Cincinnati patriots: People face trials and tribulations, but find ways to love their country

·32 min read

The word "patriot" doesn't mean the same thing to every American.

Their individual experiences dictate whether the word elicits a sense of pride or a sense of concern.

Retired Lt. Col. John Plahovinsak wears his Disabled American Veterans hat outside his home in Anderson Township. Plahovinsak joined the Army in 1967 and retired in 1999.
Retired Lt. Col. John Plahovinsak wears his Disabled American Veterans hat outside his home in Anderson Township. Plahovinsak joined the Army in 1967 and retired in 1999.

For the Fourth of July, The Enquirer wanted to acknowledge the melting pot of perspectives in the current political climate, particularly after a recent Gallup poll found that 38% of Americans were "extremely proud" of their country, the lowest in that category since Gallup's trend started in 2001. Still, 65% consider themselves either extremely or very proud, while 22% more were moderately so.

We asked our readers for submissions and sought additional viewpoints in various ways. While they offered varied perspectives, the common denominator is that they're all Americans using their freedom of speech to answer the question, "What does being a patriot mean to me?"

John Plahovinsak, 76, Anderson Township

I’m just a common soldier who had the honor of serving in the U.S. Army for 32 years (1967 to 1999) and now volunteer to help disabled veterans whenever possible.

A patriot answers the call of duty when being summoned by his country. He dons the uniform willingly, as so many have before him, and departs to distant places where he is sent.

John Plahovinsak served in the U.S. Army for 32 years.
John Plahovinsak served in the U.S. Army for 32 years.

A patriot serves his tours of duty on behalf of his country and returns knowing his duty and responsibility is not completed.

A patriot must empower his fellow returning disabled veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity.

Retired Lt. Col. John Plahovinsak holds some of his old Army identification cards on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Plahovinsak joined the Army in 1967 and retired in 1999.
Retired Lt. Col. John Plahovinsak holds some of his old Army identification cards on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. Plahovinsak joined the Army in 1967 and retired in 1999.

A patriot accomplishes this by ensuring that disabled veterans and their families can access the full range of Department of Veterans Affairs’ benefits available to them; by fighting for the interest of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; and by educating the general public about the great sacrifices and needs of disabled veterans who are returning back to civilian life.

This is what a patriot means to me!

Byron McCauley, 57, Madisonville

I am a former columnist and editorial board member of The Cincinnati Enquirer. I am the co-author of “Hope Interrupted: America Lost and Found in Letters.”

It makes me sad that the word “patriot” has been compromised by some. At its simplest, a patriot is someone who has love for country. It means that, in spite of its warts, we honor country and continue to work together to perfect our culture. It will always be a work in progress, but we move forward undergirded by a document codifying our country as one of laws and not of men.

Byron McCauley is a former columnist and editorial board member of the Enquirer. He is the co-author of “Hope Interrupted: America Lost and Found in Letters.”
Byron McCauley is a former columnist and editorial board member of the Enquirer. He is the co-author of “Hope Interrupted: America Lost and Found in Letters.”

For me, it means feeling proud to be able to speak my mind, own a weapon, be free to vote and marry in a free society. It does not mean declaring yourself a patriot in the name of freedom and taking up arms AGAINST your country.

It does not mean muddling the definition to exclude Americans with dissenting voices. It DOES mean that, under our laws, people of different races, creeds and colors can stand on a soapbox in the middle of Fountain Square and have their say – peaceably and respectfully. And then step down and help your nemesis step up and refute your argument. And then both of you clap for each other.

No, we must not hijack the word to amplify some kind of personal cause. Patriotism is larger than that. At its core, patriotism means you love your country, you respect your fellow man and you strive to perfect the lofty values in our beautiful constitution so that freedom applies to all.

Dr. Al Miller, 99, Kenwood

I was born in Germany and traveled many miles to escape Nazi persecution. I later served in the U.S. Army and worked as an optometrist. (His military portrait now hangs in the Nancy and David Wolf Holocaust and Humanity Center.)

I have never forgotten the words of the immigration officer when I came to the United States in 1940:  "You are now in the United States of America. You are in a free country. Make something of yourself. Get an education. Obey our laws. If you do that, we will be grateful that you came to live with us."

Dr. Al Miller, shown at age 96, fled Nazi Germany as a boy. "Words are so powerful," Miller said. "With words you can do just about anything. You can incite people. You can mark them. You can insult them. You can demonize them. You can persecute them - all with words. And it doesn't take many words. And you can do the opposite."
Dr. Al Miller, shown at age 96, fled Nazi Germany as a boy. "Words are so powerful," Miller said. "With words you can do just about anything. You can incite people. You can mark them. You can insult them. You can demonize them. You can persecute them - all with words. And it doesn't take many words. And you can do the opposite."

