Courage, Honor, Commitment

Honor, Courage, Commitment
in the eyes of a veteran, Chuck Red

Good morning, I am LCDR Select Chuck Red.  It is an honor to be able to stand before you this Veteran's Day and offer these words.  For any man or woman who has served in the Armed Forces, Veteran's Day offers the opportunity to reflect on his or her time of service, an opportunity to remember the first haircut or mystery meat that was served at the chow hall or galley.     

For some it's the opportunity to think back on certain events, memories that will not fade over the years.  I think back to my four years at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, Army-Navy football games, the sheer exhilaration of a Navy win and the heartbreak of a tough loss, late night studying for electrical engineering exams.  I think of the times that my buddies and I went polar bearing in the middle of the night in the icy Chesapeake Bay, months spent running and hiking in the hills and woods of Virginia in Marine Officer Candidate School.  I am reminded of the day that I first found out that I would be going to Navy Flight School, how nervous I was in my first flight in Pensacola Florida, the joy of being selected to fly F-14 Tomcats.  The wildest ride on any roller coaster could not match being in the cockpit of an F-14 being catapulted off the carrier, going from 0 to 160 miles per hour in a couple of seconds.  I remember months at sea, flying off aircraft carriers.  I remember the hours and hours of boredom climaxing in moments of the sheer terror of a night carrier landing.  I treasure the memory of liberty call sounding, seeing Irish castles in Dublin and kissing the Blarney Stone, visiting the Royal Palace and Stone Hinge in England, brief days spent on the beaches of the Greek Islands.  I remember a week touring the Holy Lands in Israel, the awesome thrill of seeing Bethlehem as well as the somber experience of seeing Golgotha.  I remember the heartbreak of leaving my wife and daughters and the joy of homecoming after a long deployment.

For most veterans, and this is true for me, Veteran's Day is the time to remember other servicemen and women one has served alongside, lifelong friends who have the common bond of enduring hardships, pain, and even loss as they contributed to something they considered priceless, the defense of our country.  It's also the opportunity for families to remember their loved ones who have served in the Armed Forces.  Today, I am going to share why Veteran's Day holds special meaning to me.

My family has a long tradition of serving the Armed Forces.  My Great Grandfather, "Pop" was one of our nation's first flyers.  He flew our country's first ambulance plane for the United States Army Air Corps in the early years of this century.  It was he who, in 1926 at Brooks Field, taught a young man named Charles Lindberg how to fly.  My ncle, LTCOL Jack also flew in the Army Air Corps.  He was a highly decorated pilot in World War II and was shot down over Germany, held as a POW for six months before being liberated by Allied Forces.  My Uncle Mike Crowell, Raymondville Mayor for 12 years, served as a Naval Officer in the Pacific Island campaign in World War II.  These men are all American heroes.   Another hero I'd like to tell you about today is my Grandfather, Foster Crowell.

I take you back to Sept. 1, 1939, Adolph Hitler turned his well-built German war machine loose on neighboring Poland.  Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway and France all fell to the Nazi invasion in nine months.  Great Britain stood alone in Europe as Italy joined the Axis powers.

The United States chose to remain neutral hoping to defeat the Axis powers by providing war supplies to the allied countries.  The United States maintained that role until Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec 7th 1941.  The purpose of the attack was to cripple the United States Navy, the only roadblock to Japan's expansion in Asia.  America lost 3700 servicemen, 18 ships, 200 planes on that "Day that shall live in infamy."

America was propelled into war.  Every family in America was touched by the war.  In Raymondville Texas, my grandfather James Foster Crowell did what the majority of able-bodied American men did at the time.  He joined the military. He left his home, his beautiful young wife, his two precious children, parents, siblings, and a successful law practice where he was serving as District Attorney.  He left to join the Navy, to serve his country, and to fight for freedom.


    My Grandfather was a man of honor.  He was highly respected in his community.  He was a leader in his church, a man who could be counted on to be true to his word, to embark on a task, to stay the course, and my grandmother tells me, to have fun!  He was not altogether different from the veterans sitting here today.  Many veterans here today can remember back to the day they left their loved ones.  There was no burning of draft cards, no fleeing the country to avoid serving, no celebrities protesting injustices done to the enemy.  America was a much more moral and honorable society.  Men saw their duty to their God and to their country.  A French writer once noted, "America is great because it is good,  when it stops being good, it will stop being great."

