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Memorial Day 2021

Multiple cities have claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, but in 1966 the government officially declared Waterloo, New York, as the national holiday birthplace.  The debates on the home of Memorial day came to a close, but the history remains unchanged.  Memorial Day was born on May 5, 1868, under Army General Order Number 11.  The order recognized Memorial Day, then called Decoration Day, by stating,  “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”  On that first Memorial Day, over 20,000 graves of both the Union and Confederacy in Arlington cemetery were decorated with flowers. 

After the first Memorial Day, several states celebrated it.  Some celebrated at the end of May as the original date, and others chose their dates.  In World War I, the holiday transformed from commemorating those who died in the Civil War to celebrate the service of those who died in any war.  The National Holiday Act of 1971 made the last Monday of May the holiday’s official date for all fifty states.  It has since become a tradition to recite the poem “On Flanders Field” each memorial day in various countries.  

This Memorial Day is no different than any other.  We now have more wars, more conflicts, and more men and women to remember than before.  Our country has been involved in wars from the Revolution to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Lives have been given both on this continent and around the world.  It is fitting and appropriate that during this three-day weekend, as you celebrate or relax, you should take a moment to remember.  

There are counties today where freedom is not allowed. There are people still to this day seeking admission, acceptance, and the opportunity to become citizens of the United States. Every day they come from countries around the world. They seek freedom, they seek possibilities, and they seek the life of the American Dream. Sadly there are those in this country claiming the American Dream is dead. They claim Socialism or some other form of government should be in place. They seek to change, modify, and even put away the freedoms promised by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We must remain vigilant to honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedom.

On this Memorial Day 2021, put down the burger, put down the hot dog, pause, and remember. Someone died so that you could eat that food in peace, in the home of the brave, and in the home the most desired state of existence in the world, in a state of freedom. That freedom was not free, and it will not be in the future. So take that moment to remember that someone died so that today you can look to a brighter future filled with freedom.
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Reflecting on Good Friday

When I was younger I had a problem understanding a major verse of the Bible. The verse that bothered me came when Jesus spoke in Matthew 27:46. He said, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” The provided translations really struck me as odd. In the English Standard Version of the Bible just next to the words the rest of the verse says, “…that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” As a young man I thought the plea was a sign of surrender, giving up and lost hope on the part of Jesus. To me, as a young Christian, I thought many times, why would Jesus say this? It’s almost as if He was expecting God to save Him at the last moment or take Him off the cross? The Bible goes on to explain that those standing near the cross thought that Jesus was calling out to Elijah (Matthew 27:47). So, it appeared to me that confusion was not only present in my reading, but also in the understanding of the people there that day. At times when I read it, I felt that Jesus had truly expected a different outcome. At the time He was very close to death. The plea seemed to me to be a question to God, a wondering thought, of “Why didn’t You come save me from this death?” As I would learn later when I grew in my Christian walk, the verse and the plea had a much deeper meaning and one that we as Christians should not only cherish, but be thankful that we will never experience. As Christians, no matter what trials, tribulations, or even potential death we face, we will never face it alone. God is always with us as we are promised in Hebrews 13.5 and several other places we are told that He will never leave us or forsake us. This means that even in the worst of times we will not be alone. The meaning of Jesus’ cry though is that at the moment He was about to die, the time He should have needed God the most, God was not there. This may be shocking to think that God would turn His back on His own Son, but that is exactly what happened when Jesus cried out. For the first time in Jesus’ life, He felt no connection to God the Father. In Jesus’ own words, God had “forsaken” Him. He had left Jesus completely and utterly alone on the cross to finally die in agony and pain. The connection to God that had been so strong all His life simply vanished. Jesus, perhaps for the first time ever, was completely alone. It was so torturous to Him that it caused Him to cry out. The Romans had beat Him, humiliated Him, and were in the process of crucifying Him, but through all that He knew God was with Him. Now, suddenly, at the final moments when God should have been standing close in Jesus’ human heart and soul, God turned away. Jesus could not understand why at that moment and He cried out. It is something that we as Christians have been promised never to face – perhaps because it would be too horrible for us to stand. Continue Reading →