That was patriotism, pure and simple. He changed my life with one sentence, in less than one minute.

More: As a Jewish boy, he traveled thousands of miles to escape Nazi persecution. As a new American, he returned to interrogate them

I was born in Berlin in 1922 and lived under the Hitler Regime for four years, 1933-37. I was enrolled in public school in Berlin during most of that time. There were so many swastikas in that school and everywhere else, you didn’t notice them any more. One day I had foolishly attached a swastika to my clothing in class and because of that a teacher announced that he would see to it that I would be sent to a concentration camp. The following weeks were the worst in my entire life.

Subsequently I lived during  3 ½ years in 4 other countries, not welcome in any of them, until at long last I arrived in the United States in 1940. To this day I choke when I think back to passing the Statue of Liberty. It didn’t take long to discover there really IS freedom here. I didn’t need to register with the police with my new address or with my job location. I discovered the guiding principle quite quickly: I could do whatever I wanted as long as it didn’t hurt or restrict someone else. Years later, after three years of Army service, I started to speak and explain and did that for eight to nine years, about 50 times annually, mostly in schools, but also to other groups. I’m now 99 years old and my guiding principle has always been: ”If you are silent, you are responsible.”

Geoff Cameron, 36, Massachusetts

I am a professional soccer player for FC Cincinnati and former U.S. men's national soccer team player

To me, being American is about freedom, opportunity and respect. On days like the Fourth of July, we should honor our history and our present day and those who fought and continue to fight for our independence, even though it’s not always pretty and perfect. The vast majority of people in America are good, hardworking humans from various walks of life. And, even though many people have different opinions, the freedom to voice those is part of what makes our country so great what the founders tried to forge. On the Fourth of July, we should remember we’re all human and there’s more that connects us than separates us.

FC Cincinnati defender Geoff Cameron (20) looks on during the first half against Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field.
FC Cincinnati defender Geoff Cameron (20) looks on during the first half against Minnesota United FC at Allianz Field.

Bill Tuttle, 82, Burlington

I am a retired engineer from Sylvania Electric. I have lived while family members served in World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Afghanistan. 

Memories of a patriot!

In the cold winter of 1945 in Minnie, Kentucky, Sizemore Branch, my grandparents sat by a warm fireplace waiting for news about their son fighting in Germany.

In the snow, two dressed military men asked where the Chaffins lived. They were told: “It’s easy, just follow the branch to the last house.” They delivered the shattering news that their son, Orville Chaffins, on Jan. 16, 1945, had given his life for his country in the Battle of the Bulge.

Bill Tuttle is an 82-year-old retired engineer from Sylvania Electric.
Bill Tuttle is an 82-year-old retired engineer from Sylvania Electric.

At the age of 5, I had lost my hero.

Four years passed before he was brought home to be buried in the family cemetery. The vehicle carrying his body slowly passed by our one-room schoolhouse. We stood by a gravel road with tears in our eyes.

Later in life, I had the privilege of visiting Dachau, the concentration camp where some of the Holocaust had taken place. I was emotionally moved upon learning how much American soldiers contributed to freedom in Europe.

Uncle Orville did not die in vain.

Calvin Williams, 63, Clermont County

I am a former Marine and the senior consultant for Lucian Families Inc.

The truest test of kinship is behavior, not blood. I serve my country by behaving in patriotic ways, primarily through service to my family, community and to others.

I, too, can get caught up in certain patriotic moments, but I’m weary of the idea that patriotism must always be overtly displayed and on demand. My life experiences influence my patriotism, so it can be malleable from one situation to the next.

Calvin Williams of Clermont County is a former Marine and senior consultant for Lucian Families Inc.
Calvin Williams of Clermont County is a former Marine and senior consultant for Lucian Families Inc.

It's hard for me to think of patriotism as a fixed, immutable characteristic. As in any intimate or committed relationship, commitment must be reviewed, renewed, revived and redoubled many times over the lifespan of the relationship.

So, it is with patriotism. It needs to be fed, reinforced and serviced from time to time for it to be healthy and less performative. Teamwork, loyalty and brotherhood. Playing high school football and being a U.S. Marine established those as foundational values for me early in life.

To be of service to family, community and society, I stand on those values. If those things add up to me being a patriot, then I stand accused, guilty as charged. I expect the same from my country.

Kevin Williams Jr., 24, Walnut Hills

I am a prevention coordinator at Envision Partnerships of Butler County.

When I was first posed this question, I was honestly stumped. I have observed the definition of patriot I was taught in school has changed throughout my 25 years of life. According to Merriam-Webster, a patriot is a person who loves and supports his/her country. However, recent years have made me read deeper into the definition and ask, “Who is truly supporting our country?”

