Bill Connor doesn't think his 20 years of service in the United States Army makes him more of a patriot than anyone else who loves their country.
In fact, he says he admires anyone who demonstrates a love for the nation and the principles upon which it stands.
Connor, however, has gained recognition in his community for being an outstanding advocate of the devoted love, support and defense of one's country. It is his national loyalty that has earned him recognition as the exemplification of patriotism for the month of October as part of the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
"I was very honored. Quite frankly, I don't feel like I'm deserving. I thought, ‘There's other people in the community who've fought in big wars like World War II and done more than me,' but, nonetheless, I'm honored. I love the nation, so it's an award I take much pride in," Connor said.
The Orangeburg attorney volunteered as a member of the South Carolina National Guard and served as a team leader of an elite infantry advisory team in Afghanistan as part of the war on terror. He is no stranger to serving and honoring his country.
"I grew up as a military brat, so I grew up moving around and actually lived overseas for five years and then served overseas many times on active duty. It really gives you an appreciation for what American stands for, our freedoms. It does become easy to take them granted," said Connor, the son of Bill and Kathy Connor of Kansas.
"There's something special to be said for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom," said Connor, who has reached the rank of a lieutenant colonel and considers patriotism as something more than what's shown on the battlefield.
"Patriotism is obviously the love of the nation, and it's also the love of the nation's ideals. It can be shown both overseas fighting for the country, but also in what we do back home in preserving our values and way of life, our Constitution. I think every American can show patriotism," said Connor, who lost his bid for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary in June.
"Even during the campaign, I saw just a lot of folks sacrifice so much for what they believe in. And that goes beyond party lines," he said, noting that he relished the leadership role he took on while serving in Afghanistan.
"It's one of the reasons I joined the Army. I really enjoy the leadership. And the best manner of leadership is leading by example, whether that be trying to show heroism on the battlefield or just showing your value system. The military really does a good job of instilling values. It was about a year's period of time after I left active duty that I eventually just really felt a need to get back into the regular military. I joined the National Guard. It gave me an appreciation for that the military stands for," Connor said.
He said he is appreciative of the role models who helped shape his patriotic ideals, including his parents and grandparents.
"Both sets of my grandparents were career military. I think we all take on role models, and my role models were generally men who really displayed patriotism. I think one is George Washington," Connor said.
He and his wife, Susan, are the parents of three children, Peyton, 14, Brenna, 12 and Will, 10. He said he tries to extend patriotic and other Christian ideals in them as well.
"I'm a sinner saved by grace. I think we all strive to do our best. I say that because there are children out there who may have at some point taken a wrong turn. They can come back because we've all taken wrong turns. That's the message I would actually send to those who are out there," Connor said.
He also expressed appreciation for the county's Community of Character initiative.
"Austin Cunningham was a good friend of mine and a mentor. I think he was at the forefront of really pushing this idea," Connor said. "I honestly think it's critical. I think our values really are, as a nation, Biblically based. We follow the Biblical standards, and Community of Character ideals help push that.
"There are a lot of challenges in this community - unemployment, a lot of broken homes. If we can make a difference here, then this becomes an example for the rest of the state. I'm fully behind it."
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