My take on patriotism

Published 10:14 am Thursday, April 9, 2009

My grandfather served in the United States Navy.

He served during World War II and fought for the freedom we all enjoy today. He didn’t shirk his responsibility.

I’m proud of the heritage of having a member of my family who fought and risked his life for my mother, my grandmother and the rest of this country in a time when we had no choice but to fight. He went overseas, did his duty and returned home – thankfully – to raise my mother and spend his life with my grandmother.

My grandfather never once thought he deserved special treatment because of the service he gave. He simply saw it as his duty. I don’t think he ever joined veterans groups and I’m certain he never marched in a parade.

We never heard old war stories. He didn’t like to talk about what he had to do or why. Sometimes I wish I knew at least a little of what he went through, but he never felt it was necessary for us to know.

He told us many stories – all kinds of made-up adventures of bears, wolves and lions that ravaged the woods behind his house – as we took our walks that served the dual purpose of giving him time with his grandchildren and my mother and grandmother time alone.

All of that said, I do not believe my grandfather would tell the people of Gates County and Hertford County that it was their patriotic duty to accept an Outlying Landing Field in their community. I’m sure he wouldn’t.

He fought and so did many, many others to ensure that we were free to decide what we do and don’t want to live within our communities. He was willing to give his life for the freedom we enjoy.

I’ve read with some disdain the comments posted on our website ( by those who would make it seem that those opposed to the OLF are unpatriotic. They want to push the people of Gates County into accepting something because the military says it is needed.

That simply isn’t true. We want what our military is supposed to provide – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We love the people who serve and we support our military – definitely and specifically including the U.S. Navy – but we have every right to oppose something we do not believe is just.

People have a right – no a responsibility – to fight for what they believe is fair and just. The OLF coming to Gates County is neither.

To add to that, I have a problem with the overall concept.

I don’t like being told when I’m being patriotic and when I’m not. It really is a pet peeve of mine. Patriotism to me is loving this country and doing so enough not to want it to become a dictatorship run by the president or Congress or the U.S. military. It is about loving the freedom, those who gave to us and those who continue to provide it, but still having my own opinion and my own right to disagree.

It is not necessary to always agree that our leaders are in the right to be patriotic. Many of us who believe the invasion of Iraq was wrong (and I always have) do so for the most patriotic of reasons – loving our country and wanting it to live up to the standards our forefathers set.

So, I , the grandson of a Navy veteran, will continue to oppose the Outlying Landing Field in Gates County. I will do so because I believe it violates the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness our constitution desires for us all.

I’ll thank you to believe what you like and let me do the same.

Thadd White is Staff Writer and Sports Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached via email ( or by telephone at 332-7211.