Heavy hearts reflect the spirit of the emotions that surrounded me in the recent days. For those of you reading elsewhere, my home is near Chattanooga. That is the big town we head to for shopping, films, concerts and other activities. It isn’t unusual for my friends and I to drive down the streets, which became part of the national news of late.
It was there in two area military facilities that our country lost five men serving us in the Marines and the Navy when a young man who was raised up in one of our Chattanooga suburbs took a weapon and decided to mount an attack on the United States of America. His actions forever changed the lives of the families and friends of five unarmed servicemen.
During the same week, several folks in my hometown passed away. As we grieved their losses, we talked amongst ourselves as we were grappling with the changing face of a city nestled in the Appalachian Mountains that is now another site of American terrorism.
This is the city that my late mother came from the rural mountains to begin her working life at the age of 13 during World War II.
This is the city many of us go to for doctor and hospital visits. This is the city where many people from communities around the area drive to work or schools each and every day.
The talking heads and thousands on social media will continue to debate who is to blame; who did this; who didn’t do that; whose actions honored those American heroes and whose actions dishonored them.
Those servicemen are owed the greatest honors and esteem that we can give any man or woman who gives their life in service to our nation. They, as every fallen member of the military, are owed that by every man, woman and child who either through birth or naturalization say, “I am an American.” Every elected and appointed official of this nation owes them that. Their loved ones are owed our deepest and sincerest magnitude of comfort and support today and in all the days to come.
No matter what the ultimate investigations of the incident reveal about the man and his religious and/or terrorist organization connections, I know that had these men not been in the uniform of our country, they would have not been the targets.
It was the United States of America being shot at that day in a sleepy mountain city in the South.
It is not the first time that occurred but 150 years ago the United States was invading the Confederate States and soldiers and locals were defending their homes against the Northern aggression of an invading army.
Despite the recent media fervor about Southern symbols, our American forefathers gathered on the fields where they fought each other, shook hands, told stories, erected monuments to each other’s valor more than a century ago finishing one of Lincoln’s final goals – to bind up the wounds of the nation.
While millions were diverted in this current debate, we in our hills and hollers, were reminded that America cannot spin our wheels mired in topics settled by previous generations.
We need to keep our focus on dealing with the enemies at the gate. Those enemies take many forms – criminals that terrorize our cities; groups that prey upon our youth and siphon bright minds into ideologies of thought and action that destroy the family, our communities, and ultimately our country; and finally the evil of those leaders and followers who simply wish to destroy Americans, because we are who we are, and believe what we choose to believe.
Those are gifts among many given us by every person who ever wore a United States uniform.
You might have noticed, I have not mentioned any names within my comments. I do not wish to add to the infamy of the shooter or capitalize on the names of the fallen.
Please keep our extended community in your prayers and especially remember the families of our fallen Chattanooga heroes and the brave police, paramedics, and first responders of all types who came to the aid of the injured and helped protect others from harm.