July 3, 2013 —
“These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
The great American patriot Thomas Paine wrote and published those words in December 1776 in a pamphlet entitled “The Crisis”.
The American colonies were more than a year into the revolution which started several months before the signing of the Declaration of Independence which we will celebrate again Thursday.
Paine was lamenting the fact that the colonies were not faring too well with militiamen fighting against British regulars.
General George Washington finally received help from the Continental Congress to recruit, train and equip soldiers who could carry the fight to the British.
As history tells us, the colonists eventually were victorious – thanks in large part to military and financial help from France, the continued harassment of the Redcoats all over the colonies by bands of loosely-organized freedom fighters and the weariness of British citizens in paying higher taxes to support a war across the ocean.
His description of the untrained volunteers as “summer soldiers” apparently was not intended as a compliment at the time.
He was concerned that the colonists could not really count on the rag-tag guerrilla fighters in the widening war against the experienced Brits.
Fortunately for this nation, his assessment proved wrong and the tradition of the citizen-soldier borne at Concord Bridge has served America well in the ensuing two centuries.
Some members of the National Guard unit in Olive Hill, now deployed to Afghanistan, previously served such a tour of duty.
Many other men and women of the Air and Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Marine Reserve have served multiple active duty combat tours since 9-11.
These reservists signed up for part-time service but the reality of today’s dangerous world is that they regularly leave their families, homes and jobs to go where they are needed.
Like the regulars, they put themselves in harm’s way constantly and are at risk of being killed or wounded.
If Thomas Paine were alive today, we believe he would readily acknowledge the “summer soldiers” he worried about long ago have become an indispensable part of the American military.
In our view, it is up to the rest of us to provide the “love and thanks” that Thomas Paine rightly said was owed to all who do their duty.