In uniform

Terrorist attacks a call from destiny

By Paul Evans

Although hard to believe, it's been a year since we were attacked.

So much has changed since last September that in many respects the upcoming anniversary is surreal.

Last year at this time, I was getting ready to come home from Kuwait.

Excited to be homeward bound, I was looking forward to working on community projects, taking a small vacation with my wife Karen and preparing curriculum for a year-long stint at Western Oregon University.

None of that happened. Instead, we were attacked. My Guard unit was mobilized and I was sent away.

The murder of our countrymen last fall forever changed our world.

Even though some in the worldwide press have recently suggested that our losses were relatively "small" in statistical terms, the attack changed the geopolitical landscape.

I will not debate the "relative scale" but instead suggest that statistics alone cannot explain the real societal impact because America is still a family.

We share our grief.

America itself was attacked by an unwarranted, cowardly act of violence. America will exact justice.

At this moment, we are engaged in something larger than our capacity to understand. We are fighting a war that will define how we live for generations. For good or ill, this is our moment.

Since 1776, we have told the world that our republic can defend freedom while simultaneously enjoying its blessings, that a free society can protect itself without giving up liberty.

This is not an easy task, but it is ours to complete.

Our nation will win this war if we remain committed to freedom -- its practice as well as it protection. This requires sacrifice on the part of every single American.

Our nation will only succeed when citizens seek out individual opportunities for service.

Some will wear a uniform, others will work with youth, the elderly or those in need. Whatever the means, we must sustain our liberty through labor.

A week or so ago, thousands of guardsmen were notified that our one-year tour will be extended to two. For many of us, this will be difficult. Our families have already sacrificed more than most realize.

Yet, while we do not know what this next year will bring, we do know that we have enemies both inside and outside our borders -- real enemies that seek to do our family, friends and neighborhoods harm.

We stand ready to continue serving because we know that "freedom is not free."

Soon it will be time to remember the victims of Sept. 11.

We will gather together, pray and consider where we are and where we must go.

It is my hope that people will seize this opportunity to renew a personal commitment to the idea that is America.

I ask that everyone who enjoys the benefits of living in this special place take time to reflect upon its cost. I ask that we come together and make our community strong through a million individual acts of service.

America is a great country.

We are not great because our military, our political influence, or our wealth.

We are great because of the latent spirit of a free society. We are great because of the promise of what we can do when we want it.

Ordinary people performed extraordinary feats during the attack.

When needed strangers made the ultimate sacrifice for people they would never know. This we cannot, must not, forget.

During the memorial services, we will remember the "heroes" of 2001.

It is important for us to remember their bravery as well as their compassion.

But it is also important to remember the words of former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall: "Heroes are not giant statues framed against a red sky, they are people that say this is my community; it is my responsibility to make it better."

This year will be at least as challenging as last.

The forces of hatred are at war with the human spirit. We are engaged in a global conflict with cloaked enemies.

Our freedom is at risk. Our nation is in need.

Please seize the opportunity and work to make this community stronger.

We need heroes. We need citizens to divide the load and carry the responsibility of freedom.

Each of us must answer the call.

(Paul Evans is the mayor of Monmouth and is currently on active duty with the Air National Guard.)


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