My dad, a lifelong Republican, was a B-17 pilot and POW in WWII. He was shot down over Berlin on his 12th mission. He was captured by the Nazis and was held as POW in Stalag Luft One. He didn’t know if he would survive and he didn’t know from day to day if the war would end. During the 9 months of his captivity, he lost 70 pounds. He was covered in lice and his feet were frozen. But one day, he awakened at dawn and stood up to listen. He could not believe his ears. He was hearing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem, being sung by prisoners, an act punishable by death. At first it was 100 voices, then a 1,000 voices and, soon 8,000 POWs were singing the American national anthem. That is how my dad knew WWII was over and that the Germans had abandoned post. He with other POWs were rescued and he came home to marry my mom and raise a family of six children, including me. He risked his life to protect American lives and to fight for the freedom of a country he loved.
As a junior high aged girl, I was asked to write an essay on how Thomas Jefferson was able to write the Declaration of Independence. Knowing how much my dad valued peace and freedom, I asked him what he thought. My dad sat down and began describing what he believed inspired Thomas Jefferson’s passion and compelling vision to write this influential and inspiring document. I can vividly remember writing down my dad’s words and ideas that day. He described qualities of courage, integrity, compassion, and most of all, the vision of creating a nation with liberty and justice for all, a country of democracy and respect for all people.
My dad served in WWII because he loved America. He fought for all Americans. He did not fight for just Republicans. He fought to preserve our freedom and to protect us from tyranny from foreign governments. He staked his life on it.
Today our country is in a crisis—a hot, divisive mess. If my dad were still alive, I wonder what he would say and think about the lack of compassion, unity, and patriotism. Like many of my Republican friends, I believe he probably would no longer recognize the party to which he ascribed all his life. Nor would he recognize the chaotic and horrific state of our country—the nation he was so proud of. All this week, while watching the Democratic National Convention, I have been moved to tears with hope that the soul of our country can be restored. For this to be done, we need a leader with a soul