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Time to Spring Forward Again

Daylight Savings Time Begins

Spring 1 Hour forward

Thanks to one George Hudson and his concept of Daylight Savings Time, we will spring forward tonight at 2 a.m. by one hour. According to supporters of the process, we will all be more productive, active, and gain an extra hour of daylight so we can complete our daily task…you know, tending the crops. Some people push to end the Daylight Savings Time ritual practiced twice a year. Medical professionals in particular have concluded there is an increase in work related accidents, suicides and other health problems around the time change. While a handful of states do not practice the ritual, the rest of the country and the four states region continues to be subjected to the “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back” process each year. Continue Reading →

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Girls Basketball Team Shines With Act of Love

Opinion: On December 8, the girls of Chapel Hill High School Basketball team showed the world the true meaning of sportsmanship and love which goes beyond a game of basketball. When the game whistle blew the designated tip-off player refused to jump for the tip. As the Bowie Simms Girls Team took possession of the ball, the Chapel Hill player calmly walked toward her teammates in the corner of the gym where they were kneeling in respect. Bowie Simms easily made the layup and opening point at which time the Chapel Hill team rejoined the game. This simple act of respect and honor caused an immediate response. In the stands, the Chapel Hill and Bowie Simms fans all understood the symbolic gesture made by Chapel Hill. Immediately a standing ovation was given by both sides of the gym.

On November 7, Bowie Simms lost one of their high school players to a tragic car accident. Devastated by the loss, the team canceled their scheduled November 13 game with Chapel Hill as the Bowie Simms team and community mourned. At Chapel Hill, the team followed the updates, prayed, and received word from Coach Matt Garrett on how the community was holding up.

Coach Matt Garrett has coached girl’s basketball teams to four state championships. Needless to say, he knows basketball, and he knows sportsmanship as it’s an important part of his life. Coach Garrett in reference to the girls’ actions, stated, “there are times that there are things bigger than the game of basketball.”

Garrett says his team wanted to accomplish two important things by kneeling in the opening moments of the game. They wanted to honor the grieving family, school, and community first. They also wanted to use the moment to show other students the meaning of respect and honor above the game.

Sometimes older generations worry about the future. We worry if the younger generations will rise and be the type of leaders and adults our nation needs. Well, the girls of Chapel Hill Basketball team just showed the world that it is going to be okay. By showing compassion, love, and respect that goes beyond good sportsmanship, they transcended into outstanding young adults. With young people like this team from Chapel Hill school in the small town of Mount Pleasant, Texas, coming to age as young adults, we can rest assured the future is in great hands. Chapel Hill Basketball Team Takes a knee
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Fall Reflections and 2020

Opinion: There’s no denying that fall is upon us in the four states area. We are seeing colder days, Halloween has passed, trees are changing colors, and leaves are gently floating down to the ground. Fall seems to mark the end of each year as the leaves start dancing through the air outside my office window, a reminder that the end of the year is almost here.

From this point forward we will celebrate holidays, eat, shop, and for many of us, we will try to pretend that 2020 has never happened. Some of us have lost loved ones, friends, and co-workers this year. We have watched as politicians argue, debate, and try to find some happy balance between shutting society down and opening it up. We have debated masks, political agendas, and even argued over how real or unreal this pandemic is or is not.

2020 was a unique year to say the least. We started off with rumors of war quickly escalating to talk of another world war. We watched as Congressional leaders tried to impeach a President and a pandemic raced around the globe. Many of us shut ourselves away at home while “essential” workers carried on the day-to-day task of keeping society moving. We faced riots, demonstrations, and chaos in some of the cities around the world. We watched as a global economy suffered the effects of the “Stay at home” cry, and we marveled to some extent as pollution levels dropped across the states, perhaps a cry of relief from mother nature as our pollution output slowed. Finally, many of us watched as a loved one, friend, or stranger struggled for air, gasping as a ventilator tried desperately to keep the life-giving oxygen flowing. In some cases, with no rhyme or reason, the COVID patient survived or barely showed symptoms. In other cases, as our hearts were torn and ripped from us, we watched as COVID destroyed life. 2020 has been unique is perhaps an understatement.

