Memorial Day Celebration 2015
I rarely speak publicly about my military experience in Vietnam because I feel lucky to be one of the soldiers who returned home in one piece and in sound mind. I was in my early 20s, naïve and fresh out of college, when I volunteered for the army. The politicians called Vietnam a “conflict,” but to the soldiers on the ground it was “war.” When talking about the war, I would say to family and friends I was a “lover” and never a soldier. When I was discharged, there was no military parade for me and my comrades-in-arms as it was just best to blend into society and move on with one’s life.
I was one of the lucky ones who was able to make the transition. I knew, on the other hand, many soldiers came home with limbs gone, drug addicted and broken hearted.
A few years ago, I visited the Veterans Hospital in the valley and saw an establishment that made me want to cry. Acres of rundown buildings and landscaping, the complex was old and, because of politics and government neglect, reminded me how lucky I was to have been able to transition to civilian life and live comfortably. At the VA Hospital were hundreds of people with serious problems, unlike me, being pushed around in wheelchairs, on crutches with sadness in their eyes. Why wasn’t this country honoring these heroes with an environment that was new and cheerful, not old and neglected?
A few years back, I read where the City of Burbank was honoring a local hero by dedicating a city park in his honor. Corporal Larry Leonard Maxam had received the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism while serving in Vietnam. I never knew Corporal Maxam, but I did something I had never done before. I got involved and went to Pacific Park and became one person in a crowd of hundreds honoring an individual I had never met.
As Memorial Day is just around the corner, I am reminded every Tuesday evening how lucky I and other concerned citizens throughout our great nation are to be able to appear before our local city government and staff stating how we feel on different issues. We may agree to disagree, but we know we live in a democracy where we would not be put into jail for not agreeing with our elected officials.
This Memorial Day, I would be so honored if the good citizens of Glendale and elsewhere paused for one moment and said a prayer for all the Corporal Maxams who gave up their lives to make it possible to be living in a free country, despite all its warts and shortcomings.
On Monday morning at 6:38 a.m. (yes, a.m.!) I got a recorded call telling me that the IRS is filing a lawsuit against me and I should call (202) 470-0729. That was the number the call came from. Whitepages.com shows that as a mobile phone in Washington, DC.
The IRS would not phone but only contact via U.S. mail and certainly not make that kind of call using a recorded, impersonal message and from a mobile phone (and with no preceding mail to me). I’ve confirmed this with my “IRS Enrolled Agent,” and a friend who does taxes for folks says the IRS have advised them to warn all of their clients of a big push this year to scam via phone, email, U.S. mail, and personal visits.
Commemorating Armenian Genocide – Not Just For Armenians
As a Japanese-American resident of La Crescenta for 15 years, I read with interest [CV Weekly’s] coverage of the events commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. May I contribute another perspective which comes from having grown up in Hawaii?
The world-wide diaspora of Armenians following the Genocide contributes to the significant presence of Armenian, may I encourage you not to think that the issues such as the Armenian Genocide are “for Armenians only” and instead take it as an opportunity to learn more about the people in our community by engaging with your Armenian friends and neighbors directly?
La Crescenta has a wonderful diversity of races and cultures. On my neighborhood block alone there are several Korean and Armenian families, Caucasian Christians and Mormons (which is the same thing or not depending on who you ask), Buddhists (my husband and me), and a Hindu family from India. This is a great neighborhood for us because, like many people from multi-cultural, multi-racial Hawaii, I have an “obnoxious” curiosity about other races, other cultures and other religions. My curiosity sometimes gets me into trouble with a younger family friend, a man in his 40s who grew up in affluent, predominantly white Palos Verdes. In his efforts to practice racial tolerance, he will mention someone without saying what race he or she is. I ask, “So what race is this person?” He will appear shocked, as if I had said something completely inappropriate. But my young friend’s attitude, followed to its logical extreme, is described by comedian Stephen Colbert of the “Colbert Report” who says, “I don’t see color. I may be black for all I know.” (He’s not). To me it would be the equivalent of referring to a person as “it” rather than “he” or “she.”
Our racial, cultural and religious background (sometimes more than one race, more than one culture, more than one religion) contribute to the richness of who we are. But why should we be interested in other races, other cultures, or other religions? Because they can compensate for our own racial, cultural or religious blind spots. For example, growing up in my Japanese-American home I was taught never to openly complain or criticize someone – so we did it behind closed doors, behind their backs! I later learned “on the mainland” a healthier and more effective way of voicing criticism from, of all people, a Native American co-worker who may have grown up on a reservation (I can’t remember now). When we meet and interact with people of other races, cultures and religions we realize we can no longer smugly assume that our way is the best way or the only way.
So let’s get out there and talk to our neighbors!