Honor, Courage, Commitment
Good morning, I am a LCDR Select Chuck Red. It is an honor
to be able to stand before you on this special day and offer these
words. For any man or woman who has served in the Armed Forces,
this day offers the opportunity to reflect on his or her time of
service, an opportunity to remember the first haircut or mystery
meat that was served at the chow hall or galley.
For some it's the opportunity to think
back on certain events, memories that will not fade over the years.
I think back to my four years at the United States Naval Academy
in Annapolis, Maryland, Army-Navy football games, the sheer exhilaration
of a Navy win and the heartbreak of a tough loss, late night studying
for electrical engineering exams. I think of the times that
my buddies and I went polar bearing in the middle of the night in
the icy Chesapeake Bay, months spent running and hiking in the hills
and woods of Virginia in Marine Officer Candidate School.
I am reminded of the day that I first found out that I would be
going to Navy Flight School, how nervous I was in my first flight
in Pensacola Florida, the joy of being selected to fly F-14 Tomcats.
The wildest ride on any roller coaster could not match being in
the cockpit of an F-14 being catapulted off the carrier, going from
0 to 160 miles per hour in a couple of seconds. I remember
months at sea, flying off aircraft carriers. I remember the
hours and hours of boredom climaxing in moments of the sheer terror
of a night carrier landing. I treasure the memory of liberty
call sounding, seeing Irish castles in Dublin and kissing the Blarney
Stone, visiting the Royal Palace and Stone Hinge in England, brief
days spent on the beaches of the Greek Islands. I remember
a week touring the Holy Lands in Israel, the awesome thrill of seeing
Bethlehem as well as the somber experience of seeing Golgotha.
I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and daughters and the
joy of homecoming after a long deployment.
For most veterans, and this is true for
me, today is the time to remember other servicemen and women one
has served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond
of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss as they contributed to
something they considered priceless, the defense of our country.
It's also the opportunity for families to remember their loved ones
who have served in the Armed Forces. Today, I am going to
share why this day holds special meaning to me.
My family has a long tradition of serving
the Armed Forces. My Great Grandfather, (Pop) was one of our
nation's first flyers. He flew our country's first ambulance
plane for the United States Army Air Corps in the early years of
this century. It was he who, in 1926 at Brooks Field, taught
a young man named Charles Lindberg how to fly. My uncle, also
flew in the Army Air Corps. He was a highly decorated pilot
in World War II and was shot down over Germany, held as a POW for
six months before being liberated by Allied Forces. My Uncle
Mike, Raymondville Mayor for 12 years, served as a Naval Officer
in the Pacific Island campaign in World War II. These men
are all American heroes. Another hero I'd like to tell
you about today is my Grandfather, Foster Crowell.
I take you back to Sept. 1, 1939, Adolph Hitler
turned his well-built German war machine loose on neighboring Poland.
Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and France
all fell to the Nazi invasion in nine months. Great Britain
stood alone in Europe as Italy joined the Axis powers.
The United States chose to remain neutral hoping
to defeat the Axis powers by providing war supplies to the allied
countries. The United States maintained that role until Japan
attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th 1941. The purpose of the
attack was to cripple the United States Navy, the only roadblock
to Japan's expansion in Asia. America lost 3700 servicemen,
18 ships, 200 planes on that "Day that shall live in infamy."
America was propelled into war. Every family
in America was touched by the war. In Raymondville Texas,
my grandfather did what the majority of American men did at the
time. He left his home, his beautiful young wife, his two
precious children, parents, siblings, and a successful law career
where he was serving as District Attorney. He left to serve
his country and fight for freedom.
My Grandfather was a man of honor. He was highly respected
in his community. He was a leader in his church, a man who
could be counted on to be true to his word, to embark on a task,
to stay the course, and my grandmother tells me, to have fun!
He was not altogether different from the veterans sitting here today.
Many veterans here today can remember back to the day they left
their loved ones. There was no burning of draft cards, no
fleeing the country to avoid serving, no celebrities protesting
injustices done to the enemy. America was a much more moral
and honorable society. Men saw their duty to their God and
to their country. A French writer once noted, "America is
great because it is good, when it stops being good, it will
stop being great."
In a sense, those of you young people who stay
the course, who decide here and now to stay on the narrow path,
to stay drug free, to pledge your lives to something that is bigger
than yourselves, who recognize and call evil what it is - EVIL,
you will be tomorrow's veterans. You will be the veterans
who lead the United States military, but you will also be the leaders
in our churches, in our communities, in government, leaders in industry,
the teachers who train the generations of Americans who follow to
stay on the narrow path, the path of honor.
Today as we travel that narrow path together,
there is a need to hold our leaders, our friends, our neighbors,
and especially ourselves to the same kind of high standards that
my grandfather, my Uncle Mike and many of their contemporaries stood
for then. In my service to the Navy, I have served under many
honorable men, who commanded respect by their actions and leadership,
not just by their rank. America must require the same of its leaders
today and should not and cannot settle for adulterers and illegal
drug users in positions of authority. America deserves men
and women of honor and character, leaders who do not have to make
excuses for their past or current actions, leaders who deserve to
be looked upon as examples, and even heroes.
