The “Battle of Britain” is the term historians use to describe a series of air battles between July and October 1940 in which pilots from Britain’s Royal Air Force successfully defended their nation against attacks from the Nazi Luftwaffe.
RAF pilots suffered frightful losses, but their skill and heroism forced Hitler to reconsider a planned invasion of Great Britain. Afterwards, Winston Churchill spoke his famous tribute to the RAF fighters: “Never have so many owed so much to so few.”
The same could be said of American and allied forces fighting the war against terrorism.
It’s a murky war fought largely out of sight in remote and hostile locations devoid of creature comforts. The enemy is a bunch of religious fanatics devoted to a culture of death. Terrorism is their main weapon, which means our soldiers can never relax on duty or off. Quick military victories in Afghanistan and Iraq have given way to more complex missions of keeping the peace and rebuilding wrecked nations.
However you may feel about the war in Iraq and its messy aftermath, this commentary has nothing to do with the politicians and generals in Washington. It’s about the few to whom so many of us owe so much.
Our troops in Iraq, in Afghanistan and serving in other hellholes around the world have borne the burden of repeated and lengthy troop deployments since 9/11, and they deserve a great deal of appreciation for taking the war to the enemy. Critics may fuss about the absence of perfection in their efforts, but I for one think our military has done a remarkable job.
Two years ago, Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan were training tens of thousands of bloodthirsty operatives to carry out missions of carnage. Yet, despite numerous warnings of potential operations, things have been quiet on our shores since 9/11.
Al Qaeda certainly wants to spill a lot more of our blood, but can’t seem to muster the wherewithal. No doubt it’s because so many of its forces are now dead, captured or too busy scurrying from hideout to hideout to cause much trouble. The hunters have become the hunted.
Our soldiers keeping them pinned down are all volunteers. They are drawn largely from that huge demographic class known as “Middle America.” You won’t find many sons and daughters of rich people serving. Nor will you find members of the illiterate and undisciplined underclass represented. The vast majority of people serving in today’s volunteer forces are solid citizens who come from working-class families.
They have a lot in common with the folks who populate this plumbing industry at all levels. The men and women staffing today’s military are patriotic, unpretentious, loyal, hard-working citizens who provide America with indispensable service — and at times, even sacrifice their lives for the rest of us.
An interview in last August's PM concerns one such person who is both a plumbing contractor and pilot of an Apache gunship helicopter (“Meet James Boyers, Plumbing Contractor & Patriot,” August 2003). James Boyers epitomizes the qualities that make for both a great country and a great industry.
An avid PM reader, James popped up on our radar screen after taking the initiative to ask me to recommend some books to read to fill off-duty hours during his upcoming tour of duty in Afghanistan. We admire people so dedicated to self-improvement. And we feel indebted to someone willing to put himself in harm’s way to protect the comfortable lives most of us lead.
Which leads to this idea: I’m sure our industry harbors more people like James Boyers. They may be children of contractors or their employees — maybe even, like Boyers, plumbers or contractors themselves. We’d like to identify these people, and publicize their names each month in a special “Wall of Honor” section.
We’ll also publish contact information (if approved) so the person serving in the armed forces can receive mail or e-mail messages from industry well-wishers. Those of us who are military veterans know how precious those messages from home can be.
So, if you know someone affiliated with your business or any other plumbing industry organization, please provide us with the following information: 1) Name; 2) Plumbing industry connection; 3) Military rank and branch of service; 4) Military occupation; 5) Mail and/or e-mail address; and 6) Photo, in uniform or not (optional).
Send either to myself or editor Steve Smith at: “Wall of Honor,” Plumbing & Mechanical, 1050 Route 83, Suite 200, Bensenville, IL 60106. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
We will publish this information as it becomes available, and invite PM readers to send messages of thanks and encouragement to these individuals serving our country in its time of peril.
For now, may God bless James Boyers and all of his colleagues in their difficult and dangerous assignments.