God bless America again

God bless America again

I have always loved America, my home country, and our entire family is very patriotic. Never in my life have I been more proud of this great nation than I was last weekend while visiting Great Lakes Naval Station in North Chicago, Illinois. If you think America has gone to the dogs and you are not particularly happy with any political party, try to think past those disillusions and focus for a few moments on what is really good and right about the nation we call home.

My daughter, son-in-law and myself, along with about 5,000 caring individuals, saw 1,161 reasons why we should be very proud of our country, and it is a scene I will never forget as long as I live. My appreciation began to grow as my daughter and I boarded the plane at Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont/Port Arthur. Because my daughter has worked for the airlines for more than a dozen years, we have wonderful flight privileges. I tell her all of the time, “I don’t care what burdens you bear at that airport, keep that job.” It is a family joke, but I do thank the Lord for being able to fly free anywhere in the world because of her job and seniority.

The pilot knew DeAnna from working with her on the ground at Jack Brooks. When we boarded the plane, he came on the intercom and said, “Folks, we have a special passenger today. DeAnna Davis, a member of the great crew here at Jack Brooks, is on this flight. She is on a mission today and headed to cold, cold Chicago. Her nephew is graduating from boot camp in the U.S. Navy and he endured the worst weather one could have in the Windy City.”

 He then added, “I’d like for you to give DeAnna a big hand and I’d like for you to send your warmest greetings to the nephew graduating with honors.” Every single person on the plane immediately began to clap and cheer and as we left, many shook our hands and sent greetings to the new U.S. sailors.

Arriving in Chicago and driving to the base, we immediately realized it was a big, big deal. Much of North Chicago is dedicated to this base and to the thousands of young sailors who are processed through there each year. The base is a massive operation and really is a city within a city with its own credit unions, fire department, police department, commissary, hospitals, dentists and all of the various classrooms and training fields. There are 55 miles of roadways inside the base. We located the one gate we had permission to enter, and carefully checked all of the instructions we had been sent by the U.S. Navy. Making our way to our Marriott hotel suite, we were again welcomed very warmly.

We arrived at the base for the beginning of the graduation ceremony at 6 a.m. Once the gates opened, you have quite a ways to go inside the base to get to the huge drill hall. And we had been told that once the giant doors are closed, no one is admitted inside. We made it fine and realized once again what a very big deal this event was. We wanted to meet some of my grandson’s friends, or at least their family members, and had no idea as to how to go about making this happen.

I knew he was in the elite 913 Performing Division, and I saw a tiny sign that said “913.” We aimed for the second row of bleacher seats in that area and took our places in the quickly filling drill hall. A smartly dressed young sailor was standing on the floor just in front of where we chose to sit and I quietly asked him if I were allowed to speak to him. He smiled a huge California smile and said, “Sure, Ma’am, you can talk to me. I am here to help.” I asked if we were near where the 913th would form and receive their awards and he said, “Well, yes, you are. In fact, I am in the 913th, and the 913th and the 914th are responsible for today’s ceremony.”

We later found that there were 1,161 new sailors and each of those sailors could have three people there to see their honors, plus all of the training officers, high ranking officers, the commander of the U.S. Navy, and many more people. We thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony and the wonderful patriotic music. My heart swelled with pride when the sailors presented the state flags, and you can bet your best Texas boots that when the Texas flag was brought in, there was some cheering and clapping. We had one of the largest delegations in the house.

The awards were presented, and the classes graduated. I left there with a fresh shot of pride for those who serve to protect us day and night. These young men and women were clean cut, filled with manners and kindness, and set on serving their country. We were allowed to meet the buses when they arrived at O’Hare Airport the next morning with these fine young people headed out to A School all over the country. Again, people stood to the side, clapped and cheered, and offered handshakes and words of encouragement. As they made their way to the big USO on the second floor, people stepped aside, clapped and again, called out greetings.

I ask you to join me and hundreds of other folks in a grass roots effort that is going to be more important in coming days. This is not an organized assembly, there is nothing to join, and no one will contact you in any way. All we are asking is that you wear something red every Friday as a demonstration and sign that you support the military stationed all over the world. How hard is this? Simply go through your closet, find a scarf, sweater, tie or shirt that is red in color. Everyone on this team will see your red and know your heart. It will mean more than you can know to these young men and women, the folks that train them and the families that are waiting at home. Put your heart into something good and helpful. Just wear red on Fridays.