06 July 2010

The American Spirit on Independence Day Weekend

The Independence Day flag raising ceremony on Lake Naomi near Pocono Pines, PA. Courtesy photo.

I've often said that in my "business" I experience the best and the worst of what humanity has to offer. At one end of the spectrum are the horrific injuries resulting from the violent acts of those infuenced by radical ideologies. At the other end, the heroic acts of MEDEVAC crews and front-line docs, and the caring and dedicated professionals of our military medical facilities.

And then there's the spirit of the American people back home. People like Sandy MacNeill and Mark Dolfini.

Sandy MacNeill with her donations table outside “The Jubilee” restaurant in Pocono Pines, PA. Sandy collected donations to be distributed to patients at Landstuhl through Soldiers' Angels in Germany. Courtesy photo.

I received this email from Sandy MacNeill yesterday:

Maryann: I spent this July 4th weekend with a table and information on Soldiers’ Angels and receiving donations for items to be mailed to the wounded soldiers in Germany. I have enough money to send at least 8-10 boxes.

Sandy's sent donations to SAG before, but I had no idea she was doing a fundraising drive this past weekend. She went on to say,

I set up the table at our local family restaurant “The Jubilee”. We live in the Pocono Mountains of PA on Lake Naomi in a very small town called Pocono Pines. The Jubilee is owned by a local family and they serve wonderful breakfasts and have a huge crowd every weekend for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I got there at 7AM and stayed through 1PM to get both crowds. The table had two priority boxes filled with the items on your list to display what was needed. I also made a poster of photos from the website and an explanation of what was needed and why.

I was so impressed with the interest and caring of the people and their generosity was overwhelming. So many stopped, donated and then talked with me about the soldiers. I hope that I educated many who had no idea about Soldiers’ Angels. I gave out cards with the website and encouraged people to adopt a soldier. It was a wonderful weekend and I felt so content with the results.

"I was so impressed with the interest and caring of the people and their generosity was overwhelming." I've been doing this for 6 years, and not a day goes by when I don't think the same thing. Sandy, thank you so much for caring enough to take the initiative on this. You're a great American.

Marine Corps veteran Mark Dolfini is another person who decided to stand up. Literally. You may remember this story on May 20 about Mark, who contacted me back then about doing a drive for our wounded warriors at Landstuhl.

When he told me he planned to put on his Dress Blues and stand at various locations around Lafayette, IN every Sunday until July 4, I was impressed. Later, when he shared his plan to make his final drive a 24-hour "stand" on Independence Day, I thought he was nuts :-)

Independence Day dawns at the intersection of Highway 26 and Creasy Lane in Lafayette, IN. Courtesy photo.

Each Sunday's drive was a success. But the Independence Day Stand became an event. Laughing Wolf of Blackfive was there:

It was decided that a small ceremony would be held as part of it, with a few simple statements and a bugler to play taps. A number of people heard about this, and decided a bit more was needed. A local business had already donated the use of a crane with a large flag. Just before 1000 hours, two Lafayette Fire Department ladder trucks arrived, and the garrison flag you see in the first picture went up as well. Flags appeared behind small speakers' podium as well. There ended up being two buglers, and the echoing taps they did put dust in a lot of eyes. Darned dust, it was bad yesterday.

They were not the first thing to appear either. When Mark started at midnight, other Marines showed up. Two in particular stood out to me, as both are -- I suspect -- at least into their 70s. These men stayed most of the night, and then were back after a couple of hours to do more. Contrary to popular belief, Marines do have to make pit stops, especially when other veterans and friends are making sure they stay hydrated. When that happened, these two gentlemen formed the core of a group that stood in for Mark. One of them disappeared for a bit around 1330 hours, and returned with hot dogs, hamburgers, sides, and desserts for all from a nearby grocery deli.

They were not alone. A member of the Air Force, in the area on leave, pulled out his uniform and joined in for a couple of hours. A member of the Army also on leave in the area did the same. They stood with a brother in arms for all those who could not stand, and stayed in the sweltering heat in honor of them.

Here's a story from Mark's local TV station, but I also recommend that you read Laughing Wolf's entire post, which closes with this:

If you really want to see the spirit that is America and Independence Day, take part in or do something like this. It restores your faith in humanity, and it reaffirms your faith in the spirit that is America.

As I said at the beginning, I see the best and the worst of what humanity has to offer. And this is the best; this is what made America great, and this is what keeps us going.

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