Kevin Williams Jr. is a prevention coordinator at Envision Partnerships of Butler County
Kevin Williams Jr. is a prevention coordinator at Envision Partnerships of Butler County

To me, to truly care about your country, you have to care about all of the people in your country. It’s not just about waving a flag or claiming this country is the best. It’s about wanting this country to be better and fighting the injustices that still exist here.

Regardless of race, creed, gender, sexual orientation and ability, a true patriot will fight to make sure every person is seen. Those who protest in the streets, who speak for human rights, go against the grain for the betterment of our country are the true patriots. Others who claim to love this country but spew hate or worse – do absolutely nothing about the injustices in this country – are nothing more than enablers to a country that is addicted to power over others.

Women are losing autonomy over their body. Children have been killed in what’s supposed to be the safest place for them and nothing has changed. Grocery stores, churches, doctors' offices, movie theaters and malls now come with slight paranoia because a mass shooting is always a possibility. Many people who claim to be “patriots” are comfortable with our country’s state of affairs because it doesn’t affect them.

A patriot should have no problem calling out our country when we are wrong and fighting to make it better for all.

Pat Noonan, 41, Cincinnati

I am FC Cincinnati's head coach; former professional soccer player and U.S. men's national team player and assistant coach

Patriotism, to me, is embracing where you grew up and what country you represent. I'm very fortunate and very appreciative the country that I grew up in, and the opportunities that I've had because of my upbringing in the United States. There's not many better feelings than having your hand across your chest during the National Anthem because of what I do, we experience that quite often. So, that moment when we hear, we sing – however you approach it – the National Anthem is a good reminder all the time of just how fortunate I am to grow up in America, and to have the opportunities that I do because I'm in the land of the free and the home of the brave. It's not something that I take for granted, and something that you can see in our country how important it is, in good times and in bad times, for us as Americans to have the opportunity to live in this country.

FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan speaks during a press conference announcing him as the new head coach of FC Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Noonan is a former assistant coach of the Philadelphia Union, where he coached from 2018 to 2021.
FC Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan speaks during a press conference announcing him as the new head coach of FC Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2021. Noonan is a former assistant coach of the Philadelphia Union, where he coached from 2018 to 2021.

Robert Sharkey, 75, West Chester

I served as a combat veteran in Vietnam with the U.S. Army but that isn't what defines a patriot, in my opinion.

Being and acting patriotic means respecting the foundation on which the United States was built: the Constitution.

Robert Sharkey of Anderson Township served in the U.S. Army.
Robert Sharkey of Anderson Township served in the U.S. Army.

It means respecting the Office of the President even if you don't like the person who holds that office. It means respectfully agreeing to disagree with those who don't share your beliefs, religion or opinions.

It means exercising your right of assembly and peaceful protest when you want your voice heard.  It means voting and participating in the election process to make sure it runs smoothly and not fabricating stories about corruption. It means demanding our appointed and elected officials be held to the highest standards.

Robert Sharkey is a Vietnam combat vet. Here, he was playing soccer with some Montagnard kids up in one of their villages in Vietnam's Central Highlands.
Robert Sharkey is a Vietnam combat vet. Here, he was playing soccer with some Montagnard kids up in one of their villages in Vietnam's Central Highlands.

Our founding fathers took extreme care to write a Constitution that carefully balances governmental power and provides for the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence.  

A patriot is one who works towards keeping the ideas and ideals contained in the Constitution evergreen so they can be passed along to the next generation of Americans and serve as a beacon to the rest of the world.

Susan A. Cranley, 69, Mount Washington

I am a middle-class, retired, mother of three and grandmother of five.

Over the past four to six years I believe we have lost what it means to be a patriot. We are not a country welcoming "the poor, the tired, the hungry."

We have put up physical walls to keep people out, passed laws that prohibit those less affluent to vote, have interfered with the relationship between patient and doctor by dictating what the patient and doctor can and cannot do, infiltrated our schools with people who are banning books, allowed the proliferation of gun sales with no action in sight to protect anyone and tolerated current politicians who accept and promote lies by justifying that lying and violence is the avenue to take when things don't go their way.

I am so saddened by all of this that I fear our sense of patriotism is a thing of the past.

Cathy Roesener, 67, Anderson Township

I will be 67 on July 4 and I am retired. 

I was born on the Fourth of July. That means that throughout my life, many have associated me with patriotism.

The definition of patriotism has changed drastically over the past couple of years. It has come to be associated with right-wing extremism and devotion to certain politics and politicians.

Cathy Roesener will be 67 on the Fourth of July. She is retired and living in Anderson Township.
Cathy Roesener will be 67 on the Fourth of July. She is retired and living in Anderson Township.

