By Daniel M. FitzPatrick
Many people don’t know that this is the official motto of the United States Army, adopted at the time of the Revolutionary War. According to Reference.com: “Each word is meaningful. ‘This’ refers to the United States, the U.S. Constitution and liberty. ‘We’ll’ references the army’s collective team efforts, and ‘defend’ refers to the primary function of the army as a defender of the nation, not an aggressor against others.”
I never served in the military, but members of my extended family served with honor as Army and Navy officers in just about every conflict from at least World War I through Operation Iraqi Freedom. And I have lived most of my life surrounded by the wonderful men and women of our armed services. My hometown of Plattsburgh, NY is the site of the oldest military post in the U.S. — the “Plattsburgh Barracks,” first established as Cantonment Plattsburgh in 1812. In 1917 it was the home of the Plattsburgh Training Camp where Army Chief of Staff General Leonard Wood established the “Plattsburgh Idea,” the predecessor to today’s ROTC. In 1944, the base was turned over to the Navy and became Camp MacDonough, an indoctrination school for naval officers. The camp was named after Commodore Thomas MacDonough, naval hero and victor of the Battle of Plattsburgh in the War of 1812. In 1945 the camp was turned over to the Army Air Forces and in 1954 became the Plattsburgh Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command bomber base and home to the 308th and 380th Bomber Wings and 497th Refueling Wing. As a critical component of the US nuclear triad, this meant that my hometown was a primary target for Soviet ICBMs in the event of nuclear war. Those not alive during the Cold War will find it difficult to understand what it was like to live under the constant threat of that Sword of Damocles.
During that time of global tension, another Plattsburgh native gave great service to his country and the world. General Glenn K. Otis, a four-star general who enlisted in the Army in 1946, served on occupation duty in post WWII Korea, was picked from the ranks to attend West Point, served with distinction in-country during the Vietnam War, directed major improvements as director of the XM-1 Tank Task Force and ultimately served as Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Europe from 1983-88. I am proud to have known General Otis. On his death in 2013, another Army general observed “Glenn Otis was soldier’s soldier who served his country and his Army with distinction and dedication for more than four decades.”
I mention this because in this noisy and contentious world it is all too easy to miss the fact that there are many extraordinary individuals quietly dedicated to preserving, protecting and defending the liberties we sometimes take for granted. We are profoundly fortunate that men and women of talent choose to serve in our armed forces. When I met my brother-in-law’s Officer Candidate School and Army Ranger School classmates, I felt like hiring each one of them on the spot, they were all that impressive. Let’s take a moment to give them the thanks they deserve. Hooah.