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Duty, Honor, Country – A Salute to Heroes

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Richard T. Moore
November 9, 2018

Duty, Honor, Country: Those three hallowed words reverently dictate what you ought to be, what you can be, what you will be. They are your rallying points: to build courage when courage seems to fail; to regain faith when there seems to be little cause for faith; to create hope when hope becomes forlorn.” With this observation, General Douglas MacArthur addressed the cadets at West Point in 1962 for the last time. They also, I believe, describe the values of active duty military and veterans of all service branches who sacrifice for a cause larger than themselves.

Duty, Honor, Country – the code of generations of American heroes throughout our Nation’s history – have been the guiding light to those who answered the call to defend liberty and freedom. Each of us knows someone now serving or who has served in the armed forces. Many of them came home to continued service as public administrators, elected officials, teachers or in the reserves and National Guard. We honor them, not only in this month when we observe Veterans Day or on Memorial Day, but always.

According to the web-based research site, Statista, in a time when many American institutions have lost public confidence, “the United States military is one of the most trusted institutions in the United States. Seventy-three percent of the public expressed confidence in it in 2016. This level of public support comes after heavy involvement of the U.S. military in a number of military campaigns in the Middle East. Part of the positive view the public has for the military is sourced from the sacrifices required of their countrymen and women in places like Iraq. At times this has included the ultimate sacrifice.”

Many of us have family members who served. My own great grandfather served in the Union Navy, a great uncle saw action in New Bern, North Carolina as a Union artilleryman in the Civil War, an uncle enlisted and deployed in the Navy Sea Bees in World War II, and several cousins served during the Cold War and in Viet Nam. Like so many others of their day, they discharged their duty to America with honor! To all of their family and friends at home, they are our heroes.

In more recent times, I’ve seen other examples of heroism such as the young Marine officer who after serving in Afghanistan, came home to earn a graduate degree and serve as a legislative aide. His sense of service inspired him to give up a partial disability rating to return to the Marine Corps Reserve where he has inspired countless youth through the USMC summer leadership programs.

There’s also a recent West Point graduate who was denied a commission at graduation for medical reasons who has fought to overcome those health concerns to receive his well-earned Army officer’s commission. He could have taken his world-class education and honorable discharge on a successful trajectory into a highly successful civilian career, but his commitment to duty, honor and country are more important to him.

Then, there’s the young Marine of Hispanic descent who, after serving as an enlisted member of the Corps, went to college and became an officer. After deployment to Afghanistan, he was selected for duty as White House liaison for the Secretary of the Navy, and is now attending the Naval Postgraduate School to attain a second graduate degree before his next assignment.

Even though the percentage of Americans now serving, or who have served, is relatively small in these days of all-volunteer military, most of us can cite similar examples of courage and sacrifice in our communities, or even in among our families or friends. One day they will all join the ranks of America’s veterans, and they will continue to deserve our respect and support.

In the closing days of America’s Civil War, Abraham Lincoln called on his fellow Americans “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” These words which are now inscribed on the Veterans Administration building in Washington apply, not only to war veterans from 1865 but to all veterans down through the years as the continuing policy of a grateful nation.

With the increased ability of medical science to save the lives of wounded soldiers on the battlefield, we see more young service men and women returning with physical and psychological disabilities. Too often, these wounds of war have resulted in joblessness, homelessness, depression, addiction and suicide. Our national gratitude and respect must be generous enough to provide significant levels of care and support for every veteran. They deserve a Veterans Administration that truly cares for them and their families.

Every American who did not, or could not, serve in the armed forces has a solemn obligation to affirmatively answer Lincoln’s call to support those who now serve and the veterans who’ve come home. If we fail in that responsibility, we could well suffer the fate of earlier democracies as described in a quote attributed to historian Edward Gibbon who wrote: “When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”


Author: Richard T. Moore has served in both elective and appointed public office at local, state, and federal levels of government. He served for nearly two decades each in the Massachusetts House and Senate, as well as being chosen as President of the National Conference of State Legislatures. He also served in Washington, DC as Associate Director of FEMA in the Clinton Administration and as a Presidential Elector in 1992. A former college administrator and adjunct assistant professor of government at Bentley University and Bridgewater State University, Mr. Moore is a long-time member of ASPA serving terms as Massachusetts Chapter President and National Council member.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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