Tuesday, July 5, 2011

5 Weeks In the States, Part I

Wiggs in front of the White House
Can I just start by saying how wonderful it was to be here in America yesterday? Last year we were in Honduras on the 4th of July and it was just kind of sad. We don’t celebrate many of the usual holidays down there because they don’t celebrate them, or at least not in the same way. So Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Halloween, they all just pass by with barely a notice.

When we began to plan our trip back to the states I asked Brian if he wanted to spend the 4th in Portland or Washington DC. I had heard that the celebration on the National Mall was completely amazing and it would have been fun, probably a once in a lifetime thing. But we agreed that the 4th here at home would be more enjoyable. Jon and Lynsey Knapp invited us out to barbecue and swim in Molalla and then spend the evening at the Molalla Buckaroo…okay, for those of you that know me you can picture the look on my face when Brian shared this news with me. “I traded a 4th in DC for a rodeo?” I thought and actually said. Foggy memories of the Let ‘Er Buck room at the Pendleton Roundup many moons ago surfaced and I kind of shuddered thinking about how many fringe jackets and rhinestones would be there. Michael, our 13 year old angsty, never wear anything but black, Iron Maiden loving teenager was even more thrilled than I about the planned festivities, but I told him that life often puts you where you don’t want to be and you just need to suck it up and make the best of it.

Well cowboy up, ladies and gentlemen, cause it was a fabulous day. The boys were able to spend hours playing in the pool in the glorious 85 degree sun and we were able to spend some good time hanging out with old friends (and I’m not just talking about their age) and new. About 7:00 we headed on into the rodeo, throwing the diet out the window of the truck on the way. Shave ice, cotton candy, sausages, elephant ears, root beer floats…all stuff we never eat. It was actually fun watching the cowboys ride bucking broncs and bulls, seeing the trick riders, and Slim in his airplane car made us laugh until we cried. Thank you Jon and Lynsey for inviting us, DC has got nothing on the day we had.

Speaking of crying and DC, if you’re in need of a little patriotic shot in the arm DC will definitely give you one. Our first stop after arriving in the states, we toured the Capitol, some of the Smithsonian’s, the monuments and memorials, Arlington National Cemetery, and got to see the White House (from the outside). I had decided that for the time God has us in Honduras we would make an intentional effort to teach our kids, and learn for ourselves, the history of America so that when the day comes to move back we will have a love and appreciation for the USA that seems to be sorely lacking among many that are privilege to live here. We have an incredible opportunity to learn about what has actually taken place over the last 235 years that allows us to have the freedoms we have in the US, and to contrast that with the life we live in Honduras and the lack of freedom and opportunity that is LIFE in Central America and my hope is that in seeing the two, we will Pledge Our Allegiance to the Flag of The United States of America more than ever before.

My dad fought in World War II. He was a 2nd Lieutenant bombardier running missions over Japan, taking off from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska. In November 1944 their B-24 was shot down and they all knew if they were going to survive they needed to get out of Japan and into Russia. They made it and spent the next year interned in Russia until they “escaped” across the southern border and were brought home. They were told never to tell anyone they were there, that it was classified information and basically never happened. Russian president Yeltsin finally fessed up and my dad was given his POW status and accompanying benefits about 40 years later. It’s an incredible story that few people know about, but a couple of books have been written including The Last Flight of Bomber 31 by Ralph Wetterhahn, and Home From Siberia: The Secret Odysseys of Interned American Airmen in World War II by Otis Hays. Anyway, because of this I knew the World War II Memorial would be moving and it was as I sat there trying to imagine what he went through. We talked with the boys as we stopped at each memorial about what the reasons were for each war and how freedom really isn’t free. None of the memorials were as humbling, though, as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial with wall after wall filled with the names of tens of thousands of fallen men. People all along the wall held pieces of paper over the name of someone they knew, rubbing a pencil over the top to make an impression to take with them. As we walked along I saw a lady having a difficult time trying to hold the paper and make the impression by herself. I offered to help and asked her who the person was and listened to her story; the man had served with her husband and after he got out of the military they had lost contact. Her husband had always wondered what had happened to the guy and one day, 20 years later, he found out while reading a book that he had re-enlisted and was killed in Vietnam. She said he always felt guilty for not keeping in contact with the man and finding his name was just a little gesture of respect for the sacrifice he had made.

How many people have I, or you, lost track of over the years? People that were once important parts of everyday life and now we have no idea where they are or if they are even still alive.

Our last stop on the National Mall just as the sun was setting was the Lincoln Memorial and for the first time since forever, because I’m sure I didn’t do it in history class in high school, I read the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Read that last paragraph very carefully again and see if you notice what I did. We honor the men and women of the military that have fought to defend our country and the freedoms we have, and we should, we owe it to them. But it isn’t just their job folks. “It is for US the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work…that from these honored dead WE take increased devotion…that WE here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God…shall not perish from the earth.” Do you see it? It is up to every single one of us to make sure that the more than 1.3 million Americans that have died in wars didn’t do it for nothing. WE are responsible for making sure that our nation remains UNDER GOD, governed by the people and for the people. It’s unfinished work, it will never be finished, and we are supposed to be devoted to that cause.

So there I stood last night listening to our national anthem being sung rather poorly, watching our flag being raised by members of the military, with tears running down my cheeks from the incredible privilege I had to be in the United States of America, at the Molalla Buckaroo, on the 4th of July.

To be continued…

US Capitol

Washington Monument with US Capitol in the background

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

Vietnam Memorial

Pacific Theater World War II Memorial

1 comment:

Jessica said...

Amen sister! Oh, I love you and your thought provoking writing! I am glad you are at it again. I hope I get to see you all while you are in PDX!

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