When I was growing up I knew a lad who was a little strange in his outlook on God, Country and Flag. His name was Kenneth. His convoluted ideas on patriotism would certainly be out of place in today’s school of one-worldism and political compromise. Though he was 4 years my junior, we used to play together. It was always the ‘good guys against the bad guys’ with Kenneth.

Kenneth learned the pledge of allegiance earlier than most kids. To him, there was practically no visible line between God and Country. He believed what he had learned from his history textbooks – that America was founded by Godly men on Biblical principles; therefore, God must be the true Sovereign of America. When it came to Old Glory, Kenneth was simply a fanatic for his time.

Kenneth would listen to stories my father told of his exploits during the Second World War and marvel at the heroism of the American soldier at arms. He dreamed of becoming one of those heroes, but worried that his chronic bronchitis would prohibit his ever serving on active duty with the Army.

When a senior in high school, Kenneth appealed to his dad to consent for him to join the US Army. Since Ken was only seventeen, parental consent was required. His father refused fearing that his son would be sent to the Vietnam War. So Ken conceived a brilliant idea: he would get his father to consent to his joining the National Guard. His father, feeling that the Guard would be a safe assignment, agreed to sign. After joining the Guard, Ken immediately volunteered for active military duty with the Army.

After basic and advanced training, Kenneth was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) and sent to Vietnam. At last, he would be able to gallantly serve his country as a red-bloodied American patriot. He was excited at the prospect of bringing the fruits of liberty to a people whose culture and values were alien to his thinking. He truly believed that his going to Vietnam would make a difference in the lives of the men, women and children who had endured savage tyranny under a host of despotic rulers and ideologies. This was the fulfillment of his life’s dream.

After his posting to the Republic of Vietnam, Ken’s letters arrived on a regular basis. They were like Situation Reports of his daily experiences in jungle warfare and the plight of the people. His heart was burdened for the people of Vietnam. He felt that we should have treated them better and with greater respect.

Finally, his letters began to sound more pessimistic. At the time, I was in military flight school in Alabama. Kenneth wrote and pleaded for me not to come to Vietnam. He said the fatality rate among aviators was extremely high. Nine months passed and Kenneth was looking forward to coming home. His letters became hopeful and cheerful. He was planning to marry a childhood sweetheart who, unknown to Ken, had already found another fellow. His last letter was dated 14 February (Valentine’s Day). He restated his optimism about coming home soon.

Kenneth did arrive home to Dalton, Georgia on the 21st of February of 1967. The flag for which he had fought and died draped his casket. He was given a military funeral. It seemed a bit out of place to hear the sweet words to the children’s hymn, Jesus Loves Me this I know,  being played in the presence of a military honor guard. But this would not have been a contrast to Kenneth. He left this earth as he had lived, loving his country and his flag. He was nineteen years old when he came home.

Kenneth is just one of more than 50,000 young men who gave their lives for freedom for a people whom they had not previously known. That is the glory of the American Spirit – to be concerned for the freedom of others. I still miss Kenneth. I can almost here here his youthful voice quoting the Pledge, or calling cadence in our childhood army. He was my little brother.

It would be most appropriate this lovely Memorial Day to remember reverently all those heroes who gave their lives in all our many wars that we might enjoy the fruits of freedom beneath the canopy of Stars and Stripes which has ever been our Ensign.

By |2024-05-28T16:44:07+00:00May 28th, 2024|Blog|Comments Off on THE YOUNG PATRIOT

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