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Col. Charles D. Allen
Military scholar

Col. Charles D. Allen

Colonel Charles D. Allen (U.S. Army, Ret.) is the Professor of Cultural Science in the Department of Command, Leadership, and Management at the U.S. Army War College.

One freezing dove, four precious freedoms

This morning my wife invited me to sit on the back patio of our new home. Our house is modestly landscaped and we look upon a small greenbelt. There were plenty of birds of all types at the feeders and in the wood line. A mourning dove caught my eye and reminded me of an encounter from last year.

It was the first year of my retirement from active duty and, while we were waiting for our home to be built, we moved into a townhome apartment complex just outside of post. We were fortunate to be "camping out" in a new development that also attracted several international fellows who brought their families with them for the year-long stay in America.

On a sunny but bitterly cold November morning, my wife received a call from a neighbor, a general officer from a foreign military. It seemed that a dove was so affected by the cold that it could not fly away and was just sitting on the back deck of his residence. He asked if there was a shelter or animal rescue that would take the bird. I paused for a moment and thought, "This man has been in combat, been severely wounded, and has seen death. And he is worried about a dove."

My wife found a veterinarian who was open on a Saturday afternoon and would take the bird as part of a rehabilitation program. However, the vet office was located about 30 minutes away. So, the general and I drove in his car with the dove in a pet carrier.

On the way to the vet, the officer mentioned what a good year it was for his family. His country had been battling insurgents for several years, and he was an assassination target (His predecessor had been killed by a suicide bomber). So back home he could not shop, attend religious services, or go to movies with his family. He always traveled in a separate vehicle with a driver and bodyguard. Here in the U.S. he spent time with his son, attended social gatherings with his wife, and was involved in several communal activities.

As we traveled over the roads and highways, he pointed to the open fields and potential ambush sites in a matter-of-fact way. Six months into his stay in America, he was already thinking about the change that would occur when his family returned to their native country.

There are so many things we take for granted in our country. I am reminded of Norman Rockwell's "Freedom" series. It seems that a great freedom that we do not acknowledge or appreciate is the freedom from fear of everyday living.

It takes a contrast with those who experience such hardships to realize that we do have something special in America--probably more than we deserve and something that we should hope for others to experience. This morning's reflection on that dove also reminded me that the dove is symbolic of peace and tranquility. With all the turmoil we observe and experience in our lives, I hope that a dove appears for you.

By Col. Charles D. Allen

 |  May 10, 2010; 4:24 PM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Thank you, Colonel, for your service, and thank you also for helping that officer save the mourning dove. I believe there is a special reward for those who aid wildlife. As the Mariner says:

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Posted by: ancient_mariner | May 11, 2010 5:39 PM
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Our freedoms start with a respect for each other which is expressed in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. These are the foundations that many countries do not have the benefit of enjoying.

Posted by: MHawke | May 11, 2010 11:23 AM
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Thank you Col. Allen.

Well said GSS49.

Posted by: Blarney | May 11, 2010 10:28 AM
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We are blessed with a secular state that guarantees freedom of religion. The absolute separation of church and state means all religions can coexist peacefully. No one need worry that another belief is going to become the rule of the land. You do not have to become a martyr to practice your faith. You need not practice your faith in secret for fear of official or social reprisal. How ironic that religion can flourish most peacefully only in a completely secular state.

Posted by: gss49 | May 11, 2010 8:26 AM
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