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America’s First Real Life Superhero: George Washington

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 21, 2023 3:01 am

America’s First Real Life Superhero: George Washington

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 21, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, former Air Force Captain and Air Force OSI Special Agent Vince Benedetto shares his story of going to a school to teach students about why we honor our veterans. But to understand why, we have to understand who made our country possible in the first place....

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Take it away, Vince. Over the past several years, I've been invited to be the Veterans Day speaker at area public high schools and middle schools throughout Northeast Pennsylvania. As a graduate of the Air Force Academy and a former Air Force captain and OSI special agent, I'm frequently asked to speak at events honoring our military. However, speaking to teenagers is an altogether different and terrifying experience. During more typical speaking engagements, the audience are there to hear what I have to say specifically. Speaking at a high school, well, they have to be there.

Once thoughts immediately go to how to say things differently to them in a way that will connect, keep their attention and hopefully illuminate something that will contribute to their lives during their most formidable years. In my most recent remarks, I decided to go big to challenge the very notions, whatever they may be, of why they should even care at all about our veterans. Preceding my remarks and to set the mood, I asked that a short clip from Ronald Reagan's first inaugural address be played. It's the part where the newly sworn in president is essentially giving his audience a tour of the Washington Mall. He's pointing out the major monuments representing the giants from our history.

Standing here, one faces a magnificent vista at the end of this open mall are those shrines to the giants on whose shoulders we stand directly in front of me. A monument to a monumental man, George Washington, father of our country, a man of humility who came to greatness reluctantly. Those to Washington, to Jefferson, and to Lincoln. But shortly after, he turns his attention to those, quote, sloping hills just beyond, you know, to Arlington National Cemetery. With its row upon row of simple white markers bearing crosses or stars of David, they add up to only a tiny fraction of the price that has been paid for our freedom. From amongst those thousands upon thousands of white markers, he resurrects the story of Martin Treptow. Under one such marker lies a young man who left his job in a small town barbershop in 1917 to go to France with the famed Rainbow Division.

There on the Western Front, he was killed trying to carry a message between battalions under heavy artillery fire. On his person was found a diary under the words, my pledge. Martin had written these words, America must win this war. Therefore, I will work. I will save. I will sacrifice. I will endure.

I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost as if the issue of the whole struggle depended on me alone. Strikingly, during this tender moment of his remarks and in front of the whole world, Reagan's voice cracks. As he's fighting back tears during the telling of this remarkable young hero.

So upon the completion of this clip, the hundreds of teens in the audience are paying attention. Some even have some tears in their eyes, along with nearly all of the teachers in attendance. Now that I feel the mood has been said, it's my turn to begin my Veterans Day remarks, and I ask them some blunt questions that surprise them. I ask, why do we celebrate our military and our veterans? Why do you even care that I am a veteran?

And for that matter, why do we honor and celebrate Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day? I probed them for some audience participation and a few hands go up. Some of the students answer with, quote, they serve their country, quote, our military protects our freedom and freedom isn't free.

And I'm pleased with these responses, as they are all excellent answers to my questions. I then ask another question. I ask, who here has seen an American soldier in uniform?

Every hand in the room goes up, every single one. I ask, well, what did you feel when you saw those soldiers in uniform? And I kind of prod them to to shout out some answers and some some said pride, patriotism, safety.

I proceed with my line of questioning. So I say, who here has seen an American soldier and felt afraid? Not one hand goes up, but I prod them a little more. I say, no one. I mean, our soldiers are very powerful people. They are trained to fight.

They have guns. No one here has ever felt fear in their hearts upon seeing a uniform American soldier. And still not one hand was raised. And at that moment, I tell them, I said this. This is why we celebrate Veterans Day. This is why we celebrate our military in America. And I share with them that in much of the world, people do not celebrate their military. They fear it.

In much of the world, the military is viewed as a tool of the government to oppress them, not to serve them. I tell them that in order to understand all this, we need to have a short American history lesson. I ask them to imagine the world as it was on July 3rd, 1776.

At this time, everyone alive on the planet lived under some form of a dictatorship. But on July 4th, 1776, it all changed. Suddenly, Americans had declared their independence. More importantly, Americans had declared that they were free.

However, this still did not fully answer the question of why we do not fear our military in America. To understand this, I told them we would have to turn to a person who is often considered our first American soldier and a real life superhero. George Washington. To Washington in 1775, having been appointed as the commander in chief of the Continental Army, and I reminded them this is an army that for the most part didn't even exist at that moment, had the enormous task of building and leading a fighting force against the British Empire, the most powerful military force in the world at that time. As I began to share with them the story of General George Washington, on the screen behind me was an image of Washington's command flag during the American Revolution. As an early testament to his brilliant leadership instincts, the flag has 13 equally sized six-pointed white stars against the blue field. Washington well understood the parochial and rivalrous mindset of those who would now need to unite under seemingly impossible odds.

In the 18th century, most Americans never traveled outside of their city, let alone their state, I told them. His battle flag did not represent him. It represented them. As a soldier in this new army under this bold Virginian, as they marched into battle behind him, whether you were from a small state or one of the large states, you knew that one of those stars on his flag represented you and your home.

I asked these young kids, I said, to further try and imagine something else. To imagine that after the war, having won our independence, George Washington was now one of the most famous people in the world. Throughout not only Britain, but also the halls of Europe, it was assumed that Washington would now become a king in America.

This was just the way it always had been. The general of the victorious army becomes the new ruler. It was, of course, assumed by King George III, who reportedly believed that the Americans were merely changing, quote, one King George for another. The king, having learned that Washington was to resign his commission and return to his home at Mount Vernon, believed Washington was the greatest man in the world and the greatest character of the age.

