In July 1863, men on both sides prayed for victory but mostly for mercy should the next day be theirs to enter paradise. They prayed unabashedly to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and ended their prayers in Christ’s name. Politicians and generals were still doing that through World War II, the last war we clearly won. Since living up north, every year about now my mind has traveled back to Little Round Top where, on July 2, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s 20th Maine Volunteers turned back several rebel surges. Had my great, great grandpa gotten up there to rain artillery on the Union flank, I might well have been teaching in Pennsylvania on a work visa. I’m glad the 20th Maine stood fast. A day and 108 years after Pickett’s Charge, I celebrated the Fourth of July at an air show put on by the US Air Force fighter wing at Udorn Air Base, Thailand. I watched with other American servicemen and women from Alabama and New York, Mississippi and Iowa, Ohio and Florida, some black, some white, and some brown like my best friend, Rich Gonzalez from Mexico City via San Diego, California. 42 years makes for a paid up mortgage on a life lived as a free American. Hopefully my children and grandchildren will remain as free and it will be thanks to the over 1,000,000 Americans who made that possible, including the half of them slaughtered in our nation’s biggest political blunder.
I watched a movie the other night; a chick flick with a poignant message wrapped up in two lines. “Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, then it’s not yet the end.” It really depends on who is in charge at the end.
Earl Tilford is a retired Air Force officer and college professor who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He is the author of several books on the air war in Vietnam. His latest book, Turning the Tide: The University of Alabama in the 1960s has been accepted for publication by the University of Alabama Press.