Friday, September 19, 2008

A nod to my three home countries

During my lifetime I have lived in three different countries. I was born and currently live in the United States, I was raised in Chihuahua, Mexico, and I served a two-year mission for my Church in Viña del Mar, Chile. These different places have each had an impact on my life, and I have fallen in love with each country for its own reasons. I love their heroes, their flags, their traditions, and their holidays. Patriotic holidays are my favorite ones, and during one 7-day period each year the three countries that have been my home celebrate significant national holidays. Beginning on September 13th and running through September 19th I usually go into sensory overload - and enjoy every minute of it. (It probably drives my wife nuts at times!)

September 13th - Dia de los Niños Heroes (Mexico)

On September 12-13, 1847 soldiers and marines from the United States attacked Chapultepec Castle, home to the Heroico Colegio Militar, in Mexico City. (This battle gave the Marines "The Halls of Montezuma" for their hymn) The castle was defended by the cadets of the college, with six cadets in particular showing magnificent bravery in the face of a superior fighting force. I grew up learning about these six young men (ages 13-19) and have always admired their bravery. During one Independence Day parade I was chosen to be one of the six boys who represented each of the Niños Heroes (I was Fernando Montes de Oca) and was thrilled by having that honor. An impressive monument/tomb was erected to their memory in Chapultepec park, just below the castle they died defending. In March of 1947, just a few months before the 100th anniversary of this battle, President Harry Truman laid a wreath at this monument, showing reverence for their sacrifice and helping to heal years of bitterness between the two countries. (President Truman is still Mexico's favorite U.S. President as a result)
For more information about each of the Niños Heroes click here.

September 14th - Anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner (U.S.)

On the night of September 13, 1814, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key witnessed the nightime bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British fleet at anchor in Baltimore harbor. Throughout the bombardment, Key could see the storm flag being flown over Ft. McHenry, knowing by its presence that the fort was still holding out. When the bombardment stopped later that night however, he could no longer tell what was happening. As "dawn's early light" broke over the harbor, Mr. Key searched through the "mists of the deep" to see if the "flag was still there". His search was rewarded at the sight of an enormous flag that had been put up during the night - bearing testimony that the Americans were still there and there was still fight in them. He was so inspired by the sight of that flag that he began writing a poem on the back of an envelope he was carrying - calling it "Defence of Ft. McHenry". This poem later became known as "The Star Spangled Banner", and went on to become our national anthem. The large flag that flew over Ft. McHenry is now a revered national treasure, housed in the Smithsoniam Museum of American History.
For a better telling of this story click here.
September 15-16 - Independence Day (Mexico)
Growing up in Mexico - this was the best day of the year. We celebrated with fireworks, parades and the "Grito" during the night of September 15th. On September 15, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo called his parishioners to arms against the Spanish conquerors who had dominated the land since the early 1500's. Calling out for armed rebellion against the hated "Gachupines", Hidalgo and his armed band quickly ignited a fire that ended 11 years later with Mexico winning its independence from Spain.
I loved to participate in the Independence Day parade through our little town each year, and enjoyed the patriotic speeches and John Hatch's re-enactment of the "Grito" as fireworks went off behind him. Guadalupe Zelaya, one of my grade-school teachers would tell us all kinds of stories about the war for Independence and the names of Hidalgo, Allende, Morelos, and others entered into my conscience as worthy members of humanity's pantheon of heroes.
More info here.
September 17th - Constitution Day (U.S.)

On September 17, 1787, 39 of the 55 delegates to the Federal Convention in Philadelphia signed the new Constitution of the United States that they had spent the last five months creating. This day is one of the most significant days not only for our own country, but for freedom loving people the world over. This document has preserved our freedoms, made us the most prosperous and powerful nation in history, and is an absolute miracle. Constitution Day and Indepedence Day are my two favorite days of the whole year. I am so grateful to the men who argued, debated, compromised and crafted this magnificent document. I read the Constitution several times a year, and frequently discuss it with good friends who share the same love I have for it. As a nation we are blessed beyond measure by this incredible, miraculous document.
(I am not always able to celebrate each of the holidays I love this week, but I ALWAYS celebrate Constitution Day with my family)
Additional info here.

September 18-19 - Independence Day/Armed Forces Day (Chile)

On September 18, 1810 a Junta declared Chile an autonomous republic under the Spanish crown. (1810 was a real bad year for Spain). The fight for independence would last 8 years, culminating with Generals Bernardo O'Higgins and José de San Martin crossed the Andes to defeat royalist forces in.

While I lived in Chile I was told that it was the law that each home have a Chilean flag which was to be flown on the 18th of September each year. Whether or not it is actually the law - it certainly is the practice. Every home I passed on the 18th and 19th of September flew a Chilean flag. It was impressive!
Information on Chile can be found here.