My grandfather left Texas and attended Navy boot camp. He
was designated a yeoman and assigned to the U.S.S. Lexington, CV-16.
Throughout 1943 and 1944 the Lexington was involved in battle after
battle in the Pacific. Operations in the Marshall and Gilbert
Islands in Nov 1943. The carrier was heavily damaged in Kwajalein
in Dec of that year. It returned to the shipyard for repairs
and later, saw action in Saipan, Guam and the Mariannas. Three
times, Japan incorrectly reported that the USS Lexington was sunk
which earned the carrier the nickname "The Gray Ghost." My
grandfather and his fellow sailors aboard the Lexington exhibited
great courage as time and again they were confronted with life and
death situations. Each time they responded with mental and
moral strength, withstood the opposition, and emerged victorious.
They were not born with the kind of courage needed to win decisive
victories and ensure America's winning the war. My grandfather
and many other veterans drew on a strong faith in God. When
faced with the toughest circumstances life could throw at them,
they steadied themselves on their cornerstone, God.
The men of the Lexington were responsible
for downing hundreds of enemy aircraft, over 300 in one day alone,
sinking many enemy carriers, battleships and cruisers.
Courage was important to them. Courage
is every bit as important in the military today as we face more
and more crises around the globe. Budget reductions, manpower
shortfalls, and aging war fighting equipment and technology make
the mission even more difficult as our forces are stretched thin.
In this time of plenty, our military is forced to do more with less.
Thankfully there are leaders in Congress who recognize the
need for a strong military. They understand the price paid
by service members in the form of long deployments, family separation,
and pay and benefits lagging significantly behind the public
sector. These leaders in Congress have the courage to say
"There needs to be a change" and have passed a much improved defense
appropriations bill which is a step toward keeping our military
and our nation strong in the coming years.
One can easily see the requirement for
courage in a soldier, a sailor, or aviator. Like honor, courage
is also necessary in everyday life. The first step is to follow
the narrow path of honor, but we must go farther. We must
have courage to do our best and if we fail, get up again and do
better the next time. We must have the courage to build something
great though critics around us are saying it can't be done.
We must have the courage to live as a nation under God as our nations
founders did when they forged our country over 200 years ago.
We must have the courage to pray for God's strength and guidance.
We must have the courage to say NO! to media filth, smut and
violence that distracts us from our goals.
American service members have lived by a code of conduct.
When we join the military we pledge to abide by this Code of Conduct.
It reads in part,
I am an American serving in the forces, which guard our country
and protect our way of life. I am prepared to give my life
in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command,
I will never surrender the members of my command while they still
have the means to resist.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available.
I will make every effort to escape and to help others to escape.
I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep
faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information
nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades.
If I am senior I will take command. If not I will obey the
lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up
in every way.
will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country
and its allies or harmful to their cause.
will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible
for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country
free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
My Grandfather and his fellow veterans embodied
this kind of commitment. They knew that it was up to them
to stop German and Japanese aggression in World War II. In
October and November of 1944, USS Lexington covered the Leyte landings.
Lexington's planes scored important wins in the Battle of Leyte
Gulf, the climactic American Naval victory over Japan. On
October 24th, while the carrier came under constant enemy attack,
her planes joined in sinking Japan's superbattleship and scored
hits on three cruisers. The next day, with aircraft from the
USS Essex, they sank three Japanese carriers. On Nov. 5th,
as the retiring Japanese were pursued, Lexington's planes sank a
heavy cruiser with four torpedo hits. But in the same action,
she encountered a kamikaze as the flaming Japanese plane crashed
near her island destroying most of the island structure and spraying
fire in all directions. My grandfather, James Foster Crowell,
was manning an anti-aircraft-gun by the ships island when the kamikaze
struck. He and 57 of his shipmates were killed instantly.
He was one of over 400,000 brave Americans who made the ultimate
sacrifice, dying for our country in World War II.
I never met my grandfather, but I've learned a great deal from his
example. He helped me make my choice to serve my country in
the United States Navy. There is a saying that "For those
who fight to protect it, freedom has a flavor that the protected
will never know." My grandfather knew it then and the veterans
here today know the flavor of freedom of which I speak. It
is the freedom born in honor, forged in courage, and maintained
through commitment. Though it was 55 years ago when my grandfather
died, it was through his courage, honor and commitment that he is
remembered today. Character has a way of living on in the
lives of those it touches.
I challenge each man and woman here today to walk the
narrow path of honor, to have the courage to trust in God, standing
up for what it right, and to have the commitment to keep our country
free and good.
I salute my grandfather and all my fellow
veterans who have made the commitment to protect freedom.
God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.
Lieutenant Commander (Select)