Being a patriot takes much more effort and involvement. It isn’t something that is a given if you have a flag flying from your front porch or from your car or truck. It comes from taking the time to vote and to vote intelligently. Take the time to know the candidates and their positions on the issues that matter to Americans. Take the time to find out what kind of person they are; this will matter in the long run since people’s views can change with time and information. Learn about the issues you are voting for or against.

Being a patriot means showing respect for all Americans, including those who are different from us. Remember, very few of us can claim to be natives, as most of us originated from ancestors who came here seeking a better life.

There were people who lost their lives fighting for your right to vote.

Diane Coletti-Hunter, 70, Union

I am proud of my family, my heritage, my country and what she has always stood for!

Formerly New Yorkers, we moved to Northern Kentucky in 2018 to be closer to our Ohio-based family. We immediately noticed that people exhibit their patriotic pride and flags more readily here. With our NYPD neighbors, we were the only ones on our N.Y. street with flags flying on holidays.

Diane Coletti Hunter is originally from New York but lives in Union, Kentucky now.
Diane Coletti Hunter is originally from New York but lives in Union, Kentucky now.

As conservative Christians, we were the oddballs in Chuck Schumer’s backyard. My father was the child of Italian immigrants and as a teen, enlisted in the reserves where he served many years before reporting for active duty after Pearl Harbor was bombed.   He spent the entire war overseas, in Northern Africa, the invasion of Sicily, marching up through Rome to the Alps.

He taught us what an honor it was to serve his country. He met my mother while stationed in her town in Northern Italy.

When she was becoming an American citizen and was asked if she were ready to swear allegiance to and defend her new country and its constitution, my mother replied that if she couldn’t use a gun to defend the United States, she would use her broom!

I inherited my parents' love and pride in America and that makes me a patriot.

Jonathan S. Cullick, 59, Bellevue

I am a professor of English at Northern Kentucky University. 

Patriotism is an obligation to the ideals articulated in the nation’s founding documents. But it’s also an obligation to the people who populate the nation. Respecting our country means respecting our fellow Americans.

Our current climate of polarization is not sustainable. This great experiment in republican and democratic government will not last if we treat each other with contempt. Patriotism will fail if we consider every disagreement to be a war and anyone who disagrees with us to be an enemy or not a “real” American.

Jonathan S. Cullick is professor of English at Northern Kentucky University.
Jonathan S. Cullick is professor of English at Northern Kentucky University.

To love our country, we must at a minimum accept the legitimacy of our fellow citizens. Patriotism is best shown in how we treat our fellow Americans, especially those whose ideas, beliefs, and backgrounds differ from our own.

Patriotism means acknowledging that for the most part, our fellow citizens are well-intentioned and acting in good faith, even if they have different perspectives. Of course, there are times when we must vigorously protest our government. And we can and should disagree with each other. However, we must view that disagreement not as a source of divisiveness, but as an opportunity to construct better solutions.

Nick Watts, 17, Hyde Park

I am the student body president at Cincinnati Country Day, am passionate about all things history, government and politics, and I love talking to people and learning more about those topics that I am interested in.

I pride myself on loving my country, honoring our veterans, and learning about our nation’s past, both the good and the bad. Through all of my research and the hours I have spent pouring over the history of this city, this state, and this nation, I would say that being a patriot is being grateful. Grateful for what, you may ask?

Nick Watts is his class president at Country Day.
Nick Watts is his class president at Country Day.

Grateful for our ancestors who dedicated their lives to crafting, as was said in the first sentence of our great Constitution, “a more perfect Union.” How did our ancestors do this? They valiantly fought and defeated the British, the Confederacy, the Central Powers, the Axis Powers, communism, terrorism, and every other existential threat to our democracy that has arisen in the past 246-plus years.

They also worked to build our infrastructure and buildings, preserved this Earth for our generation, produced inventions that made America the largest economy on this planet, and fought for the rights of underrepresented groups, among many other accomplishments.

I believe that genuine gratefulness for all of these sacrifices made by those who came before us is the key to being a true American patriot. This July 4, let’s be united in our American gratefulness.

Jack Felton, 73, Green Township

I have served in the military during a time of war.

1. Be willing to serve. My father, brother, myself, and my son have all served in the military during times of war. We were/are all proud of our service. But there are other ways to serve. Become a first responder. Work in a hospital. Do volunteer work in your community. Every citizen should serve their country in some capacity at some point in their lives.

Jack Felton of Green Township holds his grandson, Theo.
Jack Felton of Green Township holds his grandson, Theo.

2. Be respectful and tolerant of other viewpoints. Intolerance and censorship are un-American. Today's "cancel culture" threatens our democracy. More civility is sorely needed. Our country is strong enough to allow robust debate without resorting to ugliness or violence.

