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Getting back to the ‘exceptional’ America

By Bill Connor

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” ¾ President Ronald Reagan


As I prepared to celebrate Independence Day 2022, I watched the most powerful and emotional interview I have ever witnessed.

On his 100th birthday, Fox 13 Tampa Bay interviewed U.S. Marine veteran, Carl Dekel, who was decked out in his Marine uniform adorned with his many medals for heroism and service, including the Silver Star he earned for gallantry during the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Dekel began the interview thanking God, saying, “Most important thing in my life was serving my country. If I had to do it again and I was the same age, I would do it.” What this war hero admitted next was unexpected, but such a profound, unforgettable truth: “Nowadays, I am so upset because the things we did, and the things we fought for, and the boys that died for it, it’s all gone down the drain. Our country is going to hell in a handbasket. We haven’t got the country we had when I was raised, not at all.” While he said these words, this tough Marine combat veteran broke down in tears. As a fellow combat veteran of a recent war, I had to hold back my own tears. Dekel passed his generational baton, and it’s time we dedicate ourselves to being the “exceptional” America he and so many others fought and died to protect. Let me explain.

The America Dekel served during World War II was Godly and free. It fought and won on two fronts, defeating Axis powers in both Europe and the Pacific, and rebuilt after the war. Dekel’s thanks to God, and his recognition of God’s providence over the nation was not limited to one person, party or a certain group of people. The Democratic Party was in full agreement with Republicans with respect to God, as Democratic President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s D-day pray to the nation shows. Roosevelt implored the nation to continuous faith and prayers and said in part:  “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity … O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee … With Thy blessing, we shall prevail … Thy will be done, Almighty God.” [] It’s important to recognize that preserving “our religion” was equal with preserving “our Republic.”

America has fallen substantially in religion since Dekel’s experience fighting during World War II. Until 1962 when it was banned, American schoolchildren experienced the blessings of school prayers. In 1963, the courts similarly ended Bible reading in school. Up until 1972, cadets at the military academies marched to chapel on Sunday, but that was also ended. Several decisions, both public and private, have thoroughly wiped religion from most aspects of American life and particularly from the military. Sadly, the military is now suffering greatly due to becoming less traditional. Military recruiting is in the worst crisis since the start of the all-volunteer military in 1973, and polling shows a major factor is the perception of the military going “woke.” For the first time in our history, many conservative Americans no longer support their children joining the military. A Reagan Institute Survey showed the percentage of Americans who “have a lot of confidence and trust in the military” dropped from 70 to 45 percent in the past three years. The reason for that fall was the catastrophic 35 percent loss of trust by conservatives. The Reagan Institute’s 2018 survey showed 87 percent of Republican respondents said they “had a great deal of confidence in the military” compared with only 53 percent by 2021.” []

A recent Fox News poll revealed the catastrophic plummet of national pride within the past decade. In June 2011, 69 percent of Americans claimed to be proud of their nation. That has now dropped to just 39 percent! Fifty-six percent of Americans now say they are not proud of their country! This has never happened and portends grave implications if we must mobilize again for war. []

My last overseas combat deployment in 2007-2008 gave me a unique perspective on this. I was in the Southern Region of Afghanistan and senior U.S. adviser for Afghan forces in Helmand Province. My advisory teams were co-located with other NATO partners. I noticed American troops stood out as exceptional in being much more likely to pray and attend religious services. Americans were more traditional with respect to sex/gender then. Also, Americans were more likely to use initiative in the absence of orders, which I related to American freedom. In just the past 15 years, so much of this has changed along with secularization, wokeness and demoralization in society and the military.

I pray more people will watch the video of this “Greatest Generation” hero and determine to regain what has been lost in America. Dekel did his job and passed us the generational baton. At our deployment ceremony going to Afghanistan in 2007, Lieutenant General Russell Honoré provided wisdom I will never forget about why fight: “A man has a duty to die free.” We have a duty to die in a free and in the Godly America bequeathed by men like Carl Dekel.

Bill Connor is a 1990 Citadel graduate, 30-year Army infantry colonel (ret.) and combat veteran. He is a writer and attorney and lives in the Charleston area.


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