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Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Theater

Last night, the Warden and I attended a dinner theater. However, it wasn’t a Broadway play or even at the Wichita Fine Arts Center. It was at the Atlanta Community Center and Theater. It was quite a gathering, must have been 200 plus people there. (Which doubled the population of the town by the way!)

Several locals (of which, one was my daughter) had worked for weeks to prepare the sets, find the costumes and learn their lines. Then came all the work that goes with advertising and final preparations before production. The play had a western setting of men returning home from war and finding how things had changed. In the end, the “hero” found his love. It was a hilarious success that ended with a standing ovation for the cast and crew.

As we drove home, the Warden mentioned it felt good to “be home”, back among people who had played significant roles in our life. And indeed it is. It’s always nice to sit and visit with “friends and neighbors”.

As I sit here this morning trying to put words to my feelings, one thing, one word keeps re-surfacing in my mind, “hero”. (I know, it’s a far cry from “The Theater”, but relevant if you read on.)

We sat at the table with Phil and Nancy, a unique couple with deep historical ties to Atlanta. Both had graduated from Atlanta, married and went off to follow a career in the service to our country with the Air Force. Phil has flown “spotter” planes in Viet Nam and B-52’s for SAC during the “cold war”. Over the years, he has shared with me some very hair raising experiences he had encountered during those years of service and my admiration for the man is tremendous.

Also at our table, there was a relatively new comer to the Atlanta community who had served our country by flying tankers out of McConnell Air Force Base. They were a very cordial and delightful couple and easily put on the “list of friends”.

To my right, (as I think mentally) was Roy, who not only was the bus driver to my children years ago, but also as a teenager risk his life on the beaches of Anzio. For those of you who are not historically competent of WWII battles, this was a sixteen week long battle that cost many men’s lives. A hero drove my kids to school each day.

Further back in the crowd was a man who had done service in the “Korean Conflict” (yet a war by any standards). Surrounding him were several who had served in the Viet Nam War. Others attending had served in Desert Storm and even those who were returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. I received a hug from Nicole, a senior at Central High School who will, upon graduation, be inducted to the US Army Reserve.

Heroes come in many arenas though. Not all have served the country in the military. I talked to one who was just returning from the gulf coast region of Mississippi where Katrina had devastated homes and lives. He told me of helping a couple of victims of that hurricane and how he hoped to go back and do more.

Yes, heroes are a funny lot, a group of “locals”. As one man put it as he received the Congressional Medal of Honor, “I’m not a hero, but I served with some”.

Yet all (even the heros) laughed at the lines of the play, all snickered when lines were forgotten, all clapped when a scene was completed and all stood when the play was done.

Dang! I am PROUD to be from a “Red State”.

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