Inauguration proves principles worth defending

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. O.G. Mannon
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
There are a few days in each lifetime that stand out as truly historic--the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11 are three that come immediately to mind from my own life. This past Tuesday, we were all privileged to witness another of these rare days. 

Whatever your political inclinations, Tuesday's presidential inauguration was remarkable. I wonder if our youngest Airmen really understand just how remarkable it was. To a 20-year-old, 1960 seems like a million years ago. 

But a lot of us more seasoned folks remember watching the civil rights movement of the 1960s as it happened--some from our living rooms, and some right outside our doors. Some of us witnessed the realities of segregation and Jim Crow in the towns and cities we grew up in--and some of us lived it firsthand. For us, the time when whole communities of people were prevented from exercising their full rights as citizens is not just something out of a history textbook--it's a living memory. 

So watching an African-American get sworn in as president is truly historic and remarkable. It's an amazing transformation to have witnessed in one lifetime. It says something great about our country that such a huge shift in culture, attitudes and law could happen in the space of one generation. It reminds us that while our nation has never been and will never be perfect, the principles it is built upon are noble and worth defending. 

As with our nation as a whole, the U.S. military has not always lived up to its ideals. Still, Tuesday would not have happened if not for our veterans. From the Revolution and the Civil War to World Wars I and II, military members have fought and died to uphold and defend the principles of freedom. From the 54th Massachusetts in the 1860s to the Tuskegee Airmen in the 1940s, African-Americans were among them, willing to die for the noble ideals of our nation even if they did not fully benefit from them. And though it was challenging, we can take pride in the fact that the integration of the Armed Forces in 1948 helped lay the foundation for the civil rights movement of the 1960s. 

Our military heritage is not without blemish, certainly. But there is a lot to be proud of and a lot we can learn from. 

For me personally, Tuesday made me even more proud than I already was to have spent the better part of my life serving my country. It is truly an honor and privilege to wear the uniform of the United States military.