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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we return to Our American Stories. When we last left off, Vince Benedetto was tasked with telling a group of school students why we respect and love our veterans here in this country. He mentioned that to understand why, we have to look back to who. And that's to George Washington.

Let's continue with the story. I then asked the students to travel with me in their minds to another moment and place in time in the final days of the Revolutionary War. To Newburgh, New York, 1783. The new nation was financially struggling and the Congress was unable to meet its payment obligations to the Continental Army. This was leading to severe unrest amongst the officers and soldiers. A plan was actually hatched among some high-ranking officers to use the military to take over or threaten the government until their demands were met.

However, one indispensable man would stand in their way. Learning of the growing plans within his army, Washington called for a meeting of his officers at their headquarters in Newburgh. Washington indicated that he would not himself be in attendance, essentially deferring to the commander below him. General Horatio Gates, therefore, started off the meeting, feeding into the growing frenzy for hostile action against the Congress. Suddenly, General Washington walked into the room and took command of the events in progress. Many of the officers had not seen the general for some time. They noticed that he had aged and the general then did something profound. He explained to them that this was the moment at the end of the war where their example was most important. Washington told them they were men of honor and this precious moment would require their greatest patriotism and virtue.

In essence, this was their ultimate test. Washington then assured them he was working on their behalf to resolve their grievances. He pulled a letter from Congress out of his vest. He began to read it to them, but his eyesight was failing him and he was struggling to see the letter. Perhaps sensing his officers noticed this moment of vulnerability, he paused.

He then reached into his pocket and pulled out his eyeglasses. The general then looked solemnly at his military family and said to them, Gentlemen, you must pardon me, for I have not only grown gray but almost blind in service to my country. By all accounts, at that very moment, the coup was over.

There were tears in the eyes of his officers. They loved their general and Washington, who himself had sacrificed so much and who at all times had placed the principles for which they fought above himself, was holding true. And his example at that moment became their example. Once again, Washington had saved the Revolution. Later that same year, Washington would do what the whole of the world doubted would ever have been done. On December 23, 1783, one of the greatest days in recorded history, General George Washington, the most popular and powerful person in the United States, resigned his commission before the Continental Congress and returned to his home at Mount Vernon. The world was stunned. This had not and does not happen.

Until now. Of course, this would not even be the last time Washington would willingly walk away from power. When he later went on to be our first president, the rulers of other nations again assumed he would serve until his death.

But once again, Washington defied the forces of history and of human nature, and after his second term, he stepped away and retired again to his beloved Mount Vernon. Sensing that the students were gaining a new respect for their history and the father of our country, I desired to make some final points about what underlines this sense of trust and love that Americans have for our veterans. I shared with them that every American who joins our armed forces takes an oath. Of course, taking an oath prior to joining a military is not all that special, but the oath we take to join the American military is very, very different. I explained to them that in our oath, our soldiers do something quite peculiar. We swear an oath not to the president or the government and not even to the country itself. We swear an oath to a certain thing, the Constitution. I pointed out the historical significance and beauty of swearing to, quote, support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Again, we as Americans sense and feel that our military is not to be feared, but loved. For they are a powerful force that represents our rights. As Americans, our sense that government serves the people and not the other way around is commonplace.

But I had to tell them throughout most of the world and throughout almost all of history, this was not the case. What we have here in America is quite miraculous. And all of this would not be if not for George Washington. It was George Washington who defied the way of things. It was George Washington who enabled the feeling that our military represents the entirety of the nation.

It was George Washington who started the tradition of the military being subservient to the people's elected civilian representatives. It was George Washington who had unwavering fidelity to representative government and our eventual constitutional order. It was George Washington who successfully was able to help the American people transfer their love and trust in him into faithfulness to our Constitution and its principles. It was George Washington who said, quote, the Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon. It was George Washington who, more than any other American, was able to get the people to begin to look beyond their parochial visions and to think continentally as a union. It was George Washington who showed us the virtue of the powerful being the servants of the people and not the other way around. Upon Washington's death, John Adams wrote, quote, his example is now complete and it will teach wisdom and virtue to magistrates, citizens and men not only in the present age, but in future generations as long as our history shall be read. It was always Washington. He was America's rock upon which our nation could be built. He is America's real life superhero. So why do we honor and celebrate our veterans and our military?

I pose this question to them again. We celebrate them because they have fought and stand ready to fight, not just to defend us here now, the living, but also for all future generations. They defend our important traditions and customs that must go on if individual liberty is to go on. We honor our veterans because they signed on the dotted line to defend with their very lives if necessary the idea that, as Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg address, government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth. And it is true that without America, the world would be a very, very dark place. Without the American soldier, without our veterans, civilization, at least civilizations we know it would have perished.

The light of individual liberty would have long since been extinguished. It has frequently been remarked, I told them, that the words of Thomas Jefferson would mean little without the sword of George Washington. Stated similarly, all of the words of liberty, freedom and American exceptionalism would not be without the heroes who defended it all.

And every person who joins the American armed forces takes that oath and they become part of the long, unbroken line of military service in America that began with George Washington to today. We can trace it all back to our real life superhero, George Washington. And a special thanks to Monty Montgomery for producing the piece, a Hillsdale graduate and a proud one. And a special thanks to Vince Benedetto who built the Hillsdale radio station.

And if you're ever in Central Michigan, visit Hillsdale College. You will be so impressed. The words of Thomas Jefferson would have meant little without the sword of George Washington.

And today we celebrate, as Vince put it, the long, unbroken line of civilian military service and heroism to defend freedom not just here but across the globe on Our American Stories. Welcome to Biggie Burger. I'll take a cheeseburger?

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-21 04:34:00 / 2023-02-21 04:42:35 / 9

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