- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

Since the 2000 presidential election, the media has distinguished Americans by color, through election maps depicting red states as Republican and blue states as Democrat. With the passing of the 2008 election and America’s economic challenges, now is a great time to remember what those colors really represent.

From day one, our veterans have fought for both colors. In 1776 the Continental Congress defined red as “hardiness and valor” and blue as “vigilance, perseverance and justice.” Hardiness means stamina-perseverance on steroids. That is exactly what Navy SEAL Marc Alan Lee displayed during the war’s biggest battle in Ramadi, Iraq, on Aug. 2, 2006. After a two-hour firefight the SEALs faced their greatest endurance challenge: a buddy was down. Deciding he had not yet begun to fight, Mr. Lee singlehandedly stood up and shot more than 100 rounds of ammunition so team members could rescue the wounded SEAL from a rooftop. “Three times that day Marc stood in the direct line of fire to defend his buddies, for you, for me, for this nation. Marc was a young man who selflessly gave his life because he valued others’ lives more important than his own,” proud mom Debbie Lee declared. Mr. Lee’s unwillingness to give up against such red-hot odds embodies the spirit of America’s first Naval hero - a revolutionary “Navy SEAL.”

Captain John Paul Jones desperately wanted to take the fight to the enemy. He got his chance in 1779, when he used an American warship, the Bonhomme Richard, to harass British trade ships along Scotland’s coast. On September 23, Jones became embroiled in a fight with a British warship, the Serapis. No sooner had the battle begun, than the Serapis called on Jones to surrender. Shocked, Jones looked up. His ship’s flag was missing, the sign for surrender. Suspecting a cowardly sailor had yanked it down, Jones responded to his missing colors with true blue vigilance.

“Surrender, I have not yet begun to fight!” Jones cried. Soon he rammed his ship into the enemy’s side. Starboard to starboard, the ships became entangled. “My situation was really deplorable; the Bonhomme Richard received various shots under water … My treacherous master-at-arms let loose all my prisoners without my knowledge, and my prospects became gloomy indeed,” Jones recalled. He refused to quit. Jones ordered his sharpshooters to pinpoint British sailors on the Serapis’ deck. Defeated, the British surrendered their colors. His ship sank, but Jones won. He recalled simply, “I would not, however, give up the point.” Vigilance and valor characterize veterans of all wars, which Veterans Day celebrates. And in 1944, an Army colonel displayed Jones’ Navy blue courage.

Lt. Col. Rogers was training soldiers at Cebu, Philippines, in May 1942, when the Japanese forced him to surrender the island. Although imprisoned physically, Mr. Rogers did not give up his command of 750 fellow prisoners. “He continually interceded with cruel Japanese authorities to alleviate his men’s suffering at the risk of his own life,” Betty Rogers Bryant explained about her father’s sense of justice. Then the Japanese transferred the POWs to a Hell ship. “The terrible conditions in the bottom of this ship were unbearable. Men were dying and going crazy. The Japanese closed the hatch covers over the hold and the men were suffocating. There were only a few port holes and the men took turns trying to get air. Dad gave up his turn for his men in worse shape,” described Mrs. Bryant, noting that her father demanded the Japanese remove the hatch covers.

An American submarine blasted the Hell ship on September 7, 1944. “They had no idea Americans were aboard and thought they were only torpedoing a Japanese freighter. Eighty-two of the 750 survived and swam to shore. The Filipinos hid them until the U.S.S Narwhal rescued them,” Mrs. Bryant detailed. Rogers died, but those who survived heralded his passionate courage.

The timing of Veterans Day allows us to set aside election maps and remember the true meaning of our nation’s colors. Americans need the example of their veterans right now. We need red’s hardiness to personally navigate the challenges of a volatile economy. We need blue’s perseverance to finish the job in Iraq. We need the president and members of Congress to make strong decisions for the greater good and not their self interests.

Most importantly, we need red and blue for the white stars in our lives: our children. The Continental Congress defined white as “purity and innocence.” Nothing represents innocence better than children, the hope of tomorrow. Because our veterans fought for their children’s future, we enjoy liberty today. They deserve our thanks this Veterans Day.

Jane Hampton Cook is the author of Stories of Faith and Courage from the Revolutionary War.

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