3. Take pride in being an American. America isn't perfect. Nothing is. But I am immensely proud of being lucky enough to have been born in the greatest country in the history of mankind. We proudly hang the American flag every day from our deck at our home.

Taylor Hughett, 30, Monroe

I am an early childhood educator who likes to read Harry Potter and spend time with my family. 

To me, being an American citizen means freedom! The liberty to wake up when I want, raise my babies in a way that makes sense to me, and to make life choices for myself and my family all because there were men and women braver than I who defended our liberties.

Taylor Hughett, right, holds daughter Clairissa while her sweetheart, Casey Weekley, holds their other daughter, Charlotte, at the YMCA for family pool time on the Memorial Day holiday
Taylor Hughett, right, holds daughter Clairissa while her sweetheart, Casey Weekley, holds their other daughter, Charlotte, at the YMCA for family pool time on the Memorial Day holiday

Being a patriot, to me, means flying our American flag. Putting your hand on your heart while listening to the National Anthem. Standing for our flag and saluting our soldiers who stood up to defend our country.

Being a patriot to means to love your county and where you come from within it. When I think of the United States of America, I think of our flag and how beautiful it looks flying in the breeze.

Being an American citizen is a privilege. I'm proud to say I am an American!

Dick Alexander, 77, Springfield Township

I am a husband, father, grandfather, international consultant and leadership coach.

For me, patriotism begins with gratitude for the remarkable opportunities I have living here – freedom, including worshiping as I choose, the ability to earn a good income, and the opportunity to contribute.

It’s the chill in the back of my neck walking into the international terminal at a U.S. airport returning from overseas. It’s doing my part to welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It’s loving to watch the U.S. team in the Olympics because our athletes aren’t all the same color with the same ethnic names.

Dick Alexander of Springfield Township is a husband, father, grandfather, international consultant and leadership coach.
Dick Alexander of Springfield Township is a husband, father, grandfather, international consultant and leadership coach.

It’s reading history and current events in order to be an informed citizen and a contributing member of the democracy. It’s writing letters, making phone calls, and showing up at meetings to remind politicians what we expect of them as public servants.

It’s singing the National Anthem at sporting events, even though our kids are horribly embarrassed. It’s believing the world is at its best when America, at its best, leads. It’s believing the last three words of the Pledge of Allegiance matter – justice for all – and working to make that dream a reality. 

Vincent Baker, 17, Xenia

I am a senior at Xenia High School and the son of Wayne Baker, assistant breaking news editor/reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer. I am a member of the National Honor Society.

Ever since I was born, I've had a passion for learning about the world. In the seventeen years that I've been alive, I've made it my life goal to learn everything I can about the world we live in.

Along the way, I've made certain convictions and have held certain faiths to be true. By standing up for these convictions and faiths, I am displaying what I believe to be proper patriotism. 

Vincent Baker, 17, is a senior at Xenia High School.
Vincent Baker, 17, is a senior at Xenia High School.

There were times where I've defended myself against those attacks which sought to undermine not only my beliefs, but also my achievements in developing my character. I've been challenged because of my beliefs, I've been challenged because of my size, and I've been challenged because of my skin tone.

It is for this reason that I've trained myself to be stronger. It is for this reason that our brave soldiers willingly cross the lines of peril to defend America's homeland. And it is for this reason that patriotism, no matter how you scrutinize it, exists within all facets of life. 

Whether it's me, defending myself against a bully, or the U.S. troops who defend American liberty on the battleground, true patriotism exists everywhere.

Wayne Baker, 57, Yellow Springs

I am an assistant breaking news editor/reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Patriotism is defined as the devotion or love for one's country.  I will expand on that to say that being a patriot means you feel a devotion and sense of service to the community in which you live, the people you work with and your family and friends.

Wayne Baker is the assistant breaking news editor/reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Wayne Baker is the assistant breaking news editor/reporter at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

America is the great melting pot and though at times it feels as if we are destined to self-destruct, there is something within us that manages to create magic. We rebuild, we ignite hope, we fight and rise from despair. Being a part of that “we” makes me feel patriotic.

There is nothing wrong with viewing America from a different perspective or fighting for rights that correct injustice. That is what makes our country great.

My dad and uncles fought for this country and I am proud of the freedoms we have and thankful for those who put their lives on the line and those that still do to make sure we remain that way.

James D. Brady, 73, Pleasant Ridge

I am retired from Messer Construction, 33 years in IT. I currently work at the Mill Golf Course and I umpire high school girls fastpitch softball.

For me, a clear understanding of patriotism wasn't developed until I was able to see the link between the freedom we enjoy and the type of people we are.

Patriots made the ultimate sacrifice in several wars, numerous battles and thousands of individual acts of heroism. The families of these heroes bore the burden of war as well.

James Brady is retired from Messer Construction after 33 years in IT.
James Brady is retired from Messer Construction after 33 years in IT.

