Patriot Day is so … patriotic. Maybe a bit too patriotic for Alaska Gov. Bill Walker.
Since 2001, Sept. 11 has been known as Patriot Day, designated first by Congress and President George W. Bush, then by President Barack Obama, and now by President Donald Trump.
Alaska governors also declared Sept. 11 Patriot Day, a day to remember the fallen, the heroes, and to honor the men and women who went to war after the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Many of them are in Afghanistan today in a war that has gone on a long, long time.
This year it’s Patriot Day all over America on Monday. Just not in the 49th State.
Gov. Walker has declared it “September 11 Commemoration Day,” a day where “we as Americans reflect on the importance to our nation of freedom, tolerance, patriotism, diversity, and respect for others, and are grateful for the rights and freedoms that we hold as Americans;”
This word play doesn’t happen by accident. Someone changed it from Patriot Day to Commemoration Day. Someone approved it. And the governor signed it. Did he know that he had taken patriotism out of Patriot Day? Of course he did.
The Walker Administration made a decision to remove not only the overriding concept of patriotism but to erase the emotional reaction Americans have to the horrific attack on our nation, the evil that incited it, and heroism that followed. Now it’s really just about community service.
On the day before our 425th Brigade left Alaska for Afghanistan, as it has done several times before since 9-11, Walker made no mention of the heroism and courage of our men and women in uniform.
Instead, the word “patriotism” was tucked in among politically correct verbiage that completely missed the point of the day: We were attacked. Innocents died. Our freedoms have been curtailed. Our men and women in uniform have fought, been injured, and many have died.
Instead, the Walker proclamation phoned it in with a nearly clinical nod to the most heinous attack on American soil — ever.
Even President Obama understood the meaning of Patriot Day, as evidenced by his eloquent 2015 proclamation:
On September 11, 2001, America experienced the worst terrorist attack in her history when nearly 3,000 men, women, and children were taken from us, leaving their families and our Nation with a void that can never be filled. But those who brought hate to our shores and smoke to our skies did not expect our country to emerge stronger, and our beacons of hope and freedom to shine brighter as a result. In the years since, we have stood strong as one people ‑‑ determined to further embolden our country’s character with acts of endurance and strength; rebuilding and resilience; renewal and progress. In remembrance of the innocent victims who lost their lives and in honor of the families they left behind, let us continue to answer these heinous acts by serving our communities, lifting the lives of our fellow citizens, and spreading the hope that others tried to dim that day.
The compassion that rose in the hearts and minds of the American people on September 11 still serves as the ultimate rebuke to the evil of those who attacked us. First responders who risked and gave their lives to rescue others demonstrated the unwavering heroism that defines our great Nation. Volunteers donated time, money, and blood to ensure wounds gave way to healing and recovery. Young people, raised until then in a time of peace, stepped forward to serve and defend us, and meet the threats of our time. And people from across our country and the world joined together in the days that followed to stand up and turn toward one another with open arms, making of a tragedy something the terrorists could never abide ‑‑ a tribute of hope over fear, and love over hate.
As we reflect on the lives we lost and pay tribute to the families who still live with extraordinary pain, let us resolve to continue embodying the American spirit that no act of terror can ever extinguish. I call on all Americans to observe this National Day of Service and Remembrance with acts of selflessness and charity. In doing so, we prove once again that the power of those who seek to harm and to destroy is never greater than our power to persevere and to build. I encourage everyone to visit www.Serve.gov to learn of the many opportunities available to give back to others and to reaffirm the fundamental truth that we are our brothers’ and our sisters’ keepers, and that we can forge a brighter future together.
Today, we continue our unfaltering march forward, enduring in the perennial optimism that drives us and brightening the light that the darkness of evil can never overcome. We remember and yearn for the presence of the beautiful lives lost, and we recommit to honoring their memories by shaping the days to come ‑‑ in as stark a contrast as possible to those who took them from us ‑‑ with courage, liberty, and love…
The words of President Donald Trump’s Patriot Day proclamation are equally moving, and include this passage:
On Patriot Day, we honor the nearly 3,000 innocent lives taken from us on September 11, 2001, and all of those who so nobly aided their fellow citizens in America’s time of need. We rededicate ourselves to the ideals that define our country and unite us as one, as we commemorate all the heroes who lost their lives saving others.
September 11, 2001, will forever be one of the most tragic days in American history. Through the unimaginable despair, however, ordinary Americans etched into our history remarkable illustrations of bravery, of sacrifice for one another, and of dedication to our shared values. The shock from the indelible images of the smoke rising from the World Trade Center and Pentagon gave way to countless inspiring videos of co-workers helping one another to safety; of heroes running into collapsing buildings to save the innocent people trapped within; and to the unforgettable story of the patriots who charged the cockpit of Flight 93 to save untold numbers of lives. These heroes moved us with their bravery. They make us proud to be Americans.
THE 4-25TH DEPLOYS
Not mentioned by Gov. Walker’s proclamation was any recognition that this week, more than 2,000 Alaska-based soldiers are deploying to Afghanistan from the U.S. Army Alaska’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at JBER.
That is nearly double what was anticipated to be deployed just a few months ago. Spartan Brigade personnel will be assisting the Afghanistan Security Forces. The unit has not been sent to Afghanistan since 2011-12. Each one of those soldiers has a family who worries.
During a deployment ceremony on Friday, Sen. Dan Sullivan spoke to the troops in the most heartfelt terms:
“There was nothing — and I mean nothing — that was going to keep me away from attending this deployment ceremony of the 425.
“I am so proud of this unit. Each one of you has done what less than 1 percent of all Americans do, and that is raise your right hand voluntarily to support and defend the Constitution and protect your fellow Americans, and we cannot thank you enough.”
“We all know that the best units get the toughest missions,” Sullivan continued, acknowledging to the troops that he knew they were going into harm’s way, and reciting the words of Winston Churchill, who said, “We at home sleep safely at night because rough men stand ready to visit violence on those who would harm us. Thank you for being those rough men and rough women, which every free society needs.”
Sen. Sullivan had been full-time Marine before returning to Alaska and was in the Marine Reserves when the nation was attacked on 9-11. He returned to Washington D.C. to work at the White House on national security issues.
For Sen. Sullivan’s service, as well as the service of hundreds of thousands of other Americans, our Governor is recognizing them by watering down the importance of Patriot Day with a new, politically correct name.