Sustainable Freedom

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I would not be able to be here, to opine on cool green decisions and sustainable behaviors, had others not fought to preserve my freedom to do so.

That is my premise to conclude that our veterans of foreign wars are the most sustainable folks we have. It is precisely our freedom that allows us to choose to buy organic or products that can be ReUsed. It is the men and women of our military who sustain our community and way of life. And for that we should be eternally grateful.

The Freedom Committee of Orange County (FCOC) meets the second Wednesday of every month. To be in a room wth more than 100 heroes is a special moment. The goal of the FCOC is to be an adjunct for educators’ programs by bringing “Living History” into the classroom. Not only have these men and women given so much, they continue to transfer their firsthand experiences to our youth.

Master Chief Petty Officer Jack Hammett.

Jack Hammett leads the group in “passing the torch of liberty on to future generations.” Hammett is a Navy man, Pearl Harbor survivor, D-Day participant and a veteran of the Korean Conflict. Hammett has a large sports complex in Costa Mesa named after him, so dads like me will be able to tell their kids who Jack Hammett was, and what he did for our community to sustain our way of life.

As master of ceremonies, he is as agile and sharp as anyone half his age. It was important to Hammett to have all, over 100 in attendance, be recognized. “Name, rank and horsepower only,” leads Hammett.

And so they did. Each rising to share – as each rose to prior occasions when called upon. All the stories from history books were represented. All military branches, all ranks, all the fabled campaigns. All present in a room. Some were neighbors. I learned my pastor is a veteran of Desert Storm. There was a cadet from West Point. There was a living history.

Then a special presentation by Col. Edison W. Miller, USMC (Ret.). Miller shared his experience in the humble manner influenced by being an orphan and growing up on a farm. He was a bit of a maverick, with scuffles with MPs and challenging conventional wisdom. While in the National Security Agency, he was able to learn that the Russians would fly a blockade in Cuba. Not with any super secret sleuthing, but by picking up the phone and calling an agency in New York to obtain public information that Russians had filed flight plans in the Cuba region, increasing shortly. “9/11 should never have happened,” shares Miller as he bows his head in a sorrowful gesture.

Col. Edison W. Miller

In Vietnam, he was a Forward Air Controller. Although his missions typically lasted only an hour, FACs ensured safety of friendly troops by guiding close air support. At Miller’s suggestions, extra fuel tanks were removed, bombs and Gatling guns added so FACs could also take the fight to the enemy. After all, he is a Marine. OH-RAH to you, sir.

While flying mission number 70 over North Vietnam, Miller hit a target rich environment. Miller was attempting to do a “no-no” – go back for a second run – when the plane he was flying was struck. When he entered the plane he was six-foot-three. Ejecting, he crushed two vertebrae, a 12 panel parachute yielded only four functioning panels. Landing among 12 Viet Cong’s with rifles targeting him, he broke his ankle. Now six-foot-one, he was marched a great distance to the Hanoi Hilton for a stay of five years, four months. Miller was listed as Killed In Action.

He knew of his captors’ insecurities in pronouncing English words. A “Huh, what did you say?” strategy turned name, rank and serial number into a 45-minute interrogation. Starting at over 200 pounds, Miller lost more than half his body weight.

“Growing up on a farm, I never learned to complain,” humbly shares Miller. Yes, he was there with John McCain, heard him only briefly.

Can you imagine the kids at Corona del Mar High School, who participate in Living History events of the FCOC, receiving this firsthand experience? Think the kids will better remember the experience shared by a hero, or reading it from a book?

Perhaps this has inspired some to remember to thank to those in uniform and those veterans who served. These are those who protect our freedoms and who have sustained our way of life to provide us the liberty to define green choices as we see fit.

Please visit www.FC-OC.org for more information on individual speakers and opportunities for Living History in your school. Please make a donation.

Green thoughts? [email protected]

CdM Living History veteran luncheon speaker
WWII and Korea Conflict Navy veteran, Pearl Harbor survivor and Freedom Committee of Orange County founder Jack Hammett speaks to the crowd at the Living History Luncheon on March 15.

Click here for more photos of the event.

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