Reflections of July 4th

  • Published
  • By Col. Mark Kelly
  • 4th Fighter Wong commander
Independence Day meant a lot to the great Airmen of the 4th Fighter Wing: family time, friends, fireworks and a well-deserved four-day weekend. 

In the bigger context, it was a celebration of 233 years of freedom. Among our freedoms, none is more important than the individual freedoms that ensure each Airman's dignity. I am sometimes asked about the specific duties of the different wing staff agencies that ensure individual dignity: the Chaplain Corps, and the offices of the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, Inspector General, Equal Opportunity and the Staff Judge Advocate. 

This support staff is imperative, and their calling to enforce individual rights is founded in our Declaration of Independence, influenced by the philosopher John Locke and penned by Thomas Jefferson. It states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

Enforcement of individual freedoms is not just a legal and moral obligation, it's our combat capability. Airmen can become combat-ineffective by several means to include being mentally or physically debilitated by combat or non-combat action. They can also be spiritually debilitated following any unchecked gender, religious, cultural or racial discrimination. 

Another question I have been asked recently regards our nation's commitment to the war in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, I do not know the specifics of "how long" or "exact conditions" which will precipitate our exit from Afghanistan. I do know that the Taliban and al-Qaeda elements we are fighting built a regime of intolerance to enslave a nation and then designed the attacks of 9/11. They see America's freedoms and the words of Thomas Jefferson as the greatest threat to their oppressive beliefs. They are intolerant of any religious freedom or any rights for women. And while the U.S. military went to Afghanistan in response to the attacks of 9/11, I believe we will see the mission through more so to allow the Afghan people to pursue their own liberty and help build the government institutions that can provide those individual unalienable rights. 

Taliban and al-Qaeda-led Afghanistan is not the first regime of intolerance the U.S. military has dealt with. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union oppressed their populations and those of neighboring countries with their own regimes of intolerance. Only after engagement by the U.S. military during World War II did France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, Austria and others reemerge as free societies. Only after the end of the U.S.-led Cold War did Poland, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary and others also become free. 

Opposition to intolerance and the defense of unalienable individual rights form the foundation of our nation. We have literally committed generations of our military in their defense. They also form the foundation of every Airman's dignity that all supervisor's are sworn to defend. The importance of that dignity should truly be self-evident.