One Nation, Under God, Indivisible

Several years ago, I joined with others from the BSA’s North Atlantic Council for a Camporee on Omaha Beach in Normandy.  While I had never been to Normandy prior to this occasion, I had just learned two weeks before arriving in France that my father was there almost 75 years earlier – arriving from Britain just 10 days after D-Day in 1944.  Dad never talked about his experiences in World War II other than to say, when I asked why he didn’t, “When you go out in the morning and have a buddy shot out from one side of you, and one killed by mortar fire on the other side – and that happens day after day – why would you want to talk about it?”  And yet, in his actions, Dad was as true blue and loyal to this country as anyone I have ever known – proud to serve in defense of his country’s freedom, proud to put his education on hold, proud to associate with other patriots in the European theater, willing to put his life on the line in the defense of freedom and proud to be an American.

As I walked alone along the shore of Omaha Beach after the Camporee, I reflected on the many lives that had been lost along this and other beaches along the Normandy coast to preserve our freedom from the tyrants of this world – in that case, from the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany.  My father returned home after surviving those months of fighting to retake France from the Germans, then went to Officer Training School in Fontainebleau, France, finishing the war as part of the occupation forces in Germany – and emerging as one of the millions of “The Greatest Generation” – those who returned home to rebuild their country’s economy, to resume their education, get married, raise families and NEVER forget the feelings of freedom and patriotism that burned deep within their souls.  Interestingly enough, that patriotism was often shown by what they did and not simply what they said.  I am grateful for Dad’s example of quiet patriotism and love of country.  In a way, because of his service, I have felt vicariously like a son of liberty – in this generation–and was also proud to serve.

This week, following the illicit mob rush on the Capitol resulting in an assault on the safety, freedom and wellbeing of many of our elected leaders, vandalism of public property, personal injuries, loss of lives and the delay (albeit brief) of the democratic process and the events that have followed (and preceded) it, I have thought about a portion of the Scout Oath that we often take for granted – our Duty to Country.  George Bernard Shaw once defined patriotism as “Your conviction that this country is superior to all other countries because you were born in it.”  While I am sure there is some truth in that statement, true patriotism for an American is much deeper than that.

I think there has never been a time when there is a greater need for our youth to grow up understanding and respecting the foundational pillars that have made America strong and the legal processes which have preserved those freedoms for over 200 years.  It is reported in “The Scouters Minute” that the young men of Athens, on reaching 17 years of age, took the oath of the Ephebes as follows:

We will never bring disgrace on this, our city, by an act of dishonesty or cowardice.

We will fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city both alone and with many.

We will revere and obey the city’s laws, and will do our best to incite a like reverence and respect in those about us who are prone to annul them or set them at naught.  We will strive increasingly to quicken the public’s sense of civic duty.

Thus, in all these ways we will transmit this city, not only not less, but greater, better, and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

As we begin this new year, may I suggest that each of us model for our Scouts good citizenship and love of country– in a way that they cannot misunderstand what patriotism and freedom is – and that neither includes destructive civil disobedience and rioting or vandalism and terrorist mob action.  As we provide guidance to our Scouts as they work on the Citizenship merit badges, may they FEEL our love of this great country and those powerful and peaceful processes that were set up by our Founding Fathers to ensure that America stays strong into the future. And may those same feelings swell within the hearts of each Scout and registered leader as well. January and February provide excellent opportunities to teach these important principles to your Scouts.

This is My Country

This is my country! Land of my birth!
This is my country! Grandest on earth!
I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,
For this is my country to have and to hold.

What diff’rence if I hail from North or South
Or from the East or West?
My heart is filled with love for all of these.
I only know I swell with pride and deep within my breast
I thrill to see Old Glory paint the breeze.

With hand upon heart I thank the Lord For this my native land,
For all I love is here within her gates.
My soul is rooted deeply in the soil on which I stand,
For these are mine own United States.

This is my country! Land of my choice!
This is my country! Hear my proud voice!
I pledge thee my allegiance, America, the bold,
For this is my country! To have and to hold. [1]

 

[1] “This Is My Country” is an American patriotic song composed in 1940. The lyrics are by Don Raye and the music is by Al Jacobs.  Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians were the first to record the song, in 1942. The song is played at the end of Walt Disney World and Disneyland fireworks shows.

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