(While we are handing out honor months, perhaps our veterans deserve one since they made all the other ones possible?)

In addition, driven by patriotism, love for our country, for our fellow compatriots and all freedom-loving people around the world, America remains the most generous people in the world.

Of course, we are not a perfect nation but we are not a perfect people. We do, however, strive to make things better for ourselves, our compatriots and the world.

Gen. Colin Powell summarized it best, stating that we never kept any land of the countries we defeated and, in fact, helped them rebuild. We only asked for enough land to bury our dead because that is the kind of people we are.

Gary Crawford, 86, Warren County

I am a McCain, Kasich and Cheney Republican, also physically fit and mentally aware! 

Patriot is defined as: "A person supporting country and prepared to defend against enemies or detractors (one that disparages someone or something)." Country is defined as, "A nation with its own government and territory."

In the United States, this boils down to the Constitution, amendments, and laws created within the constitution. Also, the methods of interpretation (court systems) are created in the Constitution. This is what a patriot is defending!

Gary Crawford, 86, is a McCain, Kasich, Cheney Republican, also physically fit and mentally aware!
Gary Crawford, 86, is a McCain, Kasich, Cheney Republican, also physically fit and mentally aware!

Through time, the complications have been and are, increasing geometrically. Legal Interpretations of similar issues are changing back and forth within short time frames. This is confusing and socially disruptive! 

The reason for this dissonance lies in the two philosophies held by the learned people charged with making these decisions. All know the Constitution and all, probably by heart, but use different philosophies in their reasoning.

One philosophy adheres strictly to the exact words written in 1787 and since. Others insert the practical world in which we exist, into their reasoning. In any case, the changing back and forth seems to create a "Patriotic Quake" (earth)!  And, a situation where nothing is right, and nothing is wrong, and nothing stays the same!

Linda Ford, 73, Clifton

I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital, taught high school science for 45 years, married my husband 49 years ago, raised three sons, actively help to care for four grandsons, and volunteer time and talent in many ways.

I am a patriot because I am an informed voter who reviews candidates and issues before voting, listens to debates and follows news and commentaries.

I am a patriot because I am a lifelong student of history who believes that we must know our history in order to understand our present and build the future that we want for future generations.

Linda Ford of Clifton taught high school science for 45 years and volunteers her time and talent in many ways.
Linda Ford of Clifton taught high school science for 45 years and volunteers her time and talent in many ways.

I am a patriot because I serve my nation. No, I was not in the military. I was a classroom teacher for 45 years and received several honors for my commitment to my high school chemistry students. Since retiring in 2018, I have spent many hours as a volunteer helping much younger learners with their reading and math.

I am a patriot because I obey the laws of my city, state, and nation. I understand that laws are the foundation of our civil society. I am a community member who appreciates that my well-being cannot supersede the well-being of my neighbor.

I am a patriot when I perform daily intentional acts of kindness and civility. I bend over to pick up litter in the park. I organize diaper drives at my church to help families in need. I drive for Last Mile Food Rescue.

I am a patriot because I know all of the words to "This Land Is My Land" and often tear up as I belt out that song. I feed the birds and plant Ohio native plants in my yard. I teach my four grandsons to enjoy nature.

I am a patriot because I am free to fall short. I know I have another day to make things right.

Jeff Griffin, 50, Anderson Township

I am an Army veteran and I volunteer as a youth leader in my community.

I view a patriot as someone who makes a conscious decision to serve our country, in some capacity, to protect and or promote our nation’s ideals and way of life. 

Jeff Griffin is an Army veteran and youth leader in his community.
Jeff Griffin is an Army veteran and youth leader in his community.

Beyond that, a patriot is someone who continues to positively contribute to our nation by regularly voting in local, state and federal elections and by interacting with fellow citizens, elected officials or representatives toward the betterment of the community and nation.    

John Howison, 66, Tate Township

I am an old rock-n-roll enthusiast.

Patriot ... Simple. Listen to the Jackson Browne song, "I am a patriot." That song defines what being a patriot is.

Sue Kolkmeier, 80, Green Township

I am retired, married for 15 years to Ray and together we have nine children, lots of grandchildren and great-grandchildren and love our big family.

All of the above is me being a patriot. I am 80 years old and have voted in just about every election. I have always voted for the person who I felt best fitted the job, not what party they belonged to. I have traveled out of the country, Holland, and saw what socialized medicine does to its people. I have been to Russia and witnessed control, hardships, and lack of housing and food; freedoms denied to its people. I assure you, I came back totally grateful for my country.  I, and many others, have the freedom to pray "God bless America, " which the founders of our constitution depended on!

Eric Leach, 50, Covington, Kentucky

I am a husband, father, 20-year U.S. Army veteran and patriot.

