Note: This essay is the first installment in a series entitled, "American Lives," which spotlights great Americans, famous and anonymous, who have lived exemplary American Lives.

As we glide comfortably into the twenty-first century, social commentators ask if this generation of Americans will embrace the ancient cause of liberty. Because we live in a free society dependent on enlightened self-government and public service, each generation is called upon to embrace the mantle of citizenship. Free men and women dedicated to upholding sacred institutions handed down from our heroes of the past must give new life to Democracy.

Lt. Colonel Charles Yates, USAF-Ret is one of our heroes. Through tenacity and a desire to serve, Charles and millions of Americans like him met every challenge of their critical times. Our generation inherits the blessings of freedom, security and prosperity from men like Charles Yates. If we are to meet the challenges in our future, we do well to appreciate and emulate his model American life.

Born in Rutherford, Tennessee in 1924, Charles Clancie Yates inherited a tradition of stubborn self-reliance, independent thinking and devotion to duty from his Gibson County antecedents. Men of that region, who intrepidly pioneered the Northwest Tennessee frontier during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth century, a few generations later, bucked the prevailing tide of secession as the Civil War approached. A significant number of them volunteered to fight for the preservation of the Union; one of those volunteers was W. C. Bell, maternal great grandfather to Charles Yates. By the 1920s, however, like most rural Southerners, residents of Rutherford battled an enemy at least as furious as civil war: the onset of the Great Depression.

» Read More