In My Opinion
Hastings American Legion celebrating 100th
This weekend’s centennial celebration of our own Lawrence J. Bauer Post 45 will offer us all a chance to understand why veterans are such revered members of our society. Beyond the bravery they demonstrated and the wholehearted dedication to their country that still lives in their hearts, these men and women also have gained something most of us seek and seldom achieve.
“All of us are born for a reason, but all of us don’t discover why,” the late entertainer and founder of St. Jude’s Hospital Danny Thomas once said. “Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”
That makes every veteran we meet – and those we see at the many activities that Post 45 has planned for the community this weekend – a success in this life and a model for us all. When I sat down over the weekend to look over last week’s Reminder and read about our local American Legion Post, I felt that these men and women exemplify and are a great example of what a successful life looks like. They truly are among the few of us, as Danny Thomas said, who have discovered the purpose for which they were born.
It’s so easy for us to forget that these members of our community were once brave young men and women who were willing to give of themselves as they stepped up to serve our country and all for which it stands. Because of the bravery and commitment of our soldiers – some of whom go back to World War II – we’re experiencing the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and we’re also seeing examples every day of what a great and successful life looks like.
“We took the oath when we joined the service,” Air Force veteran Jim Atkinson said in last weekend’s Reminder account, “to take care of the guy next to you, and we’ve never been relieved of that oath.” Today, when we see these former soldiers and on the sidewalks of our communities, in church or at the store, it should remind us of their dedication and service to our nation. That memory is even more apparent when we see veterans, with medals and service pins clipped to their crisp uniforms, as they take part in parades, special events or when they present themselves at a funeral service for one of their own. It’s so easy to take our veterans for granted, along with the sacrifices they made – some even giving their lives – so that we can live in a country with the freedoms that are only a dream in the lives of so many people around the world
With that in mind, all the members of Hastings Post 45 should be considered successful because they put their names and their lives on the line to support and defend this nation. The organization that brings these men and women together reminds us of their service by honoring the memories of these dedicated soldiers. Congress chartered the American Legion in 1919 as a patriotic veteran’s organization focusing on the men and women who have served this nation.
Throughout the years, the American Legion has fought to protect the special benefits veterans and their families enjoy. It concentrates on overseeing Veterans Administration claims, improving medical and special treatment programs along with improving employment-training services for veterans. And you can count on the organization to step up when necessary to support legislation that impacts veterans and their families. And, naturally they’ve always been big promoters of a strong sense of patriotism and the importance of responsible citizenship.
Our Hastings Post 45 will celebrate 100 years tomorrow and Saturday with food and a special musical performance by the 338th Army Band at the Thornapple Plaza in downtown Hastings. Then, Saturday, a number of special events are planned at the post on south M-37. Look in the Aug. 10 Reminder for all the details and stories focusing on our local American Legion.
As I read through those stories over the weekend, the accounts also made me think about the contrast between what these dedicated soldiers were willing to give for our country and what’s going on in our country today.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside,” former President Abraham Lincoln said. “If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
As Americans, we live in a country dedicated to a historic declaration of intent stated clearly in our Constitution: “We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union” live and should be ready to defend our democracy against any outside dictatorship. Yet, in recent years we seem compelled to openly yell at one another and are ready to insinuate that others use malice if they don’t think the way we do and claiming the authority to condemn the beliefs we hold.
We will be reminded again this weekend that it’s the men and women who make up the American Legion who were willing to fight for the rights we hold so dear and that make us and our country so special. With so many problems confronting our nation it’s easy to allow our differences to consume and divide us, and yet if our democracy is to survive, then it’s imperative that each one of us understand that we must answer some important questions: Do I, in my everyday habits live the democracy I profess? Am I tolerant to other viewpoints? Do I allow the divisions to determine who and what I’m willing to tolerate? Am I tolerant to others where I find myself in disagreement?
Today, we find ourselves in the difficult dilemma of all sorts of people not liking others just because they have different viewpoints. We are so quick to use labels like ‘big business,’ ‘racist,’ ‘white supremacist’, ‘anti- immigration’ that just fuel the dissent and that further divide us. We’ve lost our ability to debate the issues in hopes of finding some reasonable conclusion – and that’s the division Lincoln suggested would lead us to ‘destroy ourselves.’
It’s essential that we all make a concerted effort to become better informed, which can be easier said than done. Facts come hard and fiction is easy, especially when it’s meant to appeal to our emotions. A free and democratic society, though, requires that all of us have the discipline to voluntarily look at the viewpoints of others with the understanding that each one of us has the right to determine what we believe and how we think. Just because you and I don’t agree on all the facts – we are not enemies.
Try to attend some or all of the special events that our local American legion Post 45 has planned for us this weekend and, if you get the chance, thank our veterans for everything they’ve done to promote a better life for all of us.
Fred Jacobs, CEO,
J-Ad Graphics Inc.