The definition of “patriot” is as varied as opinions. Everyone has one, and theirs is the right one. For me, a patriot is someone who is civic-minded, knowledgeable of our nations founding principles and able to acknowledge that while we continue to fall short at times, we are always striving to achieve a “more perfect union.”

Eric Leach of Covington, Kentucky, is a 20-year U.S. Army veteran.
Eric Leach of Covington, Kentucky, is a 20-year U.S. Army veteran.

A patriot loves and honors the symbols of our republic the flag, anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance. We understand that as a nation founded by and continuously added to by immigrants that it is these symbols and ideals that make this nation what it is. The United States of America.

We come in all shapes, sizes, ages, race, color and creed. We are individually minded but collectively joined. We understand how our government is supposed to work and recognize that it hasn’t worked that way in a very long time.

More than anything, a patriot loves this ongoing experiment of representative democracy. Because without that love, we are nothing more than a populated land mass.

Stu Mahlin, Hyde Park

I am Whistleblower Newswire's conservative curmudgeon.

Being a patriot means America First. To quote Michael Savage, it means unwavering support of America's "borders, language and culture."

Dan O'Connell, 67, Pleasant Ridge

I am retired from work, not from thinking critically.

An American patriot is one who loyally supports and lives the ideals that we were founded upon. We are a creedal nation, not one that is identified by a particular language, ethnicity, customs, or religion. That is why so many have always wanted to come to America.  

Those creedal ideals include liberty, equality, laissez-faire and limited self-government. A patriot doesn’t delude himself into thinking that those ideals have been fully realized. After nearly 250 years, much more remains to be done but the belief remains that the country has the desire and ability to make those ideals a reality for all.

Dan O'Connell, 67, is a retiree who lives in Pleasant Ridge.
Dan O'Connell, 67, is a retiree who lives in Pleasant Ridge.

It’s why Blacks have fought in defense of their country despite our horrific history of slavery. Japanese Americans enlisted despite their racist and unjust internment during World War II. Native Americans continue to serve their nation at a higher rate than any other demographic group.

They certainly know that those creedal ideals have not been fully realized, yet also believe that true patriots will continue to strive to achieve them. E pluribus unum is our motto because it stands for this.

This is why identity politics is so destructive. People do not come to this country or aspire to share in the blessings of the nation in order to become identified as hyphenated Americans. No, they want to be viewed as loyal Americans. As a result, true patriotism will never be compatible with radical nationalism or some illusionary cosmopolitanism. 

Dave Pung, 55, Loveland

I am a big believer in this great American experiment.  

Being a patriot means a love of country with its greatness and flaws. Recognizing and appreciating the sacrifices and contributions of those that got us here while being part of the solution going forward. Understanding the foundation of our founding and current status while participating in the continued evolution of those founding principles. Great question.

Mary Jo Roetting, 70, Mount Healthy

I like choices to be able to form my own opinion.

Patriot or patriotism is in the oath of office, “that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” I see patriotism reflected in the writings or actions of American men some for self-evident reasons and others for a just because. The following men are Americans, who I believe have had something to say, read about them and form your own opinion.

Mary Jo Roetting, 70, is a resident of Mount Healthy.
Mary Jo Roetting, 70, is a resident of Mount Healthy.
  • Ronald Reagan, for his speech, “A Time for Choosing.”

  • Thomas R. Laughlin Jr., actor of the “Billy Jack” character.

  • Sterling W. Hayden, member of Office of Strategic Services, World War II.

  • Dr. David A. Kessler, former commissioner of U.S. Food and Drug Administration circa 1990-1997.

  • David Baldacci, the author who noted in one of his books the term “perception management."

  • Walter E. Williams, professor and columnist.

  • Mitchell Zuckoff, author “13 hours in Benghazi."

  • Dinesh D’Souza author, “America Imagine a World without Her.”

  • Daniel C. Mattson, author.

  • Lt. General Harold G. Moore and Joseph L Galloway, author of “We Were Soldiers and Young.”

  • Admiral William H. McRaven, author.

Rick Rotundo, 73, Cincinnati

I am retired at age 73, physically and mentally healthy, and a positive thinker with hope and praise for our future generations to come, as I view our children as the future leaders of tomorrow!

Being a patriot is the result of my rich gene pool, including my grandfather’s genuine love of America as an immigrant from Italy, along with my father’s service in World War II.

Rick Rotundo of Cincinnati dances with his wife, Kim.
Rick Rotundo of Cincinnati dances with his wife, Kim.

I have worked diligently to express my patriotic energies as a City of Cincinnati employee and later as a workforce development professional/psychologist/clinical therapist, and as a consultant. I support the noble causes of the DAV and fundraisers for those injured in the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars.