When President Truman visited the monument to the Niños Heroes he said: "Brave men don't belong to any one country. I respect bravery wherever I see it." That about sums up my feelings for the celebrations this week. I am an American to the core, but I hold a great love in my heart for the other two countries that have been my home.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Meeting a TRUE American Hero

As my wife and I were getting off the elevator a few minutes ago I spotted an elderly gentleman and his wife seated right next to the elevator banks with this around his neck:

I discreetly pointed him out to my wife, not wanting to interrupt him, but then I couldn't resist and had to go pay my respects. His name is Cpl. Hiroshi H. Miyamura, a Medal of Honor Recipient and WWII/Korean War Veteran. I told him what an honor it was to meet him and his wife and how grateful we are for his service and others like him. He was very gracious and allowed my wife to take this picture of the two of us:

Mr. Miyamura is from New Mexico and is also a first time attendee at the Republican National Convention. He told us that he wanted to make an appearance at the convention to tell people who he was voting for and why. He said we needed real American men to lead our country and that he was there to honor Sen. McCain's service in the military and encourage us to vote for him.

After chatting for a few minutes I walked away, with goosebumps running up and down my arms. It was such an honor to meet this man and personally thank him for his service to our country. After running our errands I had to run back up to the hotel room to look up Cpl. Miyamura's Citation. After reading it aloud to my wife I once again got chills. I would rather meet and visit with one of these authentic American heroes than a President of the United States. I couldn't wait for tonight to get this post put up on my blog. It is too exciting for me!

Here is Cpl. Miyamura's Medal of Honor Citation:

Rank and organization: Corporal, U.S. Army, Company H, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Taejon-ni, Korea, 24 and 25 April 1951. Entered service at: Gallup, N. Mex. Birth: Gallup, N. Mex. G.O. No.: 85, 4 November 1953. Citation: Cpl. Miyamura, a member of Company H, distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. On the night of 24 April, Company H was occupying a defensive position when the enemy fanatically attacked threatening to overrun the position. Cpl. Miyamura, a machine gun squad leader, aware of the imminent danger to his men unhesitatingly jumped from his shelter wielding his bayonet in close hand-to-hand combat killing approximately 10 of the enemy. Returning to his position, he administered first aid to the wounded and directed their evacuation. As another savage assault hit the line, he manned his machine gun and delivered withering fire until his ammunition was expended. He ordered the squad to withdraw while he stayed behind to render the gun inoperative. He then bayoneted his way through infiltrated enemy soldiers to a second gun emplacement and assisted in its operation. When the intensity of the attack necessitated the withdrawal of the company Cpl. Miyamura ordered his men to fall back while he remained to cover their movement. He killed more than 50 of the enemy before his ammunition was depleted and he was severely wounded. He maintained his magnificent stand despite his painful wounds, continuing to repel the attack until his position was overrun. When last seen he was fighting ferociously against an overwhelming number of enemy soldiers. Cpl. Miyamura's indomitable heroism and consummate devotion to duty reflect the utmost glory on himself and uphold the illustrious traditions on the military service.

Convention-al Entertainment

We had some really cool experiences yesterday, starting with a reception for the Arizona/Minnessota Delegations at the Landmark Building across the street from our hotel. We heard opening comments from our State Party Chairman, Randy Pullen as well as our Secretary of State, Jan Brewer, and then from several "luminaries". Our speakers were:

    Keeper of Banners addressing the Delgates

  • Governor Tom Pawlenty - Governor of Minnesota

  • Governor Jon Huntsman - Governor of Utah

  • Senator Norm Coleman - (R) Minnesota

  • Robert "Bud" McFarlane - Former National Security Advisor to President Reagan

  • Ambassador John R. Bolton - Former US Ambassador to the United Nations

  • Meg Whitman - Former President/CEO of eBay
I was especially excited to hear from Senator Coleman and Ambassador Bolton - two great Americans who have led the charge against the U.S. being involved with and taking orders from the UN.

Ambassador John Bolton and I (me engaging in a little hero worship)

Later that evening we ran over to the Minneapolis Convention Center for the Civic Convention. It was a blast! They had several displays on the presidency, including mock-ups of Air Force One, a large-scale model of the White House, two presidential limousines, and the most awesome collection of historic US Flags (not just replicas - these were the real deal!).

Me Achieving Nirvana

I thought I was going to go into sensory overload, and Dulcinea had to cool me down from spending too much dinero on campaign kitsch. We got some souvenirs for the kids (and for us) and walked until the bones in my feet started popping (it might be time to lose some weight). My favorite acquisitions were a copy of Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative and a baseball cap from the USS John S. McCain - a destroyer named after Sen. McCain's father and grandfather that is currently depolyed in the Persian Gulf.

We have been interacting with delegates from all over the country, and have made some great friends. There are so many good people here. It gives me a lot of excitement and hope for this election cycle.

The First Lady and I returning to D.C. after bringing peace to the Middle East

All in all, a great day. I am looking forward to some actual political action today when the convention officially kicks off.

Tell the Joint Chiefs that the bombing of Iran starts NOW - not five minutes from now! And get that little crap-head Putin on the phone - I'm about to open a can of whoop and pour it all over his sorry hide.