Patriotism is an abstraction, and it is best understood when applied in concrete terms to actual people. Long definition short, patriotism is love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it. Applying that definition concretely, a patriot would be a person who loves our country, but understands and accepts the sacrifice that always accompanies love.
Patriotism is easy to understand in America. It means looking out for yourself by looking out for your country. ~ Calvin Coolidge
There are no better individual exemplars of patriots than our two greatest presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They each loved our country to the core of their beings because they understood its uniqueness, potential and promise. Both were not only honored but humbled to hold the highest office of the land.
Washington sacrificed a comfortable country-gentleman retirement and risked everything in a war of rebellion against the world’s greatest military power. Lincoln loved this country so much that he endured the agony and bloodletting that was our nation’s terrible civil war. Yet he stayed the course to keep our country whole.
Collectively, our greatest generation of Americans were patriots all when in the prime of their lives they lined up at the induction centers and endured the stress, privations and definite possibility of dying young. They willingly boarded landing craft, crewed Navy five-inch guns and flew missions against an enemy who was pure evil.
Later generations fought in the frozen hell that was Korea and in a thankless war that was Vietnam. The latest iterations of those two unpopular wars were Iraq an now Afghanistan. Yet, our patriots still willingly sacrifice the comforts of home and family and serve where they are sent, because they love their country.
There is a famous line in an old movie The Bridges of Toko-Ri. When a senior officer learns of some especially heroic behavior of a lost comrade, he wonders rhetorically, “Where do we get such men?”
Actually, they show up every generation because our country is great. They love our country and feel truly honored when asked to sacrifice for it.
With this year’s Memorial Day approaching, let’s reflect on the living and remind our children that genuine patriotism will always involve a willingness to sacrifice for a cause greater than self.
My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!
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