Today there are new threats to freedom on the horizon.  The Soviet war machine that was once in shambles once again threatens freedom in the world.  But, our enemies' militaries are inept at best.  America is the world's lone superpower, challenged only by cowardly radical Islamic terrorists. 

The United States is under attack from inside today.  Its greatness is threatened.  It suffers today from a moral collapse.  Honor, integrity and personal responsiblity are shunned in a "what's in it for me?" attitude.  Like never before, there is a genuine need for honorable men and women to step forward and lead as our veterans did at that time in history.

In a sense, those of you young people who stay the course, who decide here and now to stay on the narrow path, to stay drug free, to pledge your lives to something that is bigger than yourselves, who recognize and call evil what it is -EVIL, you will be tomorrow's veterans.  You will be the veterans who lead the United States military, but you will also be the leaders in our churches, in our communities, in government, leaders in industry, the teachers who train the generations of Americans who follow to stay on the narrow path, the path of honor.

Today as we travel that narrow path together, there is a need to hold our leaders, our friends, our neighbors, and especially ourselves to the same kind of high standards that my grandfather, my Uncle Mike Crowell, and many of their contemporaries stood for then.  In my service to the Navy, I have served under many honorable men, who commanded respect by their actions and leadership, not just by their rank. America must require the same of its leaders today and should not and cannot settle for adulterers and illegal drug users in positions of authority.  America deserves men and women of honor and character, leaders who do not have to make excuses for their past or current actions, leaders who deserve to be looked upon as examples, and even heroes.


Foster Crowell left Texas and attended Navy boot camp.  He was designated a yeoman and assigned to the U.S.S. Lexington, CV-16.  Throughout 1943 and 1944 the Lexington was involved in battle after battle in the Pacific.  Operations in the Marshall and Gilbert Islands in Nov 1943.  The carrier was heavily damaged in Kwajalein in Dec of that year.  It returned to the shipyard for repairs and later, saw action in Saipan, Guam and the Mariannas.  Three times, Japan incorrectly reported that the USS Lexington was sunk which earned the carrier the nickname "The Gray Ghost."  My grandfather and his fellow sailors aboard the Lexington exhibited great courage as time and again they were confronted with life and death situations.  Each time they responded with mental and moral strength, withstood the opposition, and emerged victorious.  They were not born with the kind of courage needed to win decisive victories and ensure America's winning the war.  My grandfather and many other veterans drew on a strong faith in God.  When faced with the toughest circumstances life could throw at them, they steadied themselves on their cornerstone, God.

The men of the Lexington were responsible for downing hundreds of enemy aircraft, over 300 in one day alone, sinking many enemy carriers, battleships and cruisers.

Courage was important to them.  Courage is every bit as important in the military today as we face more and more crises around the globe.  Budget reductions, manpower shortfalls, and aging war fighting equipment and technology make the mission even more difficult as our forces are stretched thin.  In this time of plenty, our military is forced to do more with less.  Thankfully there are leaders in Congress  who recognize the need for a strong military.  They understand the price paid by service members in the form of long deployments, family separation, and pay and benefits lagging significantly behind  the public sector.  These leaders in Congress have the courage to say "There needs to be a change" and have committed to keep our military and our nation strong in the coming years.

One can easily see the requirement for courage in a soldier, a sailor, or aviator.  Like honor, courage is also necessary in everyday life.  The first step is to follow the narrow path of honor, but we must go farther.  We must have courage to do our best and if we fail, get up again and do better the next time.  We must have the courage to build something great though critics around us are saying it can't be done.  We must have the courage to live as a nation under God as our nations founders did when they forged our country over 200 years ago.  We must have the courage to pray for God's strength and guidance.  We must have the courage to say  NO! to media filth, smut and violence that distracts us from our goals.


American service members have lived by a code of conduct.  When we join the military we pledge to abide by this Code of Conduct.  It reads in part,

    I am an American serving in the forces, which guard our country and protect our way of life.  I am prepared to give my life in their defense.

