Click here to Print
Some Things Are Worth Dying For

Alice M. Stratton MSW, MA
Richard A. Stratton MA, MSW

In the 1850’s John Stuart Mill wrote:

“War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

My ancestor John Philip Schreiner, Private 6th Class of Captain Weybright’s Pennsylvania Company was one of those “better men” that John Stuart Mill alludes to.

He fought for our freedom during the Revolutionary War.

Following his lead, all of the physically qualified of the Robertson and Stratton men have served in the Army, National Guard, State Guard, Navy or Marine Corps during WW I, WW II, Korea, Vietnam and the first Gulf War.

Based on these facts and my service as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a Navy wife and Mother of Marines, I feel qualified to share with you the following observations and concerns.

It would appear that American history as we knew it is no longer being taught in many of our secondary or post-secondary schools. The effect that this has on the current culture of our great free nation frightens me. Children seem to be becoming indoctrinated with popular urban myths foisted upon us by those who attack our country. For example, did you know according to reconstructionist history that Japan was “forced” into World War Two because of our aggressive economic policy directed against it?

Are you aware that youngsters are being taught that the worst war crimes of the Pacific Theater were the fire bombing of Tokyo and the atomic attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, not the invasion of Manchuria, not the Rape of Nan King, not the attack on Pearl Harbor, not the Bataan Death march, not the Hell Ships, not the medical experimentation on POWs. Is it any wonder during the present time that there are now those who criticize our own government for standing up for the oppressed Iraqi people? Or that people deny the threat to our country?  

These critics apparently never studied the disastrous years of appeasement leading up to World War Two. Those years when the world did nothing as Hitler marched into the Rhine Land in contravention to existing treaties. As the League of Nations failed to act  

when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia. As Hitler rearmed and established an air force superior to any in the world. As Chamberlain actually lent a hand to Hitler in dismembering Czechoslovakia declaring peace in our time.

In the name of non-interference in another countries’ internal affairs, the world  stood by during the Nazi “Crystal Night” which marked the beginning of open warfare against German and European Jews. The world did nothing as thousands were shipped off to concentration camps: Jews, Lutheran Pastors, Catholic Priests, gypsies, physically and mentally disabled and dissidents of every kind. The world engaged in no preemptive strike when the Dachau ovens were stoked up.

But then, in 1945, when we were now a victorious nation, now an international power to be reckoned with, a power more vigorous than the “Old Europe”, we in America vowed: “NEVER AGAIN” to appeasement.

America chose to fight the Kim Il Sungs, the Stalins, the Ho Chi Minh’s, the Ayatollahs,

and many other tin horn dictators that came down the pike rather than become a nation of appeasers. We learned that, after being sucked into two European wars within a period of 25 years, that we did not have to ask for whom the bell tolled; we knew it tolled for us. We understood that a threat to freedom anywhere in the world was a threat to freedom of all of us.

Only those who did not study or forgot their lessons, fail to see the parallel between the 20’s and 30’s and our world today. It gives me pause when I contemplate the Babel that surrounds our choice to take preemptive action against proven evils, the Hitlers of Southwest Asia.

This situation brings to mind the final scene from a play regarding one of our founding fathers.Ben Franklin

In the play Ben Franklin in Paris, Ben Franklin has traveled to Paris to enlist support for the American Revolution.

He has learned that, if he accepts an offer to go to London under safe conduct, he may be seized by the perfidious British and executed anyway. The play ends with Franklin pondering what to do, and in the process, trying to imagine Americans two hundred years hence

“I wonder how I’d find them then – those Americans to whom the name American will not be new.
"Will they love liberty, being given it outright in the crib for nothing?
“Will they know that, if you are not free, you are lost without hope?
“And will they, who reaped that harvest of ideas, be willing to strive to preserve what we so willingly strove to plant?
That all men are created equal! And are endowed by their creator with certJoin Or Die flagain inalienable rights.”

He pauses and then says:

“And would they die for it?
“That is the question one finally has to ask oneself.
“Would I die for it?
“And the answer one has to say – is – yes, sir, I would! I am encouraged and proud as I watch the courage of our Commander in Chief and of our young men and women in the armed forces.

I see the echo of Ben Franklin’s: “Yes Sir I would.”

Ben would be proud that, despite all odds, we have been able to perpetuate the spirit of the men and women who achieved American independence. 

This Fourth of July is a day when all Americans, and us among them, stand up, publicly and proudly, to join Franklin

Once again we declare with one resounding voice the answer to the question as to whether we would die for freedom.

“Yes sir I would.”

God Bless you and God Bless America.

Address at Fleet Landing Retirement Community
Atlantic Beach, Florida, July 4, 2003