Why I Love AmericaCongressman Allen B. West
This past week, Angela and I moved into a new home in Garland, Texas, and we ain’t moving anymore. My wife of 29 years and I paused to look out the expanse that is our backyard. We are so very blessed. However, all we hear about today is redistributing prosperity, blessings from others. There are some even touting reparations for slavery – abject folly. As a proud American black man, I am offended by this soft bigotry of low expectations. Today, we hear more people talking about what is wrong with America, or why some even hate this great country. It seems to be more popular to voice and express sentiments of angst against America or take a knee at the playing of our National Anthem, than to share your affections for the “land of the free.”
First, we must stop thinking of America as a geographic piece of territory. Yes, we are these United States of America, and we do have a sovereign nation that should be protected and secured, but America is far more than just borders, boundaries, and a grand expanse of land. America is an ideal.
My wife Angela and I just moved into our fifth home. Our first house was a small little place we bought in Manhattan, Kansas after my return from Operation Desert Storm. It was there that our two daughters, Aubrey and Austen, were born, and it was their first home. Our second home was in Fayetteville, North Carolina when I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, home of the Army Airborne and Special Operations Forces. Our third home, which we still own, is in Plantation, Florida. We moved there upon my retirement from the U.S. Army, a twenty-two-year career. Our house in Florida is where our girls grew up, graduated from High School and college. There are many great memories in that lovely space. Our fourth home came into our ownership four years ago when we came to Dallas, but as with all things, Angela decided she wanted something else. So, this past week, we move into a new home, which she is thrilled about, and it will be our final stop. Well, that is what Angela told me.
Why am I sharing this with you when I am supposed to be talking about why I love America?
Well, imagine a fella born in 1920 in Ozark, Alabama who would jump in the Chattahoochee river and grow up in South Georgia, Cuthbert, Randolph County. That man would go on to serve his nation in the U.S. Army during World War II and be wounded during his service. After returning, he would meet and marry a woman who was born in 1931 in Ft. Valley, Peach County, Georgia. They would eventually decide to move out of South Georgia and settle in Atlanta in 1959.
The man was my dad, Herman “Buck” West Sr., and the woman, my mom, Elizabeth Thomas “Snooks” West. It was in 1959 that my Dad bought our family home at 651 Kennesaw Avenue NE in Atlanta’s historic Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, the same neighborhood that gave the world Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Heck. I still remember our home telephone number, 404-874-2836. Young folks today probably never saw a dial phone.
Okay, now you’re probably getting bored and are asking yourself, why is it that I love America?
Here is the answer: because my dad and mom both did. At the age of fifteen, my dad, a simple U.S. Army Corporal from World War II, gave me “that talk” and a challenge. My older brother had been a US Marine Corps infantryman in Vietnam, also combat wounded at a place called Khe Sahn. It was on those steps, of the house that my dad had bought for $19,000 that he instilled in me a sense of pride and honor. Dad told me that there was no greater honor than to wear the uniform of the United States. He said that it was there you could prove and advance yourself regardless of the color of your skin, but by your own hard work and merit. He then challenged me to become the first commissioned military officer in our family. I took that challenge and enrolled in High School JROTC at Henry Grady HS in Atlanta. There, I was mentored by four great men, all combat veterans of Korea and Vietnam – LTC Pagonis, Major Heredia, Master Sergeant Buchanan (a Vietnam POW), and Sergeant First Class McMichael. Thanks to these men, I further learned about service, sacrifice, and commitment to something greater than myself. With their guidance and mentorship, I learned about leadership and became the Cadet Battalion Commander of our JROTC unit. And upon graduation in 1979, I was off to the University of Tennessee to officially earn my commission in the U.S. Army.
That day came on the 31st of July 1982. There, on my right shoulder, was Corporal Herman West Sr., and my mom was on my left. After I took that famed oath of service, which my dad and older brother had also taken, they pinned on my shoulders the gold bar of an Army Second Lieutenant. I still have that picture and will always cherish it. It was on that day that I committed myself to support, defend, and honor the ideals of America, enshrined in the Constitution of the United States of America. And, like my dad and older brother, the day would come when I would be asked to put my life on the line to fulfill that commitment, twice.
I love America because there are not too many places where a black man and woman from the South, born in the times of virulent segregation, could eventually achieve the American dream. My dad fought and served this country at a time when it did not afford him all its rights and privileges, yet he harbored no ill will. As a matter of fact, he was gracious, and knew the magnitude of success anyone can have if they only would commit themselves. It was a proud day for me when I saw my dad make the last mortgage payment on our house at 651 Kennesaw Avenue NE. His accomplishment and discipline inspired me to be a homeowner, and to provide the best for my own family.
Sadly, my dad died in 1986. He would never see me own a home. He would never see another of my promotions in the U.S. Army. He would never see his granddaughters, Aubrey and Austen. My mom died in 1994. She was there for my promotion to Captain at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma and visited me in Ft. Riley, Kansas when I was a young artillery commander. Mom was there at Aubrey’s birth, and she held her granddaughter as she was dying from liver cancer. Mom never got to be with Austen.
But from those two impeccable parents, I have sought to raise my wife and I’s daughters to love this special place called America. Aubrey has earned a Bachelors and Masters degree and will soon finish Physician Assistant School – her dream. Austen is about to complete her Bachelors degree. I love America because this is the place where preceding generations seek to provide greater for subsequent generations. That is how the legacy of the American dream will be forever sustained.
In closing, why do I love America? Tell me, where else in the world can a kid born in 1961 in a “Black’s only” hospital, Atlanta’s Hughes-Spalding, have the success that I and my wife Angela, a Jamaican legal immigrant, have experienced? Angela has a Bachelors, Masters, and PhD. I have my Bachelors and two Masters degrees. In 1961, when I was born, blacks could not swim at Ft. Lauderdale beach, nor go on Palm Beach Island. Fifty years later, the son of Buck and Snooks West was sworn in as the U.S. Congressional Representative for Ft. Lauderdale and Palm Beach Island.
The seminal idea of America is enabling individuals to be victors, not victims … and that is why I love America – and why y’all should as well.