Patsy Neal: America used to have brave patriots like those in Ukraine

Ukrainians love for their country is unnerving when I compare Ukraine and the United States.

(Sarah Silbiger | Pool) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a virtual address to Congress by video at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

I can’t stop crying. All I can see are the brave people of Ukraine trying to save their country — some injured and in pain — all terrified from the devastation around them.

My mind is full of women carrying rifles, civilians making Molotov cocktails, small figures standing in front of massive tanks and men escorting their families to safety, and then returning to their homeland to fight, and probably die.

And, then there are the children, the elderly and the handicapped. Some too weak and old to walk yet struggling to move among the thousands as they attempt to escape their war-torn country.

The suffering and the pain of the displaced move me beyond words — but the bravery also reverberates in my brain. Firemen rush to fight flames and smoke after bombings, while citizens emerge from bomb shelters to clean up and bury the dead. Ukrainian soldiers, greatly outnumbered, defend their country with determination and sacrifice unseen in modern times. It is bravery beyond my comprehension.

And, then there’s Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy — young and far too courageous for his years. He has never wavered in his courage even though he is a prime target of Russian President Vladimir Putin. When the U.S. offered to get him safely out of the country, Zelenskyy reportedly replied: “I need ammunition — not a ride.”

In a video speech to the United Kingdom Parliament, he emphasized: “We will not give up…we will fight until the end.”

I have seen bravery before. But Ukraine and Zelenskyy are different.

I think of David and Goliath of Biblical times. In our day and time, it is Ukraine, a small country going up against Russia, one of the strongest nations in the world. We know how it ended with David and Goliath. At this writing, David’s chance of survival, against the giant Goliath, looks so bleak.

But it is more than the size and the odds. It is the heart of the people of Ukraine. Ukrainians love for their country, and their willingness to die for it, is unnerving when I compare Ukraine and the United States.

What I want to see is what we used to be, when our country was young and struggling for its freedom. But our country has changed so much. We have had freedom and the good life for so long that we have become complacent and unthankful. But worse, we have become unwilling to protect it.

When our country was formed, we too had brave individuals who were willing to lose everything for their right to freedom. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Nathan Hale declared: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

The signers of our Declaration of Independence recognized the risks they were taking, but even so were willing to vow: “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

As I watch the horror in Ukraine, and the Ukrainians’ struggle under unimaginable circumstances, I am ashamed of my lack of courage and that of others in my own country. I do weep for the people of Ukraine, but I also weep for our country and our people.

How many Americans do we know today that would give their lives to protect our homeland — or even give up their jobs to keep our country free? Or, when sacrifice or risks are involved, how many of our leaders in Congress honor their oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”?

Thank goodness there are a few — but a few taking the flack and fighting for our freedom will not save us.

Samuel Adams, one of our Founding Fathers said: “If ever the time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.” He also said: “For true patriots to be silent is dangerous.”

We all need to think about that.

Patsy Neal

Patsy Neal, Matthews, North Carolina, has eight books published, won four Freedom Foundation Awards, and is working on a book, “Ourselves, Our Country, Our Freedom.” She holds a master’s degree from the University of Utah, where she also taught health and physical education.