    I will never surrender of my own free will.  If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.

    If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available.  I will make every effort to escape and to help others to escape.  I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.

    If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners.  I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades.  If I am senior I will take command.  If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.

I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.

I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free.  I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.

My Grandfather and his fellow veterans embodied this kind of commitment.  They knew that it was up to them to stop German and Japanese aggression in World War II.  In October and November of 1944, USS Lexington covered the Leyte landings.  Lexington's planes scored important wins in the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the climactic American Naval victory over Japan.  On October 24th, while the carrier came under constant enemy attack, her planes joined in sinking Japan's superbattleship and scored hits on three cruisers.  The next day, with aircraft from the USS Essex, they sank three Japanese carriers.  On Nov. 5th, as the retiring Japanese were pursued, Lexington's planes sank a heavy cruiser with four torpedo hits.  But in the same action, she encountered a kamikaze as the flaming Japanese plane crashed near her island destroying most of the island structure and spraying fire in all directions.  My grandfather, James Foster Crowell, was manning an anti-aircraft-gun by the ship's island when the kamikaze struck.  He and 57 of his shipmates were killed instantly.  He was one of over 400,000 brave Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice, dying for our country in World War II.

I never met my grandfather, but I've learned a great deal from his example.  He helped me make my choice to serve my country in the United States Navy.  There is a saying that "For those who fight to protect it, freedom has a flavor that the protected will never know."  My grandfather knew it then and the veterans here today know the flavor of freedom of which I speak.  It is the freedom born in honor, forged in courage, and maintained through commitment.  Though it was 69 years ago when my grandfather died, it was through his courage, honor and commitment that he is remembered today.  Character has a way of living on in the lives of those it touches.

I challenge each man  and woman here today to walk the narrow path of honor, to have the courage to trust in God, standing up for what it right, and to have the commitment to keep our country free and good.

I salute my grandfather, all my fellow veterans, and the men and women in our armed forces today who have made the commitment to protect freedom.   God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.


Biography:  Lieutenant Commander (Select) Charles V. (Chuck) Red, Jr.

Lieutenant Commander (Select) Chuck Red was born in Amarillo, Texas, the son of Charlie and Suzy Red and grandson of the late Leila N. Crowell Jackson and the late James Foster Crowell.  He graduated from Lockhart High School in Lockhart, Texas, in 1986 and was awarded an appointment to the United States Naval Academy.  He graduated from the Naval Academy with honors with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering and a Minor in German in May of 1990.

Upon graduation, he was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy where he  reported to Navy Flight School in Pensacola, Florida, for Naval Flight Officer Training in July 1990.  He received his "Wings of Gold" in December 1992.

LCDR(S)  Red was assigned to Fighter Squadron 101 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, for F-14 Radar Intercept Officer training and earned the "Top Scope" award for finishing first in his class during year long syllabus.  Following six months of work-up training with the Fighter Squadron 142 "Ghostriders," LCDR(S) Red deployed to the Mediterranean Sea, Adriatic Sea and Arabian Gulf for six months in 1994.  While deployed, LCDR(S) Red earned the Navy Air Medal for flights conducted in support of Operation Southern Watch in Iraq and in NATO's Operation Deny Flight in Bosnia Herzegovina completing over 30 Strike Flight missions.  After Fighter Squadron 142's decommissioning in 1995, LCDR(S) Red was assigned to Fighter Squadron Fourteen for 2 ½ years completing two Northern Atlantic Deployments.

Following his sea duty, LCDR(S) Red was assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Nine at NAS Point Mugu, California where served as the F-14D Operational Test Director, testing new weapons and weapon systems on the Tomcat.

He now serves this country through his biofuel research at Applied Research Associates in Panama City, Florida, where he .

Chuck Red is married to the former Lisa Etheridge of Panama City, Florida.  They have six children: Molly; Katie; Rosie; Charlie; Reagan; and Jacob Foster (named after his great great grandfather, James Foster Crowell).

This Veteran's Day Speech was delivered at  the Veteran's Day Ceremonies in the Rio Grande Valley on November 11, 1999, but still holds true today...perhaps even more true.


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