I vote in all local and national elections, am proactive in community concerns, and donate liberally to worthy charitable causes. I am spiritually inclined, pray often and embrace diversity. I give perpetual thanks to the Almighty Ineffable for a wonderful life, family, career, and successful marriage of almost 40 years.

We motivated our daughters to obtain advanced college degrees, along with our own educational accomplishments, for the betterment of our society and culture. I proudly display The American flag, stand for The National Anthem, and buy American-made products as often as possible. I drive an American-Made vehicle as well. I am proud and honored to be a patriotic American who enjoys one nation under God, with liberty and justice for All. 


Ron Thornbury, 62, Morrow

I am the kind of person who does not think flying kites is a waste of time. 

When I see all the different flags flying these days, I recognize one as unique to the others.  All the other flags are made of threads woven together too, but only one can be true patriotism.

The true one has only a few strings attached to the person but also to all the people. The others have many different strings attached, but not to every person.

Ron Thornbury, 62, lives in Morrow.
Ron Thornbury, 62, lives in Morrow.

The meaning is within the person and the strings may not be conscientiously understood but they do pull. True patriotism, to me, means purposely holding the end of a string, watching and feeling it closely, giving and taking to keep it taut, but never letting it break.

It means letting go of strings that pull too hard away from the core of the fabric of our great nation. Some people say the threads of our nation are breaking. They blame others not realizing the threads of our nation have great elasticity.

Patriotism may be that oneness we feel as we see others carefully and purposefully holding the true strings that unite each and every one of us and knowing that is our strength.

Ron Wolf, 85, Springfield Township

I am energetic with a positive attitude.

This is from an 85-year-old young Patriot. What does “patriot” mean?

It means proud. Proud to remember seeing my dad reverently place his hat over his heart when “The Star Spangled Banner” was played. Proud to have the honor to swear the officer’s oath to “support and defend, and bear true faith and allegiance” as I accepted a commission in the U.S. Navy.

Ron Wolf is 85 and a resident of Springfield Township
Ron Wolf is 85 and a resident of Springfield Township

Proud to remember with honor the men and women who through the years have dedicated their lives to preserve the freedoms born in 1776, whether wearing the uniform of the armed services or wearing the gear of police, fire, or EMTs in the performance of duty.

Proud, yes, as I now salute the flag that my dad honored with hat over heart, the flag that is still waving over the land of the free.

There is no other country where I would rather be than this nation, the United States of America. May God bless it forever.

Robert O. Zimmerman, 84, North College Hill

Besides teaching at Xavier University for 33 years and being a professor emeritus of economics, I have traveled the world as a consultant for the Higher Learner Commission and taught students in Japan, China, Singapore, Poland, and Czech Republic.

Robert O. Zimmerman, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of economics at Xavier University.
Robert O. Zimmerman, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of economics at Xavier University.

To me, a patriot is a person whose words and deeds mirror what is generally perceived to be true and noble from a country’s past, with a desire to act in ways to affect an even better future. 

Such a person will share their pride and love of country with those they encounter at home and abroad.

Bob McElroy, 76, Anderson Township

I am a U.S. Navy Vietnam veteran, born and raised in Price Hill and Western Hills along with my seven siblings. I am a fifth-generation Cincinnatian and have lived here my whole life, except for four years in the military.

My World War II hero, and a well-qualified patriot, was my Uncle Elden Bagot. A member in good standing of the Greatest Generation. Born in 1923, he was raised in OTR and lived in Price Hill his whole adult life.  He was of the ideal age to join the fight when the war started and he, along with all of his friends, joined the military at age 18. 

Bob McElroy, 76, of Anderson Township served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam.
Bob McElroy, 76, of Anderson Township served in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam.

He was in some of the heaviest fighting during the initial phases of the war. His anti-aircraft unit, the 409th, in pushing the Germans across North Africa had destroyed most of the German aircraft. So he was reassigned to the 36th Infantry Unit from Oklahoma/Texas. As infantry soldiers, they crossed the Mediterranean Sea and fought their way up the Italian peninsula. He participated in the bloody battle of Monte Cassino, the tough fighting in Anzio and fought to liberate Rome. His unit was part of the liberation of the Dachau death camp. He returned to the United States of America for Christmas 1945 after 400 days of mostly constant combat.

Most of our family didn’t know, but during the constant fighting, he received three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart while in Europe. When asked about those he said, “awe, they give those to everybody.”  Yeah, right. While he was fighting in Italy his best friend, Jake Hurtzenberg, was also in the same area, but they never had the chance to see each other before his friend was mortally wounded. Both were true patriots. After returning he said he never wanted to leave the shores of the USA, and he never did.

Enquirer writer Patrick Brennan contributed to this story. 

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Enquirer readers discuss what it means to be a patriot