Our freedom demands we all be involved

I'm as guilty as anyone. Under the excuse that going to the Veterans Day memorial at Overlook Park was an assignment, I blindly left my family at home. I usually feel guilty if I photograph while I have my family with me, so I seperate the two. Family and Work. Period.

But I knew better Sunday. As I walked out the door I had this feeling inside if me that I was letting something or someone down. I can't really describe it other than I felt guilty.

I was feeling guilty because inside I knew my family should be there. This was one of those assignments where the event was bigger than my simple photographs.

Now it's Monday, and it is still nagging me.

On Sunday, I found an excuse. And I know I'm not the only one. Don't get me wrong. There was a decent size crowd, with a sprinkling of Generation X participants intermixed with the WWII and Vietnam era folks -- and their children -- who made up most of the 70 or so people on hand.

As I watched for telling photos, two gentlemen in the second row caught my eye. I noticed them first because they were wearing service caps. I kept watching them because they had a different look in their eye. During both the national anthem and the playing of taps, they stood proudly saluting the American Flag unlike anyone else on hand.

Later, I found out who they were and why they had that different look in their eyes. John Murakami and Art Iwasaki were both WWII Nisei Veterans -- Japanese men who fought for America. I never really thought twice about Japanese American Soldiers until Sunday.

Keith Doroski, Post Commander of Unit 22 who gave Sunday's speech put it in perspective: "Imagine if you will, fighting for your adopted country, against your country of origin, while your family is imprisoned."

I couldn't do it. Heck, I barely made it out of bed and down the hill from my nice cozy house for a Sunday assignment on a cold, dreary Fall day.

To backtrack even further, I'm not one who believes in war. I feel killing on any level doesn't solve much but loss of human life.

But I do have respect. I know that "Freedom isn't Free," as Commander Doroski said.

In light of the recent events of continued terrorism on America, I think it has awakened the peoples' sense, and loss, of freedom.

That very freedom -- whether you believe in war or not -- was in part given and guarenteed by those men and women honored on Sunday.

Our children -- my child -- needs to understand our history in order to know where this country is going. As adults, we need to be aware of our deep responsibility to society and to our children. Our involvement is essential in order for the gifted way of life in America to continue.

The bottom line is I feel pretty darn guilty because I was lazy. My family should have been there. I should have made the effort. To be honest, I think too many of us were lazy or else at least half the town would have showed up to show just a little respect.

And respect could be the very cog that keeps America turning. From respecting our neighbors and planet, to respecting the individuals and beliefs that drive our way of life.

You never know by next Veterans Day how much freedom will be left. Don't be lazy. Be involved in your country's freedom through teaching and showing respect at any level. I think America's survival could depend upon it.

Jim Semlor is staff photographer and writer for the Hood River News. His son, Ethan, is 4.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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