State Historic Site
IN MARCH 1918, an unidentified Sheridan "boy" wrote a letter to his father, requesting support for the younger man's wish to enter into the aviation service.
The Sheridan Enterprise, which believed the letter to be "one of the most inspiring statements of zeal for the republic and its principles which we have yet seen," published the missive on 22 March 1918. The paper withheld the names of the parties involved "because he wrote confidentially to his father, and that father on his own account and on that of his son, wishes to make no capital out of so sacred a communication."
"The boy," continues The Enterprise," is absolutely convinced of what he should do and is just old enough to follow his own mind, but he wishes to get his father's consent before taking the step."
The father eventually concedes to his son's wishes.
To me, life is a second-place consideration. I would not move out of death’s tracks one inch if the choice lay between it and honor. I have no fear at all of death. I give the matter no consideration and never think about it. When the Great Maker calls me, I am ready.
So far as dangerous service is concerned, if you will show me a sure death by which I can serve my country to the utmost, I will choose it immediately. Our country needs aviators and needs them badly. Not the kinds that are found in every day walks of life. But men of daring and skill and such men are found only in lovers of their calling, lovers of aviation and danger. I am one of those, and it is my duty that I go. Not one of my grandfathers had stood listlessly by letting someone fight his fight. Why should I? Am I the only blot upon the flag that carries the coat of arms of the family? What could be of greater honor to a family, a father, a mother, than to have given one of themselves, a son to a cause to be won only by blood? Perhaps even by his blood. Am I not placed in this world to accomplish some good? What greater good might I accomplish than to die for my country, yes, my country and our country? Nathan Hale said when he stood upon his scaffold, “My only regret is that I have but one life to give to my country.” He was a man. What, am I to shield a cowardly soul that I may enjoy the fruits of others’ suffering?
I have been told that my place is to prepare myself that I may better help restore the Union to normal conditions when this great strife is over. Let us all prepare ourselves to restore the Union. Let the failures of life, the bums, the toughs, the inmates of the pens and the pimps do our fighting and pollute the soil of France with their blood? We banish them from our society, but we want them to uphold a sacred cause! They have failed in themselves so let them defend democracy! Let them make our freedom. Were those the type that upheld the honor of our nation during our previous struggles, the Revolution of 1812, the Civil and the Spanish-American wars? Are those our forefathers who bled for us, whom we love, honor and almost worship? Is our Union founded upon the blood of such? If so, I shudder at defending a flag resting upon such a foundation.
I claim not such a citizenship. If conditions are such, let me also be “a man without a country.” Conditions are not such, I am proud to say, and no army constructed on such trash is going to share the honor of defending Old Glory. Not so long as there are red-blooded men of my age and loyalty existing. There are reconstructionists a plenty, but what we need now is American manhood to build an army which will hurl defeat into the gaping mouth of the Hun.
Cromwell’s army was an army of men and was never defeated by those of that element which many co-called patriots would place at the staff of our flag. If the choicest of Americans do not respond, there will be no work for reconstructionists to do. I am one of American’s sons and am standing idle while I could fly the flag of freedom from the bullet nose of a Liberty Aeroplane over the very crown of Berlin’s despotism. I am one of the ones upon whom the life of a great nation depends, upon whom the honor of a mother and father and family hangs in balance.
Shall I forsake all for the sake of a living death, that of a coward’s disgrace? Have I no love for the honor of my family? I do not wish a coward’s disgrace, and I have the love of my family’s honor, therefore I am going to do all that is within my ability, and you know what that is. These, my dear father, are my real honest-to-God convictions, and I think they are right.