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#310054 - 11/11/08 08:05 PM America: Land of the Free
Leah-Ann Offline
Last Saturday I made the 3 hour trek to accompany my grandmother to the dedication of a new memorial garden at the Fresno VA hospital. She has been a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary for as long as I can remember and even as she nears 90 she attends meetings regularly, visits veterans at the hospital and assists with local events. She was actively involved in the planning of the dedication ceremony for the new garden which includes three new monuments including a granite Wall of Honor recognizing local veterans. My father’s name appears on the wall and he was supposed to have attended the ceremony with my grandmother. When he couldn’t make the trip she called and asked if I would go in his place. My grandmother is one of the very few people I cannot say no to, so I reluctantly put my personal feelings aside and agreed.

On the unseasonably warm, sunny day we arrived at the hospital to find a crowd of well over a thousand people including all the normal dignitaries, a marching band and a large number of men in uniform from every branch of the military. The dedication service started exactly on time and proceeded much like hundreds of similar services held nationwide. There was the color guard leading the pledge of allegiance, the singing of the national anthem, the reading of a poem written by a local veteran, mercifully short speeches from hospital administrators and an explanation of each of the three monuments. As I sat through the ceremony and looked around the crowd I saw several people I knew - a couple of local politicians, one of the judges I used to appear before regularly, the local attorney who photographs every bar event - all with their own reasons for being present. But it was the veterans I paid the most attention to. They were scattered throughout the crowd, a couple in wheelchairs, one carrying his own supply of oxygen, most sitting with friends and family members. They stood proudly at attention when the color guard marched the flag in and out, sang every word of the national anthem and saluted through the entire gun salute, while many of us flinched at each shot fired. It was clear that each had their own memories and most seemed glad to be present. At the end of the service Taps was played as a flight of white doves was released to fly overhead and off into the distance.

At the hospital entrance hangs a large American flag with a sign underneath reading, “The price of freedom can be seen here.” Personally, I disagree that the price charged is the price that must be paid. I do not believe that violence is necessary to the development of a free society and that in fact violence is evidence of a fractured society. Even so, it was not lost on me that so many have paid that price, both willingly and unwillingly, and it is fitting to honor those sacrifices. This dedication ceremony did that.

Unfortunately, what followed the ceremony simply served to underscore for me how incredibly tunnel visioned we are. The crowd was dismissed to view the garden and invited to a lunch prepared by hospital staff. As my grandmother and I made our way to the wall to look for my father’s name, I watched with incredulity as people elbowed and pushed past those already waiting in line for their turn to view the monuments. Several skipped the line altogether and walked through the freshly planted garden, trampling baby rosebushes underfoot as they fidgeted with the latest electronic versions of camera or cell phone to capture images of the memorials honoring service in the name of a country designed to ensure freedom and equality for all. Again, it was the veterans I watched. They stood back letting people push past them for their photo ops. I watched one older gentleman in uniform follow reluctantly as a much younger woman I took to be his daughter dragged him by the arm as she propelled her way through the crowd until she reached the wall. As they passed us the gentleman slowed even more to apologize for stepping on my foot. He seemed embarrassed at the entire ordeal and I wondered how honored he felt at that moment and just how proud he was of his fellow Americans.

Suddenly I was reminded of a quote I saw just after the invasion of Iraq: “America is not at war. The Marine Corps is at war; America is at the mall.” It occurred to me that every day in so many ways we squander what so many have sacrificed so much for. While we celebrate the freedom to go where we want, say what we want, live as we please we forget - or is it that we ignore - that the choices we make impact everyone else around us. As I drove home late Saturday I thought about the day’s activities and reflected that it might serve us well to remember that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should, that demanding our rights at the expense of what is best for others might not be the best use of our freedom and that maybe we’ll never really be free until something unites us together.

http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/998141.html

http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/video?id=6496176
_________________________
I can never remember which is better . . . safe? . . . or sorry?

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#310056 - 11/11/08 08:16 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: Leah-Ann]
shuffles Offline
Very nice LA.....I must say that I agree with you on every point. Spending 6 weeks in the US this year once again made me painfully aware of where the term "ugly American" comes from.

It is sad to go to a place that you for many years called "home" and have to train yourself for the first week or two not to say "hello" to passersby in order to avoid their shocked looks of surprise or annoyance.

The reminder for me comes quickly, once the plane touches down in Houston or Miami, when the throngs of people, pushing and shoving both themselves and their luggage, are doing everything they can with their free hand getting their cell phones connected to who knows what or where......that sense of self importance that glows around them all like giant beacons. Once connected, they feel the urge to let everyone within earshot hear details of the "major shareholder", "complex deal", "financial considerations", or whatever buzz word will make them stand out to the crowd. Sad thing is, they all become part of the crowd.

Your attendance was undoubtedly very important to your grandmother, and I'm sure she was thrilled to have you along. I only wish mine were still living so that I could spend a day with her.

Thanks again.
_________________________
Change your Latitude

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#310058 - 11/11/08 08:17 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: shuffles]
skippy Offline
You almost said something supportive of your country. Keep trying!
_________________________
I hope that someday we can put aside our fears and prejudices and just laugh at people.

