"Blood rushed down my leg after I had been shot." This was Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Ethan Burk recalling events that took place at Camp Bastion on Sept. 14, 2012, when a night attack took the base by surprise. Burk had been on his way to work when he heard the rocket-propelled grenade detonate behind him. To escape the inferno, he drove his unarmored vehicle forward, straight into an ambush of heavily armed insurgents. After maneuvering behind a barrier Burk was met by a quick reaction force and taken for medical attention. Close examination showed that he had been shot in the elbow by a rebel's machine gun round and that fragments of the bullet still remained in his arm, requiring surgical removal.
Burk later explained, "After the whole ordeal, they asked if I wanted to go home because I was injured, and I told them 'I just got here; why would I want to go home?' " He is an outstanding example that you do not give up on your country. Even when situations may appear bleak, you should not give up.
I'm optimistic about my nation's future because of people like Burk who fervently believe that the American way is still the best way. By the American way I mean that the government is for the people, by the people and of the people. He took great pride in his country which was demonstrated by his willingness to put his country above himself.
I do not have hope in America because of our natural resources; many nations have great resources such as Africa, China and Iraq. I do not have great hope because of our nuclear weaponry, for many nations have that as well. My hope for America lies in the individuals who make up this country individuals like Jack Buzzi who had looked out the window of his Jersey Shore home during the worst of Hurricane Sandy only to see his neighbor's house floating by. Buzzi feared for the life of his neighbor, Kathey, and he quickly threw on rain boots and grabbed two lifejackets. He waded through knee-high water and made his way through what was left of Kathey's house. The roof had collapsed on the home and he became frantic as his shouts for Kathey went unanswered. Buzzi finally found her standing on a piece of wood that had been part of the doorway on the second floor of her home. He then gave Kathey the lifejackets and escorted her back to his home until they were told to evacuate five days later. Buzzi possessed the willingness to risk his life for his neighbor. If Americans seek humility by putting their neighbor before themselves, our nation can be great.
Ronald Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same." Our nation was not founded on laziness. Being optimistic for the future is not synonymous with being a bystander now. If I expect the future of America to be great, then I must take the necessary steps of greatness today.
The generation before me has provided examples of these steps by serving those around them and as a result, serving their nation. Cole Zimmerman put those words into action when Minot was flooded in 2011. He was only 17 when this tragedy struck but that didn't stop him from helping his community. In preparation for the flood, he filled and distributed sandbags to wherever they were needed. Once the waters had receded, he was busy ripping out carpet and Sheetrock, removing walls and cabinets, and helping victims piece their lives back together.
Zimmerman illustrates my point perfectly, that we should start serving now. A disaster doesn't have to strike before we decide to help a neighbor in need. Instead, we can demonstrate selflessness daily by simply seeing a need in others, and fulfilling it.
Burk, Buzzi and Zimmerman are just a few of the many Americans who look to serve others rather than themselves. These individuals are why I am optimistic about our nation. America is not great because our government is flawless or our leaders are perfect. Our nation is great, and will continue to be so in the future, because it is made up of many people who put others before themselves. A nation that is governed by its own people can never be greater than its populous, but stories like these give me hope for our future. When we have a population willing to put country above self and God above all, there is hope.
Brooklynne Knutson is a senior at Our Redeemer's Christian School in Minot.