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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Glimpses of service

June 03, 2010|By Joe Puglia

I always look for the enchantment in life, and if I don't find, it usually finds me. It's part of a quixotic nature. One just ambles through circumstance and with both eyes open — Ah! The story appears.

Monday was the 33rd consecutive year of the La Cañada Memorial Day Commemoration. The real story was the story within the story.

Prior to the commemoration I received numerous e-mails, mostly from women. They expressed a deep-seated gratitude of the efforts their fathers made during World War II. These notes embodied a fondness, an admiration, and a forlorn sense of nostalgia, but more poignant was the deep love and a sentiment that expressed how much they missed their fathers and the pride they felt in the role that they played as soldiers. Most of the women who wrote had fathers who had passed. It was touching to read their notes, and I readily understood that special connection between daughter and dad. Invariably they expressed that their dad was indeed smiling and looking down from heaven. "He was there, " wrote one daughter.

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During the commemoration I noticed an elderly man standing alone amid the audience. Malia Mailes, the mistress of ceremonies, had asked the veterans to approach the gazebo so they could be honored; yet he didn't go. He was tall and distinguished, wore a suit adorned with rows of battle ribbons and walked with a limp supported by a cane.

"Sir, can I escort you onstage?" I asked.

He was hesitant but reluctantly acquiesced. "I have a hard time," he said. "I was a Navy pilot, shot down in Vietnam; nine Marines died that day to save my life."

He followed me up to the stage.

There is a method to my madness. My vision of making the commemoration a child-driven event has a purpose. Watching the color guard comprising uniformed Scouts moving ceremoniously en masse toward the flagpole is a visual metaphor. As the commander of the color guard, Rick Farin, order forward march, he attested, "We are the future, and we shall inherit the earth."

Building relevant memories for children is the link between the present and the future. If our children understand the significance of the tenets that hold together our democracy and the components of virtue that hold together the human soul, they will ensure our collective survival.

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