I was a young man in crowded dormitory in Columbus when I got caught up in my moment of bloodlust. On the television was the Iranian spokesman, decrying my country while he rationalized the government-sanctioned taking of innocent Americans. "I want to be the one who pulls the trigger", I boasted, "I want to kill that...".
Youth speaks boldly, and such talk was not uncommon in the angry and recovering America of the early 1980s. I had signed up with the Selective Service only months before, and my mother's fears and father's confidence were still ringing in my ears two hours down I-71 from my boyhood home. I still remember my father's faith in me, expressing that I would "do what's right" if the time came to fight. That meant a lot to me, although I never told him that.
I don't remember that Fourth of July, although I'm sure it probably involved beer and High School friends alongside me as we clung to some vestiges of carefree youth. None of us ran down to the recruiting office to sign up for the war that never came. The scent of Vietnam still hung in the air, and none of us were stirred sufficiently by our limited patriotism to walk willingly into a similar nightmare. Still to come were Reagan, Grenada, Panama, Rambo, and all the other 1980s icons that helped America to regain her confidence after the shattering decades before.
I stayed in school, kept my partying under control enough to gain a couple of engineering degrees, and found a special person to spend my life with. When Lockheed, Boeing, and all the other defense contractors came calling for me in the military-spending heyday of the mid-80s, I told them no thanks, and went to work for an accounting firm with a small but growing computer consulting practice. We settled, had a family, and nestled ourselves deep in suburbia.
More than twenty years have passed since my moment of bloodlust, and in some ways nothing has changed. Our nation still looks nervously across the Atlantic, where a group of religious fanatics scream for innocent American blood and hope to find ways to kill in a perverted interpretation of God's will. This morning, I had the experience of reading that terrorists had downloaded pictures of football stadiums, presumably to see if they provided a convenient way to kill more innocents.
Out of the corner of my eye, I watch my children. The ones who accompany me to Cleveland Browns Stadium, the ones who fly with me on airplanes, the ones who drive with me on bridges, the ones who are in the crosshairs.
This is a feeling I've never had before. The challenge to my homeland perhaps makes me appreciate what the United States offers more than I have before. The feeling I have is not the fear that terrorists want, but anger and resolve. We cannot back down. We will not sit in our houses with the shutters pulled down on this Fourth of July. We are Americans, and we will not hide from anyone.
We've waved our flags before, but this time it's with feeling.
It is all I can do at my age and circumstance.
Like many, we have enjoyed the pleasures of our nation without ever putting our lives on the line for them. For me, the joys of safe civilian life were always too attainable and too tempting to choose another way of life. That's why I view with such respect those people who do. For whatever reason, they have strapped on the guns and placed themselves in harm's way to keep evil from our door.
Men and women have died since our last Fourth of July. Some were the innocents who were murdered in a tall tower. Some were the determined, who rushed into Hell to help the innocent. Some were the brave, who fought to turn the tide in distant mountains. All of them are around us, I hope, smiling as those of us who remain and are free enjoy this day.
God bless our Armed Forces overseas. I wish I had your courage, and I thank God you're there for people like me.