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The American Team

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The fifth 314th Airlift Wing goal is to "Represent our Air Force to our community, joint partners and allies," and as we reflect on our nation's 233nd birthday, I'd like to expound on the partnership between the military and our community, the American people. 

I've stated many times that we all need others to be successful and the strength of our military comes from the support of the American people, but these are not new concepts. Our Declaration of Independence closed with these solemn words, "And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance of the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." This was not a creed written for the Continental Army or the exclusive use of the armed forces, but a pledge by civilian representatives of the American people. 

Our war for independence was fought and won not solely by regulars and militia on the field of battle, but by the exertions of an entire people tethered to the cause of freedom and justice. And their exertions were many. Consider the fifty six signers of the declaration. Almost all suffered some form of deprivation because of their stand--some were captured and tortured, many had their homes and property burned, some lost sons killed or captured, and many died either bankrupt or in abject poverty. The fate of the American people and those they elected was directly linked to the soldiers of Valley Forge and Yorktown. 

Today the partnership between our military and the American people is often more distant. This is especially true when we consider that in World War II, 16 million Americans served in the armed forces out of a population of 120 million. Almost everyone had an immediate family member or neighbor in uniform or lived near one of thousands of bases. The American people had a direct connection with our military which is gradually receding with the passing of the World War II, Korea and even Vietnam generations. Today less than 1 percent of the population serves in the armed forces out of population of 310 million, and we have consolidated into fewer, more centralized bases. 

These facts are not bad in and of themselves--we have become more effective and are able to defend our nation with a smaller portion of our population--but they threaten to undermine the ultimate strength of our military which emanates from the American people. The direct connections are fewer, and the importance of building and cultivating relationships with our community has increased. The commitment to be ambassadors of the USAF and our armed forces is a responsibility we must embrace and it is not based on numbers, but on something far more valuable--relationships with those we serve. 

It is an honor to be associated with the patriots of central Arkansas who love and support our Airmen and their families. It takes all of us working together to be successful in the defense of our country. May the pledge of our forefathers continue to be a light to all who love freedom.