most charitable and merciful country that has ever graced the face of the Earth.

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