William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Colony, was a remarkable leader who endured much from Europe to the coastal regions of North America.
Born in 1590 in a small farming town in England, he was only 1 year old when his father died, 4 when his grandparents took over his guardianship, 6 when his grandfather died and 7 when his mother died.
In 1620, at 30 years old, William and his wife, Dorothy, sold their house and joined the Mayflower expedition and sailed for America. Tragically, after enduring the difficult crossing of the Atlantic and while the ship was anchored at Cape Cod and the men were exploring on land, Dorothy fell overboard and drowned.
If that wasn't enough, William and the remaining Pilgrims had to face one of the harshest years of their lives, during which only half of them survived. Bradford himself got sick and wasn't expected to live, but he recovered.
In 1621, William was elected to be the second governor of Plymouth, and he was re-elected nearly every year thereafter.
One thing that has made America great is its long lineage of valiant leaders in every generation. These are the type of men and women about whom our sixth president, John Quincy Adams, said, "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
One more extraordinary example of that type of leadership can be found in my friend and the new commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James Amos.
In 2007, I visited our troops at 15 bases in Iraq with then-three-star Lt. Gen. Amos and four-star Gen. Bob Magnus.
After being recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates in June and endorsed by President Barack Obama in July, he was appointed on Oct. 22, which my wife, Gena, and I (among many others around the world) were thrilled to hear.
According to The Washington Post, military officials say Amos is an innovative thinker about future combat and a passionate advocate for finding additional resources to treat Marines diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. To boot, Amos is a man of great faith in God. And he's now the first Marine commandant with a background as a naval aviator. (In choosing Amos, Gates passed over Gen. James N. Mattis, who is one of the military's best minds regarding waging war on insurgents.)
Before Amos was selected as head of the Marine Corps, however, he weathered a rather unique vetting period. Amos' poise and leadership was vividly on display for the country and the world to see when he was grilled by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee for an hour in a hearing in which the questioning was almost exclusively about gays in the military.
Amos was again on the hot seat when he spoke recently with reporters during a Southern California visit to mark the Marines' 235th birthday. With American troops on the battlegrounds in Afghanistan and still deployed in Iraq, Amos said now is not the time to overturn the "don't ask, don't tell" policy prohibiting gays from openly serving in the military.
Amos explained: "This is not a social thing. This is combat effectiveness. ... There's risk involved. I'm trying to determine how to measure that risk. ... There is nothing more intimate than young men and young women -- and when you talk of infantry, we're talking our young men -- laying out, sleeping alongside of one another and sharing death, fear and loss of brothers. I don't know what the effect of that will be on cohesion. I mean, that's what we're looking at. It's unit cohesion; it's combat effectiveness."
I applaud Amos for caring more for the troops than for being politically correct. He deserves the accolades of military personnel and all citizens alike. Americans should feel proud and safer to have him serving as the commandant of the Marine Corps. If we had more leaders like him in this world, we wouldn't be in half the hurt that we are. In fact, as an Air Force vet and honorary Marine, I say with millions of others, "Ooh-rah!"
I know you'll join me in giving thanks this Thanksgiving for leaders like Amos and all the rest of our service members around the world. It is their service and sacrifice that allow us the freedom to enjoy the peace and prosperity of our festive turkey day.
Lastly, with gratefulness in our hearts, I encourage and challenge Americans everywhere to heed the call of William Bradford, who admonished: "Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience. Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings."
(Please make sure to support our military personnel this holiday season by sending some form of encouragement to our troops, whether it be participating in a Christmas care package through Give2TheTroops -- the deadline for which is Dec. 1 -- or a word of encouragement by sending a free Christmas card via Let's Say Thanks.)