Proud American

Medal of Honor recipient: Why I'm proud to be an American

Something I’ve long admired about our country is our individual spirit of self-accomplishment. We embrace the mentality that nothing is too difficult, that there are no limitations on what we can accomplish.

One of my favorite examples of this is a man named Ken Small.  He was a welder, just one guy who drove a truck. Behind his steering wheel, rolling through the oilfields of Bakersfield, Calif., in the late 1950s, he serviced the rigs that provided jobs for thousands, and energy for millions. But Ken knew an opportunity when he saw one. Like many Americans before him, he tightened his belt and started a business. It was never easy, and a lot of problems stood in his way. But today, that business is a leader in construction, engineering, and fabrication, employing 3,000 people.

Two generations after Ken took a chance on himself, his company took a chance on an ex-soldier fresh out of the Army, and I’m a better man for it.

Behind the wheel of my own pickup truck, I think about Ken’s story a lot. Building something out of nothing is hard, but it’s what we do in America. And no one does it better.

Look at Bill Gates.  He believed in his own vision and ideas strongly enough that he dropped out of college to start a software business in his garage.

Self-accomplishment isn’t exclusive to business, of course. Ronald Reagan was a poor boy from Illinois who became a radio announcer and actor to make ends meet. But he saw his country headed in the wrong direction, and knew he had to set things right. It was a journey of accomplishment that led him to the White House.

In my own life, I have tried to embody this spirit. When I joined the Army, I figured I would never amount to anything more than a private. Working beside some of the best minds our military has ever produced, I was inspired to give more of myself than I ever thought possible, and was proud to earn the rank of staff sergeant.

In America, we don’t have a dictator or supreme leader to pave the road before us. We only have ourselves. But by building something out of nothing, you can accomplish great things not just for yourself, but for your countrymen too—and for that, I’m proud to be an American.

Clinton is a former United States Army soldier who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of Kamdesh in 2009 during the war in Afghanistan.