My understanding of patriotism has evolved, grown and matured. My grandmother recently commented on how my experiences have helped shape my life. I often wondered at what price.
My wonder ceased last week after spending time with several wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. I went into the week believing I would have a small volunteer role. I came home having connected with perhaps the finest individuals I have known.
I was taught more about patriotism than I had learned in 36 years. I watched the severely wounded come together with everyone, including the Riggses, who hosted everyone at Palm Key, Steve Danyluk, the founder of the Independence Fund, and Gary Sinise, "Lt. Dan" himself. I shared a cabin with Vietnam veterans and young Israeli Defense Force vets.
I worked with one of my best friends, a friendship formed as former Marines who served together. Many thanked us for our service. That means a lot.
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One question persisted last week. Are we patriots in our nation? Or are we patronizing?
It is past time for our troops to come home; both missions have been accomplished. We wondered how long the bickering would continue. We concluded that one simply needs to re-engage our service members upon returning, to immediately provide resources for equal participation in society and to get back to work on rebuilding a nation that has been at war during the past 10 years, as united Americans.
We believe in patriotism. What can you contribute today?
Kent D. Fletcher