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Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and a Prosperous NewYear

ireland703Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou! Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Milad Majid! Feliz Navidad! Merry Keshmish! Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah! Heughliche Winachten un ‘n moi Nijaar! Glædelig Jul! Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad! Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto! Chuc Mung Giang Sinh! Merry Christmas.

The Hanukkah candles have burned down, the Christmas tree remains empty but aglow.

All of us at Our Town Tustin (yes, that is all three of us) would like to wish our Christian friends, a very Merry Christmas, our Jewish friends, a very Happy Hanukkah (regardless of the way you spell it), and our friends of other faiths and belief traditions a very Happy Holiday. And, to everyone, we wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Though we still grieve for families torn apart by senseless violence, our nation, state and town remain united in promise and faith. And, as we always ask at this time of year, please pray for our US Military members who remain abroad in far away lands. They spend this holiday season apart from their loved ones so that you and I may spend it safely with ours.

A Thoughtful Memorial Day

tomb-of-the-unknown-soldierI have a childhood friend, John W. Cook, whose name will be emblazoned forever on a granite wall in Washington, D.C. John was the best friend of my oldest brother and they were thick as thieves growing up in Southern California. John probably    spent as much time at my house as he did at his own.   

In 1967, John had a decision to make. He knew there was a high likelihood that he would be drafted, even if he was a full-time college student. He also very badly wanted to fly. While in school, he was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and flew on civil rescue missions frequently. It didn’t hurt that his dad held a flight endurance record or two, either. So, he made the decision to take the Army on his own terms and enlisted. He was given his opportunity for his “dream job” and was chosen for helicopter flight school.

After graduation, he was promptly shipped off to Vietnam. On February 19, 1967, while on a mission to pick up a Special Forces team in Laos, John’s helicopter was shot down by an enemy RPG. He survived the crash and was even medevaced out only to die nine days later in a hospital in Japan. John was the co-pilot of the aircraft. At his death, John was awarded the Purple Heart to go with his Air Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal. He was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. His crewman, Sgt. Fred Zabitosky, was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing John and his pilot from the burning aircraft during intense hostile fire.

Forty-six years later, on Memorial Day, this is who I think of.

On Monday I will be doing what I hope many of you will do: visiting a local cemetery for one of the many Memorial Day ceremonies held throughout the county. It is a small price to pay, to honor what they have given in life.    So, start your Memorial Day not with a hotdog bun in hand, but with a note of gratitude in your heart for Chief Warrant Officer John W. Cook Jr. or one of your loved ones who might have died in conflict, serving their country.    It is true that we continue to live in the greatest country in the world thanks to the sacrifice of millions of men and women who continue to give their lives in the name of freedom and who will never know another summer with their friends.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and a Prosperous NewYear

ireland703Mele Kalikimaka ame Hauoli Makahiki Hou! Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Milad Majid! Feliz Navidad! Merry Keshmish! Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah! Heughliche Winachten un ‘n moi Nijaar! Glædelig Jul! Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad! Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto! Chuc Mung Giang Sinh! Merry Christmas.

All of us at Our Town Tustin (yes, that is all three of us) would like to wish our Christian friends, a very Merry Christmas, our Jewish friends, a very Happy Hanukkah (regardless of the way you spell it), and our friends of other faiths and belief traditions a very Happy Holiday. And, to everyone, we wish you a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Though we still grieve for families torn apart by senseless violence, our nation, state and town remain united in promise and faith. And, please pray for our US Military members who remain abroad in far away lands. They spend this holiday season away from their loved ones so that you and I may spend it with ours.

A Pause for Reflection

There is a lot going on around us with the closing of the elections on Tuesday and the dirty politics that have encumbered the folks here in Our Town Tustin. I know that Veterans Day is still a few days off but I received an email from a fellow veteran about a recent homecoming of an Orange County hero. I thought I would take some time off from politics to remind everyone what our country is all about.

I ride motorcycles with a diverse group of veterans known as the American Legion Riders. I am a charter member of the state and chapter here in Orange County. Many of our members are Patriot Guard Riders as well. Together, we do our best to honor our returning heroes, both dead and alive. We recently received notice of that Sgt. Thomas MacPherson, Unite States Army, would be returning home to his family.

