The Morning Call

Warrior Wednesday: Wall Of Memories/Bracelets Of Hope

Wall panorama I don’t know what it says about us as a species, but somehow we humans manage to have a war every ten to twenty years; as if each generation needs it’s own bloody touchstone. For my group of Baby Boomers, it was and is, Vietnam. 

Since the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, “The Wall”, was dedicated in 1982, I’ve wanted to go there. On each subsequent trip to Washington, time and schedules conspired against me. Last week, I finally made it.

I’ve been to many nationally significant and historic sites, from Gettysburg to Ground Zero three months after the attacks. Each place has it’s own energy; it’s own ghosts that stand guard over their tragic legacy.

For me, The Vietnam Wall holds not ghosts but memories of friends and classmates, including the boy who took me to the Junior Prom. I’ve written of Greg, my other lost friends, and the Vietnam era impact, before. "The Morning Call" continues to carry one of those columns on its website. But I was still unprepared for the gut punch of that long black monolith of loss.

Before I found any of the names I was looking for, tears were streaming down my face. Greg’s name was too high for me to make a tracing. I left a note so he would know he’s not forgotten. Many people do the same. The day I visited, the space at the bottom of the wall held flowers, teddy bears, military insignia, and several bracelets that are only to be returned when the person whose name is on them comes home, is identified, or when the wearer is no longer able. Wall bracelet & note

One bracelet was accompanied by a note that read, “Jonathan, Welcome Home! I apologize for taking 23 years to return your bracelet. It (and another) belonged to my grandmother who wore it until her passing in 2000. I inherited the bracelets partly because I knew of their significance. A few years ago I was able to find out you had returned but was unsure what to do with the bracelet. Since the internet I was able to find out that bracelets of the returned should be left at The Wall, so here it is. I want you to know that generations of my family… The rest is unintelligible, but it doesn’t take much imagining to fill in the blanks: Several generations of an American family thought about a stranger lost thousands of miles from home, every day of their lives.

Vietnam Statue Washington is filled with memorials to heroes who saved the nation and warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice. Each generation’s war has its marker; Korea, both World Wars, and Vietnam. Only The Wall holds the names of its fallen: Black slab after black slab of courageous young men and women who never came home.

I wonder what this current generation’s Iraq and Afghanistan memorial will look like?  

Citizen Soldiers On The Front Lines

Battle captain w-hdstStarting with the militias of the Revolutionary War, when farmers would drop their plows, pick up their muskets, and run toward the sound of the battle, ordinary citizens have been protecting our freedoms. Never more so than in this age of terrorism, fighting an unconventional enemy thousands of miles from home.

The strain on the country’s military has spilled over to the “citizen soldiers” of the National Guard, many of whom have been deployed multiple times, resulting in distraught families and disrupted lives. Among the states whose US National Guard units have paid the heaviest price for the “War on Terror” is Pennsylvania, whose Guard is one of the largest, best equipped, and most deployed Guards in the country. The price for that honor has been high: Pennsylvania has lost more National Guard soldiers than any other state; 48 of our family, friends, and neighbors have been lost.

Beginning in early 2012, the 55th BCT will once again head for foreign shores when they deploy to Kuwait for one year mission. More about the training, preparation, and ramp-up to that deployment in today’s column in The Morning Call

My God protect them and may they all return safely to their families. 

The Desire To Be Free…Through a post 9-11 lens

Today’s column in The Morning Call tells the story of a non-profit organization that brings Afghan entrepreneurs to the U.S. for training and mentoring. To become part of the program, one must already have a functioning small business, go through a rigorous interview process, and be willing to work within a business plan and prescribed level of expected outcomes. The goal is to grow the business and provide employment for as many Afghans as possible. “More jobs mean less violence” is the mantra.

After all the “T’s” are crossed and hoops jumped through, the group is brought to the U.S. for immersion in modern business techniques and set up with internships in their chosen fields. By way of disclaimer; I am a member of the Business Council for Peace (Bpeace) and regularly participate in this program. Considering the obstacles that the average Afghan encounters every day, the success rate of the Bpeace program has been nothing short of amazing: Over 1000 jobs have been created to date, which in such a tight knit familial and tribal based society, translates into thousands of people whose lives have been stabilized and improved.

As a country of immigrants, the United States has always been tolerant and welcoming to people who want to come here. I imagine many of us have tales of family members who arrived on U.S. shores under less than ideal conditions. I personally know of two tales of daring do from people who jumped ship and become productive members of our society.

But that was then and this is now: “Now” is a post 9-11 world where people from other places must be looked at with suspicion, because they may mean to do us harm. And it’s a place where our southern border is a broken dam over which thousands of people pour and disappear into the landscape.

So when someone comes from a place that has been destroyed by 30 years of war, where hope is a fleeting emotion, and the future is uncertain, and decides to disappear because life here, with us, could be so much better, we no longer have the luxury of welcoming them, or even of rooting for them. Now we live in a world where we must worry about their motives…and fear them.

The Statue of Liberty must be weeping.

Weekend Wanderings: April 30, 2010

SOTA tent w-walkwayOn a warm, soft, spring evening, the Society of the Arts, known as SOTA, premiered their 2010 Show House to an appreciative audience. The house, located on 28th St., in the West End of Allentown, less than a block from the city’s beautiful Rose Garden, was once The Morning Call’s very own model home which has certainly helped to gain publicity for the project. Designed to bring hope to a struggling public during this country’s last great depression, the house was originally toured by thousands of people looking for a glimmer of a brighter future.

The crowd at the Friday night opening looked like they had no such concerns. The hospitality tent where jazz played and wine flowed was a lively place, made all the more attractive by its setting next to the newly renovated Malcolm Gross Garden.

The SOTA Show Houses are one of my favorite local outings. I haven’t missed one in years, and I urge you not to miss this one. It’s simply beautiful, inside and out, and what I like best is that it highlights the fact that Allentown can be a wonderful place to live. 

My Reliable Sources: City Appears To Be On Verge of Act 47

A breaking news alert from The Morning Call has just confirmed what this blog reported over 24 hours ago, that the city of Allentown is headed for an Act 47 filing. (Not that Perspectives was given any credit in the paper for breaking this story, but the readers know where they heard it first.)

In typical City Hall fashion, the Pawlowski administration is still denying it, but both Jarrett Renshaw’s and my sources say it is going to happen.

And since I’m on a roll here, I will take this opportunity to reprint something I wrote over five years ago…

Emergency Medicine: Although not perfect, Act 47 could relieve Allentown’s symptoms of financial distress

Maybe I should add the title “psychic” to the other jobs I do.

The arrogance and hubris of this administration for waiting to do what should have been done years ago is a legacy for which it will always be remembered. So all the deception and obfuscation was for nothing but to drive the city further in to debt. Congratulations on putting ego ahead of the needs of Allentown.

Blogger’s Note, 4/6, 2:10 p.m.: City Hall is denying there will be an Act 47 filing. At this point I’m sticking by my sources. I suspect one or both of two things are going on: What the city is really about to apply for is Act 205, the Municipal Plan Funding and Recovery Act and in the game of “whisper down the lane” that information was transformed into Act 47. And/or the unions got wind of a possible bankruptcy filing and decided to strike the first blow. But the bottom line is, something is going on. The city is drowning and it’s looking for a lifeline. Stay tuned…

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