By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 13, 2008
In the current presidential election swirl, the word of the year is “change.”
Sal and Marta De Silvio are members of what journalist Tom Brokaw calls the “Greatest Generation.”
They asked me why we don’t hear words like “greatness” in the current political lexicon.
Sal fought in World War II, making landings at strongly held Japanese fortifications like Iwo Jima. Marta stayed at home and became a real life “Rosie the Riveter.” Both are now nearly 90 years of age.
After the war, Marta bore six children, four of which became U.S. military officers; one proudly dubbed “The Full Bird Colonel” in the United States Marine Corps.
To Italian-Americans who fled Mussolini’s Italy just prior to World War II; this is as good as it gets.
Sal said to me, “I don’t see the vision. I see a skinny rock star with no experience. I see a former first lady. They have never been tested. No sense of the greatness of America. No real understanding of hope.”
I told him that many women in American believe Senator Clinton has certainly been tested and that Senator Obama has been tested in the harsh light of American racism.
He answered: “A philandering husband is no test and people need to rise above. You think my Italian accent didn’t make me a ‘wop’ when I came here? I mean tested like McCain – in war in the skies and as a POW. A long time Congressman and Senator.”
He said that America still has a lot to do and it certainly includes improvements to health care, education and a host of domestic programs. But, he stressed, there is unfinished business in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran may have a nuclear bomb soon, and North Korea already has one.
Senator Obama makes a point….
I was stunned by his broad knowledge and vision.
“America has a lot of hard work ahead and we better get on with it. It won’t be easy,” said Sal. He spoke about solving difficult problems and how it takes perseverance and patience.
Quickly I could see his point painted in the headlines of America’s newspapers.
As we watched the space shuttle Endeavour launch from the Kennedy Space Center for a rendezvous with the orbiting International Space Station, the important thought was not those few seconds of “We have lift off.” The more important part of our space “endeavor” is the huge investment made by engineers, scientists, astronauts, mission planners, financial analysts and hundreds of thousands of others since the 1950s.
Endeavor’s mission to the ISS will last 16 days: the longest shuttle mission ever to the ISS. A main task at the ISS will be installing the first stage of the Japanese laboratory called Kibo, a micro-gravity research facility which aims to open a vital new stage in deeper space exploration. Kibo, which means “hope” in Japanese, will be delivered in three stages. Once installed, it will complete the research nucleus of the ISS along with the American, Russian and European laboratories.
This image provided by NASA shows the cargo bay of the Space Shuttle Endeavour where the logistics module for the Japanese Kibo laboratory awaits being added to the growing International Space Station. Space shuttle Endeavour closed in on the international space station on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 for a late-night linkup that will kick off almost two weeks of demanding construction work.
(AP Photo/NASA, HO)
Sal said, “I may be the only one my age that gives a dang about the space shuttle; but there’s American greatness.”
When USS Lake Erie, a U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser, shot down an errant satellite on February 20 of this year, the missile and satellite intercept was rooted in a ship and combat systems development that began in the 1970s and a missile and ballistic missile defense effort that started in 1991.
We spoke in hushed tones into the night about struggles, adversity and “rising above” as he calls it.
Projects like our shuttle and ISS efforts take tons of sweat.
The same might be said of the war in Iraq.
The same Democrats that criticized George W. Bush for “Mission Accomplished” are now critical of Senator John McCain for saying that American troops could be in Iraq for a long time: maybe up to 100 years.
This should not be too much a surprise to a nation with troops in Germany since 1945 and troops in South Korea since the brokered cease fire in the mid-1950s.
Tough tasks take time and investment.
Senator McCain photographed by Brian Snyder, Reuters.
The United States is the richest nation on earth ever; and the longest lasting democracy ever. And the Founders didn’t create our Constitution and the other underpinnings of this greatness overnight: it took years.
Life, and especially foreign policy, is not a video game. It takes care, patience invested energy and time. “Patience,” Sal reminded me, “is waiting to win.”
In a society now enamored by lighting fast cell phones and an American Idol contest that only has drama for weeks at a stretch, we might reflect upon American greatness and history which teaches us, without a doubt, that great achievements are only within our grasp after long-term effort and investment; and plenty of it.
John E. Carey is a former senior U.S. military officer and President of International Defense Consultants, Inc. He is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.