ALFIO NICOLOSI’S SON PAUL IS a captain in the 82nd Airborne Division. A handsome lad of twenty-nine, Paul is a graduate of Drexel University with a degree in engineering. He is planning to attend graduate school. Unquestionably, this intelligent, articulate fellow’s future is promising.
When I asked Alfio, himself a Vietnam veteran, about his son being sent overseas, he replied, "Freedom isn’t free. I could have no greater honor than for my son to serve my country."
Obviously, Paul acquired his sense of duty from his father. The Paul Nicolosis of our nation always serve. Just as their fathers served in Vietnam and their grandfathers served in World War II.
They do so because they understand what is necessary to keep the peace. They do so knowing that "freedom isn’t free." They do so because they value the American way of life.
Oftentimes, this country’s Paul Nicolosis are not the ones who reap huge rewards for faithfully and honorably serving their country. They do not work at jobs with six-figure incomes, nor will they ever earn such money. They will not be able to afford luxury SUVs or attend Ivy League universities.
Yet, they will serve their country and ensure that others can do those things because they believe in America.
Paul Nicolosi and his ilk will sacrifice their lives so Wall Street stockbrokers and dotcom millionaires will be able to earn their fortunes without apprehension. The 82nd Airborne Captain will serve so that the captain of industry can board a flight without trepidation, travel to another city, and sign a contract while dining at a fine restaurant (a restaurant where the 82nd Airborne Captain would have to spend a week’s pay to take his fiancée to dinner).
They serve and do not ask why. Oh, they hear the voices of the protestors. They know what some of their college-educated peers are saying: America is no good; America is imperialistic; America is responsible for terrorism. In return for such rhetoric, the Paul Nicolosis of this country knowingly smile to themselves. They understand that only in America would their intellectual peers be permitted to say such things. Moreover, they understand that they are risking, and in some cases giving, their lives to defend free speech, among other reasons.
And so, they will serve if called. The young man or woman who works in the mall today may be the next armed service member who saves our country from tyranny tomorrow.
Some weeks ago I watched on television as the flag that was flown amidst the rubble of Ground Zero by New York City firemen was transferred to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, to be flown by the ship.
I watched as the folded flag was passed from crewmember to crewmember, each saluting the red, white and blue as they did so (anyone who has witnessed a military funeral is familiar with the procedure). The Roosevelt crew treated the flag with reverence. How different their attitude is compared to some of their college-educated peers and their professors who tear or burn the flag purportedly for peace.
Is there any doubt which group of young people truly believe in peace and freedom? Is their any doubt who the altruists are?
In August of 1942, Eugene Goossens, the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony, requested Aaron Copland to compose a patriotic work for men serving in World War II. The result was Copland’s seminal work Fanfare for the Common Man.
The song is for all who serve in the armed forces. And when the job is done and the blessings of liberty and peace are secured for themselves and others, the Paul Nicolosis return to their lives the lives of the hoi polloi, unheralded for their contributions.