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#310060 - 11/11/08 08:24 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: skippy]
Ernie B Offline
LA finally said something that, for the most part I can agree with.

"All Gave Some, Some Gave ALL"
_________________________
Gun Control is Hitting Your Target.

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#310087 - 11/11/08 09:43 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: SP Daily]
ScubaLdy Offline
Thanks LeAnn - very moving.
Ted Turner was not only featured on CNN on Sunday but was a guest on the David Letterman Show last night. He talked about going to as many countries as possible and making at least one friend in each one; even countries of those we considered our enemies. He said if we all would do that we could end all wars as we wouldn’t want to declare war on one of our personal friends. BRILLIANT! I want to buy this mans book.
OK – all you hawks who want to attack me – take a minute and think about your ancestry. Maybe even think about what your religion teaches.
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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#310095 - 11/11/08 10:45 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: ScubaLdy]
2Aggies Offline
LA - It is wonderful you have that memory now with your grandmother. It is among many I am sure.

While there were those who had no respect, you obviously made the connection to the respect those who have served have and show towards others and their country. Coming from a military family, I appreciate your kind words.

_________________________
Play, Love, Share and Enjoy - it doesn't last forever make sure you get the most out of it.

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#310098 - 11/11/08 11:05 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: 2Aggies]
reaper Offline
One of my best friends in the world has a great point. He flies on an air rescue helicopter in Australia under a civilian contract to the Air Force there. I asked him once why he never was in the military, yet loves his job so much. His answer...

"Why would I want to go to some country and kill a guy I would rather have dinner and a beer with and discuss what it was like for him to grow up in his country. Just because some politician thinks he's bad, I have to shoot him?"

If you ever go to an international sporting event it is an amazing sight. At the World Skydiving Championships every two years it is wonderful to watch Brits, Irish, Jews, Arabs, Chinese, French, Aussies, Russians, Yanks, etc. all compete hard and party even harder together. It just seems so easy to all be friends.

LA, Your Granny loved being with you and it made her week I'm sure.

To all of the veterans here, thanks!

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#310107 - 11/11/08 11:35 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: reaper]
KathyA Offline
Very nice, LA. I have to write a lot of reflections on various topics. Do you mind if I cut and paste? Just kidding. I believe that it was Aristotle who said that it was a sign of an intelligent mind to be able to entertain two opposing viewpoints at the same time. You did just that very eloquently.


Edited by KathyA (11/13/08 03:46 PM)

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#310110 - 11/11/08 11:52 PM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: KathyA]
ScubaLdy Offline
I was asked to attend a convention in Costa Rica and do not speak Spanish. I was assured that “Most people in San Jose speak English.” WRONG!
There were representative from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama as well as the host country Costa Rica. Out of 40 some attendee’s only one man, who came from Panama, spoke any English. I was the only person from Belize and they say Belice.

HOWEVER, through smiles, nods, hand gestures and head shaking we all managed to communicate our pleasure with each others company. I asked Oscar to please not try to do word for word interpretation but to every 15 to 30 minutes give me a summary. I was also the oldest person there, I have very limited mobility and was waited on hand and foot.

We were transported by private bus across three mountain ranges to a retreat in the rain forest. I was very impressed with their sincerity during the many hours of deliberation and their full out fun when between sessions. A few of them wanted to learn some
English and they all wanted to teach me Spanish. I did learn some – the most important is “Pura Vida – Costa Rica!” accompanied by two thumbs up.

They loaded a valise full of literature, all in Spanish, for me to take back to people at home.

I have e-mail addresses and invitations to visit each of the countries. I wish more people would take the opportunity to take more chances to meet people who are not just like them.

As nice as this trip has been I can hardly wait to get back home to my Isla Bonita – manana to Miami.
_________________________
Harriette
Take only pictures leave only bubbles

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#310137 - 11/12/08 02:29 AM Re: America: Land of the Free [Re: ScubaLdy]
SnoopysMom Offline
Probably shouldn't, but here goes....

My experience is that most international airports are all pretty similar (just different languages spoken)... I hate traveling myself, but had to for years for my work and found almost everything about it annoying. I happen to think, that, In most cases, it is the situation (or conditions) that causes the behavior - the people themselves are not bad or "ugly".

Relative to Americans, I think you would find in almost every case, even in large metro cities, people are the same everywhere (even the Yankees, ha ha). I believe that kindness and a smile are pretty much welcomed anywhere you are (especially a baby's smile). In fact, those persons with all the distractions (cell phones and Blackberries) may be in need of a human connection most of all!

IMO - War for the sake of freedom and peace is a concept that our ancestors certainly understood (as many currently do in foreign lands). Right or wrong, this is an example of America's insulation from the harsh reality of our world (the fight for control and power). Yes, it seems very barbaric, just like killing animals for food. Could I really "kill to eat"? I hope I never have to, as I am certain that I would starve. I can't even begin to imagine killing another human being. My heart aches for those veterans who sacrificed so much for what they believed in - the freedom of their children and their children's children.... They wanted us to have a "better" life filled with opportunities.

On veterans day, let us give them appreciation for these great sacrifices. And every day let us try to refrain from judgment and try to extend the "benefit of the doubt" to other human beings.

Just one girls opinion smile



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