As we close out 2020, political disarray is still the line for mainstream media, social media is still rolling with rumors, lies, truths, and perhaps half-truths at times. We seem to be divided, first as a world and second as a nation. At a time when COVID should have forced us to come together, join one another, and fight against the common enemy of a disease…many of us chose to focus on our masks, our rights, our feelings. Was it self-centered? I really don’t know. History will have to look back and judge how we handled the pandemic. All I do know is that 2020 will come to an end and 2021 will roll in on January 1. Maybe in these last days of the year, we should all take time to reflect, maybe reconnect with a political enemy or simply talk to our neighbors. If just a few people will reach out in our communities with a smile, a positive word, maybe a helping hand we can all be reminded that we are bigger than 2020. We will have 2021 and that is something in itself to be thankful for as we move onward.

So watch the leaves fall, enjoy the colors, and look into your own heart. Is there a way you can help make 2021 better? Maybe, in the end, it’s all a matter of how we approach each day, each person, and each situation we come across. Maybe it does boil down to you, and me, deciding it’s going to be better, and then we can all work together to make it so much brighter each day. Continue Reading →

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Reflecting on Veteran’s Day

Veterans for Congress PAC

Sometimes we Americans need reminders about our veterans and today is one of those reminder days.  Today, we celebrate Veteran’s Day.  It comes and goes each year and often with little fanfare or notice.  Sure, some people put out flags, others have federal holidays, and if we are in a crowd of people we recognize and thank the veterans present.  But what does being a veteran really mean? Being a veteran in its simplistic form means that a man or woman joined a branch of the United States military and served our country.  That person may have been drafted, or he or she may have decided to volunteer.  Regardless of the method of the call, that man or woman answered it.  They showed up, signed up, and completed some physical exams.  From there they were sworn into the service and given a date for basic training. 

Imagine being a young person, perhaps 18 or 19, and deciding to leave home.  Just yesterday you were playing football for the local high school team or cheering them onward.  You were in classes with friends.  You celebrated Christmas and Thanksgiving with your family.  Your mother was likely still cooking your dinner and maybe even washing your clothing.  Now, on the day you prepare to leave for basic, you are going into an unknown world.  You are leaving home no longer a child, but an adult with adult responsibilities. 

In a few short hours you will be prepared, given new clothing, and most likely introduced to someone way more demanding than your school teachers ever thought about being.  You will be in rooms filled with others following the same footsteps.   You will train, you will learn, and then you will train some more.  Just when you think the physical and mental training is complete, someone will have the bright idea that you need to be pushed just a little more.  So, you will be pushed.  Finally when all that training is done, you will be ready to serve…somewhere. You may find yourself on a ship in the middle of the ocean, or a remote outpost secluded by woods, snow, or even sand.  You will have time off, but not really since you are almost on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  After all, our military has to be ready for anything. 

You will sign up for exotic places to serve like Japan or Hawaii and you will end up serving somewhere like Afghanistan.  You will just get used to the language, the people, and make new friends when the military will decide you need to go somewhere else. 

If you have a family, you will drag them around the world as you move.  One day you may be in Germany and then next day you may find yourself back in the states.  You will put in for the transfers you want, and accept the transfers you get.  If you are lucky, the only time you will fire a weapon will be for practice.  If you are unlucky, then your country will call you to fire that weapon in the name of freedom at people you have never met or known. 

Then, for some maybe as fast as it started, you will come home.  There will be changes to your hometown.  You will not recognize the football team anymore, the city will have grown or maybe faded.  Your mother will be older and your father will be slower.  For a time, you will feel like you missed so much.  Whether you are serving for two years, four years, or twenty, you will come back a different man or woman to a different home. 

