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My uncle, John, who was a World War II Marine and fought in the South Pacific against the Japanese, was a proud first generation Italian American who passed away more than 10 years ago. His parents left their Sicilian homeland and arrived in New York in 1904 with very little in worldly goods; however, they had an abundance of faith in the American dream. Although his parents were from southern Europe, he was brought up to believe that the United States of America was a country worth fighting for. These new citizens knew that if they applied themselves they would be beneficiaries of the bounties that the U.S. offered. They were not disappointed, and my uncle, as a grateful participant in the American dream, joined the Marines to help fight a war against oppression that, if lost, would have made it impossible for our free society to exist.

Because of indecisiveness by our leaders, are we now in the process of losing our God-given rights? In the U.S., we are afforded the opportunity to express ourselves. I most certainly have. It is true that in some cases people have abused this right; however, the overall good of this country will not be served if we allowed our freedom of speech to be muted. In addition, I fervently believe that all citizens of the U.S., regardless of their own beliefs, do recognize that freedom of religion is of paramount importance to most Americans and their worship of God should be celebrated and not attacked. I believe Muslims, Jews and Christians do live in harmony in this country and, hopefully, their God-given rights will continue to be protected from all types of hateful incendiary provocations. To this end, I do believe our military is an important cog in ensuring that our freedom is protected from those who would enslave us.

The Marine Corp anthem is the oldest of all service songs. The first line of this song is: “From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli.” More than 100 years before my ancestors’ arrival, the world was plagued by pirates from North Africa who plundered European and American shipping. Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia: “In March 1785, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to negotiate with Tripoli’s envoy, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman (Or Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja). Upon inquiring ‘concerning the ground of the pretensions to make war upon nations who had done them no injury,’ the ambassador replied: ‘It is written in their Koran, that all nations which has not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every musselman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise. He said, also, that the man who was the first to board a vessel had one slave over and above his share, and that when they sprang to the deck of an enemy’s ship, every sailor held a dagger in each hand and a third in his mouth which usually struck such terrors into the foe that they cried out for quarter at once.’” Do these words that we quoted more than 200 years ago have a ring of authenticity in the Middle East today?

In 1805, our brave Marines in Tripoli, using justified force, secured our right to exist. For more than 200 years, our Marines have protected us from any other forms of tyranny so that we would be able to enjoy the individual freedoms that this great nation offered. Today, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, we continue to be in constant danger from those who do not respect the American tenets of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In Mexico, drug cartels continue to distribute their vermin across our borders, resulting in a gunfight that led to the death of a border patrolman. In the Middle East, our ambassador is killed, our flag burned and American embassies are being attacked. Our national leaders from both parties have screwed up our domestic policies, so what makes anyone think their foreign policy decisions are any better?

In 1785, future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson listened firsthand to the envoy from Tripoli and realized negotiations would not be fruitful. Today, our head-in-the-sand approach to foreign policy leads many to believe that past and present tragic events in the Middle East will continue. There are those who say our actions from the past contribute to the existing problems of today; however, we continue to offer our citizens the best vehicle for liberty that has ever been instituted. May God bless all the military men and women who serve us faithfully so that freedom is experienced by all our citizens. The world will not be a better place without the U.S. leading the way. For that, we should never apologize. After all, we are the people.

John Petralia, Sunderland