I’ve been watching the Olympics, as time has allowed, these past two weeks. It is always a wonder to see these athletes perform on the world stage which the Olympics provide. I admit that I become something of an Olympics junkie during this two-week period every four years. I marvel at the discipline of the athletes who train their bodies to do things that leave me breathless.
Take, for instance, Michael Phelps. This six-foot four-inch swimming machine has re-written Olympic swimming. In the process he has become larger than his sport; larger than the Olympics; even larger then life. And he comes across as a very nice guy. His mother, frequently picked out of the crowd by a cameraman, is wonderfully expressive during her son’s record-setting swims. Phelps is the same guy who earned six gold medals in the 2004 Olympics. What is not mentioned very often is the fact that Michael gave up an opportunity to earn a seventh gold in those Olympics because he felt that a fellow swimmer was better at the relay swim than he was. He stepped aside for the good of the team. Now that’s refreshing!
And how cute is Shawn Johnson! This pint-sized gymnast is the picture of competitiveness. Her smile lights up the arena. But, man, can she perform! Her coach is a Chinese man born and raised in Beijing who later immigrated to the United States. How ironic is that! A young, precocious six year old walks into the gym of a recently arrived immigrant, and ten years later they arrive in Beijing, China to capture gold medals. What a great country we have!
Then you have Shawn’s fellow gymnast, Nastia Liukin, a young girl who was born in Russia. Her parents were both Russian athletes competing on the world circuit. Her father was an Olympian. They immigrated to the United States when Nastia was a little girl, settling in Texas. The grace and form of this girl is magical! She fairly floats through her routines, making the impossible look simple, representing the United States.
I could go on listing the various athletes and the varied stories that they each have and the means by which they arrived at the pinnacle of their sport. How about Phil Dalhausser? This six-foot nine-inch giant was born in Switzerland, moving to the U.S. as a boy with his parents. Being old school, his folks wanted him to get a job when he graduated from high school. He had been introduced to volleyball, which he initially derided as being a “girls game,” but accepted the challenge to try it. He loved it! When he started making money playing this game his parents decided maybe this wasn’t so bad after all. The whole family is now avid volleyball fans. He and his playing partner won gold yesterday.
Amidst all this competitiveness was a fawning, sycophantic media that couldn’t control themselves in support of these amazing U.S. athletes. The giddiness of these television broadcasters was amusing. The story of Phelps’ attempt to earn an unprecedented eight gold medals was the story of the Olympics. Everyone wanted to interview this phenomenal athlete. They could not contain their glee! Everything was about the American athletes. You could hardly accuse them of being unbiased.
Pardon me for noticing, but aren’t these the same TV personalities and media types who wouldn’t dare compromise their standing as news people by showing a bias for American forces in Afghanistan or Iraq? Or choosing not to wear an American flag pin because it would compromise their so called objectivity? Or show support for our military that is engaged in a war to protect our freedoms? I’ve read that some national broadcasting company’s have passed policy that even forbids their employees, particularly on-air personalities, from wearing the American flag pin.
I’m thrilled and proud of our American athletes. I’m impressed with their dedication to their sport. I love to watch them grab an American flag and drape it over their shoulders, or wave it high over their heads after winning their event. It’s beautiful! But I am more proud of our military young men and women who raise their right hand and pledge an oath to our nation: "I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."
These patriots then engage in a period of training that prepares them for war against the enemies of our nation. These are the men and women who voluntarily go into harms way; who help keep the wolf from the door; who protect us and our way of life so we can continue to enjoy our freedoms.
Who are these people that comprise our military? They are our sons and daughters who come from American homes all across this land. They are amazing! They put the importance of the nation’s security ahead of their own personal pursuits. They place on hold any future plans for a family, education, or career opportunities.
These are the ones who deserve our thanks and respect; who should have parades in their honor; yet who expect none of these things in return for their service to our country.
Hooray for them! And God bless America.