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Reminders of What Makes the American Family Great

August 5, 2016

It is not the color of our skins or how we worship that makes us Americans. It is an abiding belief in this country of ours, what it stands for, and what we are willing to do, to sacrifice, in order to uphold its values and greatness that makes us true Americans. John F. Kennedy was one of many to point the way when he told us, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

We were reminded of this last week by a Muslim-American husband and wife, Khizr and Ghazala Khan whose son Humayun Khan, a US Army Captain, was killed in action protecting his soldiers in Iraq in 2004. They stood up against the suggestion that Muslims and Muslim-Americans are across the board not to be trusted to be honorable parts of the fabric that makes up our great nation. Their courage and their son’s courage exemplify what has always made America what it is – its people in all our diversity drawn from our various immigrant roots.

In my younger life I served for ten years in the US Navy including a year in Vietnam alongside soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. The ancestry of those men and women included a broad mix of DNA drawn from Europeans, Africans, various Hispanic mixtures including Mexicans, Polynesians, Japanese, Chinese, and a host of others. One of the finest sailors I ever met was a petty officer who hailed from a Syrian-Muslim enclave in Ohio.

My father-in-law, who as a paratrooper, was one of the true heroes of WWII. He fought in Italy, jumped into the southern invasion of France and saw some of the worst fighting of the Battle of the Bulge. In all of this his outfit included guys who were of a polyglot descent from every immigrant population that made it to America’s shores including Hispanics and Chinese. They were supported by and fought alongside American Nisei-Japanese artillerymen and black troops. And theirs was one of the most decorated and storied outfits of the war.

He taught me that one of the things all these men and women serving our country in both these wars had in common was that most often they bonded together in what can only be called a “family.” What they shared together was a deep respect and love for each other based on their willingness to serve, fight, bleed, and if necessary die for their country, our country, the USA.

Captain Humayun Khan became part of that tradition, that bond, that family. He did so because his parents before him had absorbed this love of America and passed it on to him. They were willing for their son to standup for our country, their country. And after he made the ultimate sacrifice for us, they stood up for America as well.

They remind us that it is all the individuals of our land working together in all our diversity that insures the strength of the great fabric of our nation – its people. Without all those people in all their colors and beliefs woven together, working together, sacrificing for each other and our great national family we are nothing.