At first you may not realize it, but you are a veteran now.  There have been times that being a veteran meant you were called “baby-killers” and other horrible names, but to those of us that recognize the sacrifice of youth, years, and time, you will be honored as a veteran. 

The title veteran does not come easy…it is earned.  It is earned from the moment the boy or girl takes an oath to serve to the moment a man or woman steps out of the service.  The veteran gives a part of themselves…they give a part of their lives to this nation.  The veteran has given so that the flag will still fly over this land.  The veteran has given so that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights will still matter to each American.  The veteran has given not for glory or for statues and great honors…no, the veteran has given for you and me. 

Today we honor those veterans who have given so much to this country.  We will put out our flags, smile, clap for them, honor them, and thank them for their service.  Tomorrow the flags will be put away, the “Thank You” post will stop on social media, and life will return as normal.  Today is our reminder day.  But tomorrow we need to keep in mind that the veteran is still here.  In a society that seeks heroes daily, it’s nice to know that the American hero known as the veteran can always be found among us throughout the year and not just on one special day.  
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Halloween 2020

Halloween 2020 presents the need for something different in the midst of a global pandemic

Willard Library

Halloween is almost here, and the only thing certain this year is that it is once again that “Spooky” time of the year. October brings the time of the year when adults dress up to attend parties, teens tell ghost stories and visit haunted locations, and little ones seek that bag of candy, usually enough to last into the new year. This year will likely be different. With social distancing, masks, and pandemic concerns, nobody seems to have a plan for Halloween. There is a good chance that many people will skip the “Trick or Treat” rounds this year and settle for some fun at home, a scary show, a small gathering with close friends, or maybe even a ghost hunt.

If your family decides to skip the “Trick or Treat” rounds, you can still have a fantastic Halloween at home or abroad. There are still small haunted houses and small ghost tours which can offer social distancing and safe interactions. If you decide to stay home, there are plenty of television shows for adults and children alike. Naturally, the Internet offers a world of ghosts and goblins, all just waiting for you to complete a hunt online! Perhaps one of the first online ghost monitoring sites to arrive came way back in 1993 and not from the four states area. An old library in Evansville, Indiana, put up some of the first “Ghost Cams” throughout their building. For years, stories had been around when the city paper decided to embark on the unique idea of having ghost cams for the world to view located at the Willard Library. Willard Library was well over one hundred years old when the first ghost cam was installed. The Evansville Courier and Press placed the cameras and ran the feed on their online page. The newspaper quickly received several “sightings” worldwide as ghost watchers zipped over to the sight to watch. In a short amount of time, the hits had already passed the hundred thousand mark at a time when the Internet was still just catching on with the world. But before the Internet, the ghost had a long history of touring the old library in Indiana. Continue Reading →

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COVID-19 What Exactly Has Changed?

Opinion: COVID19 descended on the United States like a blanket being thrown across an uncovered bed. From New York to California, from Texas to Florida, COVID-19 leaped into our lives, disrupted our lives, and forced us to change. The fact is, we had to change whether we accepted COVID as a threat or not. We all modified our behaviors. If you say you did not, then you must have had secret access to restaurants, non-essential businesses, churches, civic clubs, and other places that the rest of us knew nothing about. You may have tried to ignore it, even said it would not affect you, but it did. In March, daily briefings came from the White House all the way down to the local county and city governments. Governors gave us daily updates on numbers. Web sites went up – even the Four States News has a special page dedicated to the COVID-19 numbers – and many of us learned what working from home really meant. Television commercials, entertainment, and even movies were all modified to support the COVID fight, support those at home, and provide encouragement during what may well be one of the darkest hours of this new decade. March, April, May, and June all rolled by, and then suddenly, something happened.

