LEESBURG -- More than 30 years ago, Greg Frich took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.
That oath, taken when the 17-year-old Frich joined the U.S. Marine Corps, didn't mean a whole lot at the time. Oh, Frich was more than willing to fight for his country, but the Constitution was little more than a document he'd heard about in history class.
It took Frich 29 years in the Corps -- "on the West Coast, the East Coast, overseas, fighting in Desert Storm and OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom)" -- and several more in the civilian world as a defense contractor to finally grasp what that oath he took was all about. Now, he wants to make sure others share his new-found knowledge.
"I took that oath to support and defend the Constitution when I was 17, but I had never really looked at the actual document," Frich, a program manager with Raytheon Technical Services, said. "As the years went by, I read a little of it, but I just didn't see how it applied to me. I thought my job would always be overseas.
"When I retired and came home, though, my perspective changed. I started to look at our government, and I didn't necessarily like a lot of the things that I saw."
But Frich and his family had settled in rural Lee County, and their focus seemed light years away from the seat of power in Washington, D.C.
"As I focused on our nation's government, there were things in Washington that I didn't necessarily like," Frich said. "But I thought Leesburg was a long ways away from that federal barrier. After I attended my first Lee County Commission meeting, however, I realized that Washington was not so far away after all.
"And that oath I'd taken when I was 17 came back to me."
Frich got involved in the Concerned Citizens of Leesburg grassroots movement to try and overturn a Lee Commission ordinance that will place county garbage fees on citizens' ad valorem tax bills. That involvement drew him back to where his story had begun: the Constitution.
"I met with (Commission Chairman) Ed Duffy and (Commissioner) Bill Williams, and I found them to be wonderful men who work hard to do what's right," Frich said. "But I also discovered they had very little knowledge of the state or national constitutions."
While working on the anti-garbage bill effort with like-minded citizens W.F. Griffin and Dent Reeves, the trio learned of a "Making of America Conference" in Edison presented by the nonpartisan National Center for Constitutional Studies. Intrigued, they attended.
"That seminar was the best presentation of where our country is that I've ever been to," Reeves said. "I was extremely impressed. They taught a lot of background on our Founding Fathers and how they relied on their religious principles to write the Constitution.
"When I left that seminar, I realized we've come so far away from the intent of our Constitution that we're now in a disaster zone. I think it's become imperative that we get our young people in the 25 to 50 age group back on board, back involved. If we don't, our country's going down the tubes."
The trio went to the membership of the Concerned Citizens of Leesburg group and suggested that they bring the Making of America Conference to the county.
"We decided the best place to bring this program was to our neighborhood," Dent said. "If you want to make changes (in government), you have to start locally."
The group took its idea to First Baptist Church pastor Bobby Harrell, who quickly agreed to host the all-day seminar, planned for Nov. 12.
"I think the people of our church and the people of our community need to be better informed about the Constitution," Harrell said. "I feel the rights of U.S. citizens, and especially the rights of Christians, are being taken from us, little by little.
"The more informed we are about our Constitutional rights, the better off we'll be. We're a country that was founded on Christian principles, but other religions are being allowed to replace our Christian values."
Cost of the seminar is $10, which includes a lunch and study materials. The program kicks off at 8 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m.
"I can honestly say I learned more about the Constitution in the eight hours of this seminar than I had in my entire lifetime," Frich said. "I even served this country for 29 years with very little of the knowledge I gained from this seminar.
"People tend to get the wrong impression when they hear about an event like this. The Making of America Conference is not about secession, not about getting your rifles oiled to prepare for the revolution. It's about the principles on which this country was founded. I came away remembering why this is the greatest nation on Earth; and it still is. We may have had some bad leaders along the way, but we're still the epicenter of liberty in this world."
Persons interested in attending the Making of America Conference are encouraged to make reservations as soon as possible. They may do so by sending a check or money order to Frich at 100 Miller Road, Leesburg, 31763. Both Frich and Reeves may be contacted by phone at (229) 886-8221 or (229) 344-3379.
"It's vital that we educate ourselves about our Constitution," Frich said. "Look at the things we've accomplished living under this document, from landing a man on the moon to the invention of electricity. We've accomplished more in the last 200 years than the whole world had in the previous 5,000
"Our Constitution set men's minds and spirits free. And we can return to that mindset."