Commentary: The 'call of duty' sounds for many

If you asked our nation's youth about the meaning of "the call of duty," they would probably answer something about a video game or a blockbuster movie. Our veterans will assign a completely different meaning to the words "call of duty." To them, it means doing a job that needs to be done, specifically standing up for freedom.

Many men and women heard such a call during World War II. Some responded to the call of duty after hearing about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Others responded after learning of the atrocities occurring in Europe. One courageous man who answered the call of duty at that time was John F. Kennedy, who later became the 35th president of the United States.

Kennedy witnessed early German hostilities in Europe during WWII. When Kennedy returned home, he joined the Navy. Kennedy was greatly injured when his naval patrol torpedo boat was rammed by a Japanese destroyer. Despite his injury, he refused to surrender and led his fellow men to safety, personally towing one injured sailor for four miles.

His courage and commitment to freedom continued long after that war. In his inaugural address, Kennedy proclaimed, "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility — I welcome it."

Many of us may not be old enough to remember the day Germany invaded Poland or the day Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. We do, however, remember an attack on our own soil, an attack which claimed the lives of thousands of Americans in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

In the months and years following Sept. 11, 2001, many people, prompted by feelings of patriotism and a desire to create a safer community, answered a call of duty. For some, that call of duty prompted them to join our armed forces to actively fight for our freedom. Others answered the call by training to become firefighters and police officers, inspired by the heroism of all the emergency workers who risked their lives on that horrible day.

Every day, men and women in soldier, marine, sailor, airmen, police and firefighter uniforms answer the call of duty as they put themselves in harm's way to protect the freedom and lives of others. Just as many people made the ultimate sacrifice on Sept. 11, 2001, many of those who have responded to the call of duty after that day have also lost their lives.

As another anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States nears, I am again reminded and humbled by the acts of courage and sacrifice that are made daily by those people who put on a uniform and answer the call of duty. Kennedy's words continue to call to each of us: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

May we never forget, and may God bless all of you who answer the call of duty.

HEATHER GROW is a Huntington Beach resident.

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