James Sutherland served in United States Navy for 11 years during peacetime and wartime. Medical issues brought him back to civilian life but his faith in America and his patriotism is as strong as ever, even as a resurgence of social and political issues hit home, he is forever, ready and willing to defend the United States.
James Sutherland who is from Louisville, KY left the Navy ranked as an E5. “I joined the Navy in 1983 and I was medically separated December 1994,” Sutherland said while standing outside of the Veterans Affairs Office in Goose Creek.
“I look back on it with pride it is probably one of the best things that I have ever done was joining the service,” he said.
Sutherland it seemed was destined to join the armed forces. “My brother he joined the Army first, my older brother,” he said. “Then I joined the Navy, then my younger brother who is under me joined the Marine Corps.”
In the Navy he played a role in peacetime conflicts like the one in Panama. In 1990 as one of largest military buildups in U.S. history was taking place for Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf he was stationed in Charleston as a U.S. led coalition pushed Iraq out of Kuwait. He was as willing as any other to be in front for the fight but his country needed him elsewhere during wartime.
“I wanted to go,” he said. “At that particular time I was on shore duty, they have a sea-shore rotation in the Navy, I was on shore duty working right here in Charleston at the Naval Consolidated Brig. I was part of the commissioning crew that opened that place up.”
While it has been said many times there is not enough support for our military here at home. Sutherland, who is African American feels differently. “I just like the fact when people find out you’re in the military they kind of look up to you and say thank you for your service,” he said.
He knows well the struggles that come with military life something he now shares with his children. “It’s a difficult job being away from your family, our son, he is in the Air Force,” Sutherland said.
As the country grows more divided Sutherland watches it unfold and has some concerns for the country he is so proud to serve, but it doesn’t shake his commitment. “Not in the least,” he said. “You know America has its own set of problems and issues just like every other country but there is still no place that I would rather be than right here in America. I will still fight and defend this country if they called me today,”
And when it comes to people kneeling in front of flag during the National Anthem he offers his perspective from different points-of-view. “I personally am conflicted, I am pulled to both sides you know, it’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “You know god gave us all free will and it is exercised greatly here in the United States because of the first amendment. If that is the platform you choose to stand on go right ahead that is your right as an American, but just know that everybody may not feel the same way.”