I would like to start off my presentation by covering the definition of what exactly American creed is. First formulated by Thomas Jefferson, American Creed stands for the liberty, equality, and individualism that American opportunities provide to whoever it is that seeks them. Something that Jefferson forgot to mention, that others elaborated on for him, is the American aspect of freedom. Of all of my ancestors, my grandfather, Command Sergeant Major Ronald Sneed, most emulates what it means to fight for the freedom of the American creed and do whatever it takes to protect it.
My grandfather was born on March 16, 1948 in Roseville, California. From an early age, he knew that he wanted to serve in the military just like his father, grandfather, and great grandfather did. Once he graduated high school, he enlisted into the United States Army. At the time, the United States was sending troops to Vietnam to fight in the Vietnam War, and my grandfather had shown great potential. After a few years, my grandfather was deployed to pack up his bags and fight in Vietnam.
In just his first years in the United States Army, he participated in five tours to Vietnam, all adding up to 4 ½ years in battle; he also managed to earn three purple hearts while he was there. In his last year in Vietnam, my grandfather was in a Bell UH-1 Iroquois when a grenade under his seat was hit and went off, setting his entire uniform on fire. His nylon web gear melted to his body, leaving every inch of his body from neck to toes covered in burnt scar tissue and some covered with skin grafts. Despite burning way over 50% of his body, he remained in the United States Army and in his last couple years, served in the Persian Gulf War.
During the Persian Gulf War, he fought in the Battle of 73 Easting, the Battle of Phase Line Bullet and in Desert Storm. During Desert Storm, members of his crew fell behind the rest of the group and were critically injured. My grandfather, heading back to help his wounded soldiers, was blown off his feet while under direct fire. When he woke up hours later, he was critically injured, but saw his best friend, Staff Sergeant Kenneth Gentry. He got up, picked up Sergeant Gentry, and carried him 2 ½ miles to the American side, where they treated him at the medic and he survived. In his six months in the Persian Gulf War, he managed to earn three more purple hearts.
After twenty-seven years in the United States Army, my grandfather, Ronald Sneed, retired in Kentucky a Command Sergeant Major (highest enlisted rank achievable in the United States Army), earned a total of six purple hearts, and was a soldier in the 4th Batallion in the 7th Cavalry. To this day, he suffers from severe PTSD.
To me, my grandfather is the epitome of what it means to fight for what you believe in and protect what you care about at all costs which is something I believe is extremely important to the American creed. In the film, quite obviously, his story can be mostly related to that of Tegan Griffith’s, a marine veteran who speaks on the aspects of serving in the military and how they apply to the American creed. Of everything Griffith sys, my grandfather's actions most closely gravitate towards her statement that “freedom is the fabric of our uniform”.
My grandfather recalls "that was the biggest thing for me. Every time I felt like the fighting was too much or it was time to retire, I was reminded of what I was fighting for, that everything I was doing was for the world that my kids would live in, and their kids, and their kids' kids”. He continues: "When I tell people I took five tours back to Vietnam, they look at me like I’m crazy, it’s that aspect of freedom and knowing that there is a reason why I was doing what I did that made it all worth it”. Griffith also mentions a quote relating to her fellow soldiers being a family and my grandfather closely relates to as well. She says "you don’t join the military to support just one political party" and continues “you’re all just one unit fighting for one particular thing." My grandfather's response to Griffith's words was heart warming and he says “we didn’t really have time to argue about politics or what we believed in that another soldier didn’t, and I think that’s a really good thing. For a long time it’s been one political party verses the other, but in the army those people are your family. They’re crawling on the ground, in as much pain as you are, getting as much dirt on their face as you are, seeing all the same things as you are. It doesn’t matter what president you voted for that year, or why you voted for them, when you’re in war, you’re a family”.
I feel this the perfect time to introduce one of Condoleezza Rice’s quotes: “Do what you need to do, but never leave others behind." My grandfather recalls the moment he went back for Staff Sergeant Gentry: “That was one of the hardest moments of my life." He continues “in the movies you hear the “no soldier left behind” thing, but when you’re actually living that, nothing is more important than saving as many of your brothers as you can."
Rice also mentions the aspect of “always remember[ing] where you came from because it makes you who you are" that my grandfather feels equally passionate about. “I have dreams about Vietnam and Iraq probably three times a week" he confides and adds “people ask if it was worth it and that really makes me kind of angry. The American creed isn’t supposed to be easy. I’ve never met someone who lived a fulfilled life by waiting around and expecting people to do everything for them. If you want something you work for it, and if that means having these scars all over my body, and bad dreams three times a week, then that’s just what it is. These scars make me who I am, and my experiences are those of battles I do not regret fighting."
The last quote I ask him to consider, I was very hesitant to ask because I wasn’t sure if it applied to his experiences or if he would strongly disagree with it. At Stanford, Drs. Condoleezza Rice and David M. Kennedy speak with a student who says that "the problem with the American Dream is a lot of it is based off of luck." Laughing, my grandfather says "if it weren’t for luck, I wouldn’t be here" and continues "when I was at my check-up after Vietnam, I remember the nurse asking me “how did you do it?”and I looked at her just as confused as she was. When the doctor came in, I’ll never forget him telling me "you’re one lucky man, Major Sneed” and I just laughed and said “I know." My grandfather is my greatest example of perseverance through his fight for freedom, his commitment to his soldiers, and his dedication to fight for what he believed in. These are all tremendous examples of the American creed.