From the Patriot Guard Rider Notice:

SGT MacPherson was assigned to Company D, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. On 12 OCT 12, SGT MacPherson while serving his 4th Afghanistan deployment, was killed during a heavy close quarters firefight with the enemy while conducting combat operations in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan.  He had also served 1 deployment in Iraq.  SGT MacPherson has received the Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal and the Purple Heart.

Thomas grew up in Long Beach, CA and graduated from Los Alamitos High School in 2004.  In 2007, Thomas married, Claudia, the girl he met at his high school prom. Thomas is survived by his wife, Claudia; 17 month old son, Brayden; and his mother and father; Troy and Diona MacPherson.

Sgt. MacPherson returned to his family and to hundreds of grateful Americans who met his aircraft at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos on Thursday. The entire community of Los Alamitos turned out to pay homage to this man who paid the ultimate price for freedom. One of those was PGR member Paul who said:

I wish to extend my sincere thank you to all the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) that attended all or part of SGT Thomas MacPherson’s mission.
Part 1 was extraordinary in having 170 bikes and 10 cages, 70 LASD cars, 40 LASD motorcycles, family and friends.
Riding along the route seeing all the people that came out to honor this hero was very meaningful, but as we rode by the McAuliffe Middle School and Los Alamitos High School it was extraordinary. The kids were quietly standing with hands over their hearts and holding flags. At the high school the student body was lined on both sides of Cerritos Ave. As we approached Eastbound the kids on the South side of the street quickly, quietly and orderly moved to the middle of the street to be closer to pay respect to the family. I was overwhelmed with emotion, but I know I was not the only one.
A Cypress Police Department Captain and two Lieutenants were monitoring the procession and commented on PGR’s orderly, organized and professional conduct. They were truly impressed.
Part 2 was equally rewarding.
At 0900 hrs, Joker, Nacho and myself attended a private function with the family to present the PGR mementos’. There were other presenters, including the Mayor of Long Beach, California Highway Patrol Commander and an Army General.
Our presentation consisted of Joker presenting SGT MacPherson’s 17 month old son, Brayden with a Build-a-Bear provided by Cookie. Joker’s commentary to Brayden and his mom, Claudia was inspirational, bringing Claudia and SST MacPherson’s mom, Diona to tears, as was Joker. I presented Claudia the family tags, again when they saw SST MacPherson’s picture etched on the dog tag, Claudia and Diona were overwhelmed. Next Nacho presented Brayden the Linus blanket from PGR Steve McRoberts. PGR John Block made another beautiful plaque which I presented to Claudia. As I started to hand it to her, she asked if we signed it. I displayed the signatures on the back of the plaque and again Claudia and Diona could not hold back the tears. Lastly, I presented two Capital Flags from Congressmanan Elton Gallegly flown over the Capital on 22 OCT 12 in honor SGT MacPherson. The three of us rendered a hand salute on behalf of the Patriot Guard Riders.
Our mission briefing was made special by the attendance of one of our “Wounded Warriors” Dusty, his first mission. Another special moment was when Pauline Grimshaw, SGT MACPherson’s teacher at Los Alamitos High School (and Gold Star Mother of SSG Jeremy Grimshaw, USA, KIA, 2011) telling us at today’s Part 2 mission, that her students carried back to the classroom what they had just experienced when our motorcade rode by their school the day before. She saw many students placing their flags on the school’s “Wall of Remembrance,” in appreciation for those serving, served and those who gave all.
I need to express my appreciation for all of us working together in overcoming all the changes in Part 2’s mission. There were so many, it was kind of funny. Your total cooperation made it a success.
The two flag lines at the grave site were especially meaningful for the family as they arrived. The Ranger platoon in attendance was amazed and very thankful for our participation.
The Rangers that came from Arizona were literally taken back by our show of support, and as one of them put it, “I’ve never seen anything like this, thank you for all you do.”
We DO make a difference.
Please, give yourselves a big “pat on the back” and say, “Mission Accomplished!”

While we argue away our political beliefs and fight for our candidates, let’s not forget the men and women who have, sometime with their lives, made it possible for us to live in THE most free country in the world. Long may our Flag wave.