Letter from Langdon: Christmastime

Honor Flight gives World War II vets free trips to Washington, D.C. — so they can see the monuments built for them before they die. Rex Siddens didn't think Honor Flight applied to him because, after all, he was just doing his part. It was good to see Rex around Christmastime.

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Life is a journey. 

As a kid, life was more like a straight line, 40-yard dash. Now I find myself wishing for a thoughtful stroll rather than headlong plunge. Like Robert Frost we all reflect from time to time on the road not taken. Even Scrooge took a look back. That always happens at about the same time each year.

It’s Christmastime again.  

These days the answer to the inevitable question of what I want for Christmas is the same; “Peace on Earth…and in the family, too!” 

At least part of my Christmas wish was granted last week at a holiday family brunch. Wars continue as the recession lies on the land like a cold blanket of soiled snow, but my grandchildren enjoy each other’s company. There is no squabble or resentment. Smiling faces meet, greet, and depart all the same. 

The state of Langdon is sound. 

Overall, there isn’t much serenity to be found in the rest of the world today. As always the rich get richer, the poor poorer while the rest of us hold our own. Still, for those inevitable times when we lose our way, it would be nice if life came with a map. 

I know my way around Christmas pretty well by now. Much of the Holiday centers on food. The age-old practice of breaking bread transcends politics and religion. And there’s less room for foot in mouth disease if the mouth is full. That’s why I shoved in a nutritious forkful of vegetables while visiting a Rock Port Nutrition Site luncheon last week. That’s where a friend growled that Obama is trying to do away with bake sales in public schools. 

(I buttoned my lip. The President wants us to take the high road.)

What the Obama administration actually did, partly through efforts of First Lady Michelle Obama, was give school lunch programs another six cents per plate and directions for healthier fare while limiting (but not eliminating) the availability of sweets during the school day. Even the corporations that market sugar-laced food acknowledge the importance of that.

Part of the problem was that kids were the targets of daily cookie sales. Contrary to local assumption, after-school fund raising bake sales are still allowed. Unfortunately food and nutrition programs got lost in the wilderness when the six cent school lunch increase canceled at least that much in the food stamp budget.

One step forward, two steps back. 

Back down the trail a ways when I was on the school board, I joined most of the board in voting to allow a soft drink vending machine to be placed in the main hall. In exchange, the district got a free scoreboard at the football field.

 One machine became two, then three. For the nominal price of a countdown clock we allowed the kids to be marketed all through the school day. 

At about the same time we established a breakfast program. Some felt this was the wrong thing to do because we were taking responsibility for something parents should do. But few objected to pop machines selling sugar water. 

The sad fact is that not all kids want to eat early in the morning before school, and not all parents feed them. In too many poor households the only square meals a child gets are those served at school. 

School breakfast was the right path to take, but controversial for our rural community. On the other hand, fizzy, sugar-laced caffeine is always a hit. Hopefully, good and bad will balance out along the way. 

Robert Frost once said about his poem The Road Not Taken that he was actually thinking of a friend (3) who had gone off to war. That brings me back to the nutrition site luncheon where local senior citizens can have an affordable, subsidized, balanced meal five days a week. I’m actually old enough to qualify, however the real reason I was there wasn’t because I need more nourishment but because I heard they were going to honor our World War II vets.  It was Pearl Harbor Day.

Richard Oswald
Rick Mahan explains Honor Flight, which takes World War II vets to Washington, D.C., for a whirlwind tour of the monuments built to honor them.
After lunch, Laraine Jones with Kendalwood Hospice of Kansas City made a plea for Hospice volunteers. Then her colleague, Rick Mahan, invited all veterans to make a pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to see the war memorials. Rick’s employer is one of the sponsors of Honor Flight whose goal is stated simply: “Helping every single veteran in America, willing and able of getting on a plane or a bus, to visit THEIR memorial.” 

Honor Flight also recruits volunteers to serve as guardians on the one-day whirlwind Tour of Tribute. Veterans who took freedom’s path are considered paid in full. Volunteers must pay their own way. 

No one gets a free ride.

Rick said that high priority is given to World War II vets and those with a terminal illness. The waiting list is shorter for the Kansas City flight than for the national honor flight. It’s a good deal for everyone in northwest Missouri, but it’s also a one day deal—tiring, but worth the wait. Rick encouraged everyone who hasn’t to sign up.  

That’s about the time our friend Rex Siddens headed for the door. Rex is a decorated veteran of the war in Europe. My wife asked if he’d put in his name.  “No,” he said, “that’s not meant for people like me.”

Rex Siddens in 1944. An American hero then, and now.
Rick said it’s common for vets to react the way Rex did. Some feel they were just doing their duty. They don’t seem to realize that if they hadn’t fought for all of us, we might all be lost in an occupied country, living as an oppressed people.

Linda, clearly my better half, made sure Rex enrolled. She offered to serve as his guardian if he needs one.

That’s the way it is around here most of the time. Everyone does their part. 

Even Scrooge would be impressed. It’s definitely the way to go. 

 

 

 

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