There are few of us that did not notice when “something happened.” States like Texas began a “Phase One,” followed quickly by a “Phase Two” opening up. Other states like Florida decided to open completely. Places like New York allowed BLM gatherings, protest, and even riots to continue but then continued to condemn church gatherings, funerals, and even just yesterday broke up a Jewish Orthodox funeral. While some areas seemed to accept that COVID was the “new normal,” other places continued to crack down and lockdown. Nursing facilities in Arkansas are just starting to open their doors a little while nursing facilities in Texas can open, but only with strict policies, procedures, training, screenings, and even training for those who visit their loved ones. In the meantime, the facemask signs have started to disappear from businesses, have become less enforced, and in some restaurants, the protections are completely ignored. Sunday, National Taco Day, I went to a local restaurant to pick up an order and was surprised to see the restaurant full, no mask, and table, after table filled with people sitting next to each other. In some areas, it seems that everything will be “back to normal” by November. Even the schools that did not have students return in August are now discussing students returning to campus in January.

But, the overall and burning question, continues to be since the onset of COVID-19 in the United States, “What exactly has changed?” If we are to look at the numbers, there certainly has been a change. We have now passed the 210,000 deaths from COVID-19 – if you believe the numbers being published. We now have over 7 million people in the United States alone who have been infected at some point. So, there is a change…but, in the big picture, we still have people getting the disease just like we did in March. We still do not have a cure or a vaccine, and we are still learning new things about the disease. Honestly, except for the numbers, nothing has changed, yet we are opening up as if everything is cured, completed, and done with COVID-19.

I have said it before and will repeat it…the nation, the states, the cities, and the counties or parishes should never have shut down to the extent that they did. It was a mistake that destroyed the economy, lives, businesses, and production in the country. It did nothing – absolutely nothing – to stop COVID-19. Sure – maybe someone could argue that it slowed it down some. Maybe someone could argue that we would be at a million deaths now if not for the closings. Fewer deaths and fewer infected certainly is a good thing…nobody would argue against that, but did it change anything in the long run? If we are going to open now as if it’s cured, and over, then won’t the result of being open now, as we go into the flu season, be far worse than being open during the summer? Will not opening everything now return us to the brink where we stood when they closed everything in March? Sure it will.

The bottom line is we should never have closed then, especially if we were going to open again while the crisis is still active. Closing the country down in March was the equivalent of having a broken arm and deciding to break both your legs so you can stay home and mend your broken arm. It was, and in my opinion, wrong. Nothing has changed from March to now, except we have more infected and more deaths. Because of the actions earlier, we now have conspiracy theories, those who are simply tired of the restrictions, and those who have decided it’s just not worth fighting anymore. As a friend told me the other day in reference to perhaps a conspiracy theory, “We are over the election infection.” No, nothing has changed except the number infected, the death totals, and our willingness to allow the government to restrict us. Most of the evidence points to the fact that we simply delayed the spread and will now face greater numbers of infections and likely more deaths as we continue to disregard COVID because we are all tired of it. Continue Reading →

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Stewart Concludes His Gift During COVID-19 Pandemic

Sir Patrick Stewart has been reading a sonnet a day on Twitter. Sir Stewart from Twitter

Opinion: Often when the world learns of a movie star or musician from England being knighted, it takes little notice because most of these “Knights” are not given the title for heroic deeds. In most cases, these knights are given titles because of their star status and perhaps some charity work. While the world has been battling COVID-19, many of these knights have given money and support to the cause, but perhaps none of them have given as much as Sir Patrick Stewart. Yes, we are talking about “Captain Picard” from the famous series and movies in the Star Trek family, but Stewart rose above the fictional exploits of his Picard character with his actions during COVID-19. Continue Reading →

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Banned Books Week 2020

Should we even have banned books? Opinion: You may not have noticed, but this week, September 27 through October 3, is “Banned Books” week. The week is designated to celebrate our freedom to read. It is promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International. You may think of “Banned Books” as being a problem for other nations since we have the freedom of the press here in the United States, but banned books have a long and fruitful history here in the states too. Continue Reading →

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