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Brother Courtney – the true patriot

Thomas Reagan | Monday, March 23, 2009

To Whom It May Concern:

More often than not, we as citizens of an ever-changing society tend to lose sight of things that we value most – things that we shaped our beliefs and founded our culture upon.

Upon my arrival to college, I joined the United States Air Force ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps). For those of you unfamiliar with the program, college students who become Cadets or Midshipmen take courses, attend leadership training and participate in physical training, all with the intention of graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree and earning a commission as an officer in one of the various branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Now to say the least, my mom was pretty apprehensive of me becoming a Cadet. The thought of me being shipped off to war upon completion of college is something that was, and remains unsettling for her. But although I understand my mother’s concern, to me there was not an option when it came to this decision. It was a duty.

Something I have to explain is the reason for my mother’s apprehension. She knows firsthand the strains of both growing up in and marrying into a military family. It is stressful, constantly changing or relocating, and at times can undergo debilitating tragedy. Five generations of my family have served the United States as members of the Armed Forces, in almost every major conflict in the last century and into the new millennium. If you know me personally, you know about my family’s background. You also know that I bring that background up whenever I get a chance. My heritage is something that I take extreme pride in, despite the hard time I sometimes receive for carrying on about it. Shut me up about it – not a chance.

Getting back to the original intention for this note …

This weekend I had the distinct honor of laying to rest a true American Patriot, Brother Edward Courtney C.S.C. In 1941 Brother Courtney joined the U.S. Army and served in five campaigns in North Africa and Europe during World War II, including the storming of Omaha Beach at the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, on June 6, 1944. Upon his return stateside, Courtney joined the Brothers of Holy Cross. A very proud American, Courtney was a well-known advocate against the desecration of the American flag, petitioning the government to add an amendment to the constitution outlawing the practice. From 1989, up until he was physically incapable of doing so, Brother Courtney would sit on State Road 933, the major road dividing Holy Cross and Saint Mary’s from Notre Dame, with a large American Flag by his side waving to cars as they drove by. This silent protest became well known in our community, helping Courtney to become widely supported in his endeavor. Although the Constitution was not amended according to his wishes, Brother Courtney’s efforts were honored when a flag pole was erected at his spot on 933 by a reserve Marine Platoon upon their return from a deployment to Iraq. Needless to say, he was speechless.

Simply put, the point I wish to convey to you is this: Our country is divided in many ways: Democrats, Republicans, the rich, the poor, hundreds of different races and religions. Some families have been here since before the Revolutionary War, some got off a plane yesterday. Either way, we have gathered as citizens of what is in my opinion the greatest nation in the world, to seek freedom and opportunity – to seek a better existence. Throughout our country’s 233 year existence, a select few have stood up to defend what we have worked so hard to achieve. These elite few have fought, bled and died for an idea. Often going unnoticed and unnamed, these few have sacrificed everything so that you, the citizen, could wake up in the morning to get your coffee and newspaper, and begin your litany of complaints about our government, the economy, the war, and anything else that happens to grind your gears at that present moment. Meanwhile, they have not complained, they have not bickered, they have taken up their post and asked, “Yes Sir, is there anything else I can do or will that be all?”

In writing this, I do not wish to impose my ideas or beliefs on you. I only hope that you will remember how many have sacrificed everything so that you may live, so that you can have your own opinion, your freedom. I am not asking you to change your political views; I am not asking you to go sign up for military service. I simply hope you will remember what they have done, and what they continue to do. They do not complain about Government Officials or question orders, they sacrifice everything for you. They give you the opportunity to live the privileged life of an American.

So I challenge you, Notre Dame, Holy Cross, Saint Mary’s: next time you see a veteran, thank them. When you sit in class next to someone in ROTC thank them too. Next time you stop by the Grotto, light a candle, and ask Our Lady to watch over those who are protecting you – even if they happen to be half way around the world. Remember what they do so that you may live, but most importantly – never forget.

To Brother Courtney: here’s a nickel on the grass to you, my friend, and your spirit, enthusiasm, sacrifice and courage – but most of all to your friendship. Yours is a dying breed and when you are gone, the world will be a lesser place.

Thomas Reagan is a sophomore majoring in political science. He can be contacted at treagan@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not

necessarily those of The Observer.