"Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country." Calvin Coolidge, May 30, 1923 Memorial Day Speech, Northampton, MA.

The words to the old Christmas carol "Silent night" take on a new meaning this year as I travel to the Great Smoky Mountain foothills to bid a final goodbye to my father who passed away unexpectedly.

Cam Cardow - Ottawa Citizen (click to email)

Dad was one of a dwindling breed of Americans who loved America about as much as he loved his family, and believed no sacrifice was too great - if it meant preserving the country he loved for future generations.

Dad was born amidst the bleakness of the Great Depression and grew up to understand the importance of hard work for survival, human ingenuity, and the magnitude of responsibility to national obligation.

Very much like today, war defined his generation. In Russia, Stalin was busy reinforcing communism and with world domination in mind, Japan formed a military Axis with Germany and Italy. Denmark, Norway, Romania, Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Luxembourg fell to Nazi regime, and America accelerated to war when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and Germany and Italy declared war against America.

With the world at war and eager to contribute, Dad ran away from home and lied about his age in an attempt to join the military with his older brothers already overseas. He was sent back home - but returned to enlist when he came of age - as an entire nation focused on victory like never before and perhaps never again. Women kept the home fires burning, swapped their skirts for pants, learning to weld, drive trucks, and do whatever it took to win.

Dad's generation watched America rise to become the world's superpower as she pulled herself up from the Great Depression's dregs to become an economic force to be reckoned with. Eminence through modesty and victory by way of sacrifice; Dad's generation epitomized the very best of America.

Dad passed on to our family the values of self-determination, hard work, and contracts made with a handshake - lessons he learned from living an entire lifetime honing those skills. A blue collar worker who was never intimidated by getting his hands dirty and long hours on the job; our needs were always met and food was always on the table.

My Dad died of natural causes, but frankly I'm surprised he didn't die of a broken heart as he witnessed the steady deterioration of American patriotism and values in recent years. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Dad told me he'd re-enlist in the Army and volunteer for a suicide mission if they'd let him.

The world is a better place because he lived, America stronger because he sacrificed, Heaven sweeter because he died, and my life richer because I had the privilege to call him "Dad." Sleep in heavenly peace, Dad; sleep in heavenly peace.


Susan Stamper Brown is an opinion page columnist, motivational speaker and military advocate who writes about politics, the military, the economy and culture. Reach Susan at [email protected], her Web site www.susanstamberbrown.com and Facebook.

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