>In the Beginning
Yesterday was Independence Day for Americans, and in my family, the 4th of July is second only to Christmas when it comes to blow-out celebrations. As a kid growing up, my parents fostered in me a deep belief in the good of this country despite the sometimes corrupt makeup of its political system, frustrations with bureaucracy, its mistakes, toils and troubles.
I’ll never forget how every night during the Vietnam War the numbers of the dead were flashed across the bottom of the TV screen during the evening news broadcast. On a B&W TV, the numbers were always white against the gray background. Then there was the day I found my mother watching the Watergate hearings. Kids don’t always get momentous happenings like that, and I can still remember my nonchalance about the affair. Mom took me to task for it, and I’ve never forgotten my mother explaining that, “America is throwing up all that’s bad in our government so we can make ourselves well and emerge stronger for it.”
Then there was 9/11. Watching the TV, I personally witnessed the live shot of the second plane going into the World Trade Center towers. I just stood there in shock. How could this be happening? We’re good people, why would someone hate us so much that they would be willing to kill themselves and others in such a heinous manner. The tragic loss of life made me so sick I literally thought I was going to throw up. That evening, it was the spontaneous, quiet and stirring rendition of God Bless America sung by all the members of Congress on the Capitol steps that made me bawl like a baby. It still chokes me up just thinking about it.
So last night when I heard the Richmond Concert Band playing the 1812 Overture accompanied by our Carillon Bell Tower, the National Guard’s Battery B howitzers and the spectacular fireworks shooting up into the sky, I was awed. Normally, the music stirs me deeply as the 1812 Overture happens to be one of my all-time favorite pieces of music. But last night I didn’t hear the music. I could only feel awe for something that stirred deeper inside me. Something that comes from the deep belief that I am incredibly lucky to be living in a country where I have more rights than anywhere else in the world.
Sure we’re far from perfect, but who isn’t. We still have to guard against those in power who want to strip us of civil rights no matter how well-intentioned. We still disagree vehemently amongst ourselves about how we should accomplish things to protect our way of life. We fight and bicker about who to tax, who to spare, who to save and how to pay for it all. But when the chips are down, we as a nation always unite and come together in a way that is not often seen elsewhere. All of these things rushed through my mind last night, but in all of those thoughts, one thing crashed through me over and over again.
It was the loud sound of the howitzer charges exploding and reverberating against my breastbone as they went off. The sound was so loud; I could actually feel it pulse rip its way across my skin until it penetrated my body to bounce off my breastbone. It was a physical sensation I don’t recall ever feeling before. Usually the howitzers only go off four or five times during the 1812 Overture, but last night they sounded off at least 60 or more times. They kept blasting away even after the music fade into silence, and all you could hear were the blasts of the cannons and the fireworks. As the explosions vibrated deep into my chest, all I could think about were the men and women who’ve served our country in time of need, and those currently serving in places where the sounds I was experiencing are everyday occurrences. Sounds that have a far more devastating impact than the ones everyone was oohing and ahhing at last night. I also wondered if perhaps the Battery wasn’t doing a couple of 21-gun salutes for fallen comrades in their small group as there have been several locals Guard members killed in the Iraq War. If that were true, it was an appropriate way to honor fallen comrades on a day that holds such meaning for Americans.
It was also interesting that on this same day, I received an email that gave me the opportunity to do something small to help the troops serving in the Iraq War. They say that good things always come in small packages, and this I would agree with. The email I received was how I could donate a phone card for the troops to use to call home.
Minutes for the Troops
So this morning, while I was contemplating yesterday’s events and the impact it had on me, I came up with the idea of Minutes for the Troops. It’s a simple program that is a small way one can support the American troops no matter what your opinion is about the Iraq War. Here are your options:
I have a troop contact in Iraq that I can send AT&T phone cards to for the use of service men and women stationed in Iraq. Minutes from the cards are allocated to soldiers so they can call home. Apparently, AT&T phone cards are the only cards that work relatively glitch free with Iraq’s phone system dialing out to the USA. So if you’d like to help the American soldiers stationed in Iraq communicate with loved ones, here are your options:
Option 1 – AT&T phone cards are available at retail stores such as Wal-Mart. Once you’ve purchased the card, email me with the phone number and the pin number that are listed on the back of the card, along with the number of minutes on the card. Knowing the minutes helps my contact know how many minutes he has to divide among those wanting time. Send your phone card info to monicaburnsauthor @ comcast.net (eliminate the spaces before and after the @ symbol). Place “Minutes for the Troops” in your email subject line so my SPAM Assassin doesn’t eat your email. I’ll compile all the phone card information and forward it to my military contact so the troops can use the minutes you donate to make their calls.
Option 2 – Some people can only afford to spare a couple of dollars, so if you have a PayPal account, I’m willing to take donations via my personal account. I’ll purchase phone cards with those donations received through PayPal and forward them to my troop contact. The disadvantage is that your contribution has 3 percent removed from it by PayPal, so if you want to claim the donation on taxes, you’ll have to allot for that 3 percent deduction when you calculate your actual monetary donation. For instance, if you wanted to donate $1.00 you’re actually only donating $.70. Just keep this in mind if you want to donate via PayPal.
Option 3 – If you can’t afford to buy a phone card, and don’t have a PayPal account, you can always send a check or money order to Monica Burns, Post Office Box 68, Richmond, VA 23235. I’ll apply your contribution to the purchase of a card. A copy of the check or money order should suffice for your charitable donations write off on your taxes. Please do not send cash through the mail because of recordkeeping restrictions.