Congressman Brad Wenstrup
Congressman Brad Wenstrup
By Congressman Brad Wenstrup
R-Second District

As we begin the New Year, many of us have taken time to ponder the events of the year behind us – the terrorism searing our TV screens, the turmoil abroad, the bitter divisions here at home.

With a tumultuous election behind us and a new administration ahead, the nation can feel like it is poised for positive change but also anxious with uncertainty. The stakes are high.

But when times are tough and mettle is tested, we can draw the courage to mend our flaws and forge ahead from the patriots who have gone before us.

As I reflect on this, my thoughts go back to the earliest American patriots, who fought hard against the most powerful nation in the world at the time to win their freedom.

Many of us imagine our country united after gaining our independence but in reality, the aftermath of the Revolution was a rocky time.

There was widespread disagreement over the most foundational aspects of our new government – such as the purpose of government or the meaning of individual rights. Distinguished statesmen and common patriots alike questioned the very existence of the new nation. The future was uncertain.

Throughout the turmoil of those early years, our Founders labored hard for this nation and out of their diligence, our bedrock beliefs were birthed: that power belongs with the people and that freedom is a God-given right.

As I marvel at our unique history, I also think about the American teenagers deploying to Europe during World War II – hugging their parents tight, many leaving the country and their hometowns for the first time.

I remember watching the TV show “Combat” as a boy with my dad, wide-eyed over the war between our American heroes and the Nazis of Germany. Even at a young age, I recognized these brave Americans were battling for something far bigger than themselves. They were fighting so that current and future generations – most of whom they would never meet – might be able to live and breathe free.

I think about Americans like Todd Beamer who was on his way to work on September 11, 2001, when the plane where he was a passenger was hijacked by terrorists.

While flying over Pennsylvania, understanding his future, he left a last “I love you” message for his wife and then said: “Let’s roll.” The selfless service of Todd and the others on that flight saved hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.

I think of Army Major John P. Pryor and the many like him serving in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. A talented and well-known trauma surgeon at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Pryor said goodbye to his wife and three children on 9/11 and headed straight to Ground Zero to provide care.

Moved by what he saw, he joined the Army Reserves and deployed to Iraq as a combat surgeon. John was killed on Christmas Day in 2008, when a mortar round struck near his living quarters in Mosul, Iraq.

Why did all of these patriots throughout our history fight, serve, and sacrifice for this country?

Why, when destiny called and they stared death straight in the face, were they willing to lay down their lives? The answer is a simple one, but it is profound.

These men and women put service above self simply because they believed America was worth it. They understood that this nation is exceptional, and our grand experiment of government of the people, by the people, for the people must not perish from the earth. They believed in the principles of individual liberty and justice for all. They knew, better than anyone else, that freedom costs blood, sweat, and tears – and they were willing to pay the price.

That’s why we press on today. Because this country is worth fighting for on the frontlines as well as in our communities and in the halls of Congress. The idea that the strength of our nation is found in individual freedom is one that must be diligently protected in our city halls as well as on the House floor.

If we want to be able to pass this legacy on to our children and grandchildren, we have to wake up every day, roll up our sleeves, and get back in the fight. There’s much to be done this year, and we each have a role to play.

At times, the battle may be an uphill one. There will be challenges ahead and we will need all the grit, guts and determination we can muster.

But I enter 2017 with hope. Because of the simple truth, on which brave patriots throughout our history have willingly staked their lives: America was worth the fight then – and it is worth the fight now.