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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Happy birthday, Gen. Washington

February 22, 2012|By Joe Puglia

I left Vietnam in 1971 and took a job at Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C. I hated the spit and polish of being an administrative officer at the prestigious post, so it didn't take long to ruffle the feathers of my superiors. I found no joy in presiding over summary court martials. I liked the smell of gunpowder and volunteered to return to Vietnam, but those days were over.

In order to relieve the doldrums of barracks life, every weekend I'd drive 2½ hours to Valley Forge to volunteer as a docent. I taught the scheme of drill, tactics, and the spirit of the bayonet that General Von Steuben perfected on the grand parade grounds at Valley Forge in 1778. He turned a rag-tag militia into an army. There, on May 6, Von Steuben presented his creation to General George Washington.

The tour buses would drive to the parade grounds. There, I would meet the visitors adjacent to Von Steuben's statue. My initial remarks were typically along these lines: “If you want to understand the miracle of the revolution, you must know who George Washington was and what he did at Valley Forge.”

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Washington believed in a destiny guided by Providence. With soldiers who could survive the perils of Valley Forge, he promised that victory and freedom were imminent. He held the Continental Army together against insurmountable odds, ensuring the promise of freedom for future generations.

Washington was not born a hero; he was a simple man with immovable principles. He assumed the responsibility for the success of a burgeoning movement, facing unprecedented challenges difficult for us to imagine. In 1777 he led his beleaguered soldiers into winter quarters at Valley Forge. Washington, his army and the future of America were on the ropes.

Since my days as a docent I've left no stone unturned in delving into the fascination of who this man was. His birthday was on Feb. 22, so of course I had to write something about the general.

To commemorate his birthday, I read “Being George Washington,” by Glenn Beck. Beck cites an accounting by an unnamed Indian chief in a fight between Washington's forces and the French and Indians. The fight took place on the Ohio frontier in 1755.

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