This week I received an extremely moving letter from an Arkansas National Guardsman stationed in Iraq. First Lieutenant Josh Owens of DeValls Bluff presented me with a flag that had flown more than four hours in combat during one of his medevac missions in the skies above Iraq, where, on a daily basis, he and his fellow soldiers risk their lives so that others may be saved. Josh and the soldiers of Forward Medevac Team Boss Hogg sent me the flag, a certificate of authenticity, a battalion coin, and three Razorback Medevac patches. I appreciate their thoughtfulness and courage more than I can say. Every American owes them a lasting debt of gratitude for their bravery and their heroism.
On March 5, I took the flag that Lt. Owens sent me, and with the help of his family, flew it over the State Capitol building.
Lt. Owens' gesture is inspiring. While our men and women in uniform are thinking of us at home, we must not forget about our Arkansas National Guardsmen and other military forces who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot forget the sacrifices they are making on behalf of all of us. Lt. Josh Owens is an example to all of true patriotism.
Although I have never served abroad, I spent six years in uniform as a reservist. I have been called "general" only in civilian life, but I served as a Spec-5 for a long time.
One definition of patriotism is to hold devotion for one's state and country. This devotion knows no boundaries of skin color, of economic class, or geographic lines. It insists that people must bring their whole heart, soul, and mind to public life, as devotion cannot be fulfilled simply by going through the motions of rituals or half-hearted actions.
There is much unfinished work to do in our state: ensuring that all children receive an excellent education, tackling inequality, preparing for the new economy, making sure all people and all perspectives have a place at the public table. We need strong and healthy politics and public life to determine how we will do this work.
As we salute the bravery of our soldiers and pray for their safety, even as we mourn those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, let all Arkansans step forward and declare their intentions to work to make our public life and political goals ones we will be proud of for our state and nation. And let us all embrace a new patriotism, in which each of us is able to lend our energy, talents, and abilities to ensure a brighter future for our world.