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Hello, Dear Coworkers,
     Here's a little blurb that I present to all my classes on Veterans
Day.  While reviewing it this morning, I thought that a few of you
might enjoy my personal perspective, too.  By the way, I DO sing the
song in class, something few students ever hear from a social studies
               Best regards,
               David Chizum

Veterans Day Presentation
David Gaylord Chizum

     December 1968.  In the middle of that long era called the Cold War
between two nuclear-armed superpowers.
     As the big jet airliner was carrying the young sergeant and a whole
planeload of passengers west across a dark Atlantic Ocean, he
wondered what kind of a country he would find.  While the sergeant
had been serving his country in far-away West Germany, Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr., had been murdered on April 4 of that same year, in
Memphis, Tennessee.  Immediately after that horror, home-made terror
swept the country.  Riots broke out in several big cities, including
the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.  Raging fires gutted dozens of
blocks of downtown areas, leaving devastated war zones.  While U.S.
troops fought abroad in Vietnam and guarded the frontiers of freedom
in Europe and Asia, other troops were called up to patrol Washington
to protect the White House, Capitol, Pentagon, and other government
buildings from being overrun by rioters racing out of control.
Heavily armed men in uniform did the same in Chicago, Detroit, and
many other places.
     Then in June, barely two months later, presidential candidate and New
York Senator Robert F. Kennedy, former Attorney General and brother
to slain President John F. Kennedy, was gunned down in cold blood in
Los Angeles, California.
    Two months.  Two good men gone.  Several cities broken apart.  Was
this the beginning of the end of our United States of America?  Was
“United” just some out-of-date dream turned into a nightmare?
     Two more months passed.  August.  Just a few miles through the
forests and over the hills from his military base, the powerful army
of the Soviet Union invaded little Czechoslovakia to crush a budding
freedom movement there.  The open brutality of Russian might made
that Iron Curtain an even greater barrier between the West, the Free
World, and the Communist-dominated, enslaved world to the East.
     What kind of country?  What kind of world?
     But the excitement of coming back home started to build as the
airliner started its descent, approaching the coastline of New
Jersey.  The sergeant pressed his face to the window, looking for the
first lights below in the darkness of night.  Yes!  Lights of houses.
 Street lights.  Moving ribbons of traffic.  Then an overwhelming
sight.  All lighted up (as it was supposed to be at night), waving in
the breeze.  A flag.  Not some exotic foreign flag.  He had seen many
of those in the previous year and a half.  No.  This was definitely
Old Glory.  The Red, White, and Blue.  Still flying.  Still glorious.
 Still held high over the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
     I was sure that Francis Scott Key, the writer of “The Star-Spangled
Banner,” would have understood my thoughts.  (Yes, I was that young
Air Force sergeant.)  Not many miles from the New Jersey city where I
glimpsed that symbol of renewed hope in my country almost four
decades ago, Key had been inspired by a similar sight.  During
another time of crisis, when the country was under attack in the War
of 1812, he had gazed on a huge flag–an American flag–still waving
proudly, torn by enemy bullets but unbeaten, in the dawn’s early
light over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.
     Years later, out the south window of my house high on the Palmer
Divide in Colorado, I could plainly see Pike’s Peak towering over the
high prairie.  There, in another great part of America, in the late
1800s, that scene inspired yet another poet.  You probably don’t know
her name.  Katharine Lee Bates.  You definitely know the words she
wrote while captivated by the beauty of the Rockies.

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,  For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties,  Above the fruited plain!
America!  America!  God shed His grace on thee,
And crowned thy good with brotherhood  From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,  Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat  Across the wilderness!
America!  America!  God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self control,  Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved, And mercy more than life!
America!  America!  May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness,  And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dreams  That see beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,  Undimmed by human tears!
America!  America!  God shed His grace on thee,
And crowned thy good with brotherhood  From sea to shining sea!

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