Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Commander Jory, who heads up the local American Legion, was kind enough to invite me to a meeting of the local chapter. They meet at the Senior Center on Main, a building they once owned and gave to the city under the condition they have life rights to it.
As the Legion consists of older gentlemen from World War II, and at least one from Desert Storm, that life right could go on for a very long time. And then there is an undeclared and yet un-won war in Baghdad providing new vets. Discussions are on-going about moving into the soon to be Cultural Center where all veteran organizations should reside. If it weren’t for them there, perhaps there never would have been such a center.
When I left the military way back in 1945 I vowed that my war was over, there would never be another, and I just wanted to go home. Being part of a veteran organization was never even a remote thought, nor was taking even one dime from the government as a &uot;reward&uot; for my small part in defeating a hungry-for-land Hitler. I often attend memorials and have visited the military shrines in Washington. My last trip to a memorial was to the long overdue World War II tribute at the courtesy of Representative Forbes who arranged a day there and lunch with Bob Dole.
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Walking into the American Legion room with these old soldiers was very emotional for me and tears were on the verge of flooding. God, I thought, we were once eighteen and now gray hair or no hair distinguished us from the kids that put on the uniform and became, in the words of many, part of the &uot;greatest generation.&uot; I must admit to pride to be among them and a felt a special kind of comradeship with them. I’d like to have known them way back then. Now we must avoid that 1,500 that pass on each day.
We &uot;put in the can,&uot; another session of Round Table Talk, as the camera crew puts it. Andy Damiani likes to move around and this time we were over on South Broad where a young developer is drastically changing the looks of things.
John Pruitt, president of the West End Civic League, is both pleased and proud of the &uot;remodeling&uot; going on.
We can thank the vision and dreams of Mickey Garcia who heads up a virtual mob of employees who go at dilapidated houses with a vengeance, ripping and tearing when necessary. They don’t walk away until everything inside is up to modern snuff and a new coat of paint is on the bottom step of the front porch. It’s like watching ants when his employees swarm all over a house, on the roof, on ladders, and hanging out windows. I’d like Mickey to make a movie of a complete transformation and run it speeded up so one could view the entire procedure.
Sure, the idea is to make money, and they often do, but there are many other plusses. Start with about 80 employees who make wages and spend them in Suffolk. They are encouraged to live in Suffolk, as does Garcia, and many are from places as far away as Guatemala. If they spend their wages in Suffolk we have the benefit of the multiplier effect where money gets spent over and over benefiting all including the Commissioner of Revenue.
We have other &uot;transformers&uot; in Suffolk, like Demi P, (Gardner Store and others) who also work wonders with crowbars, hammers, nails, and paint. They may be driving by your house right now with an offer. But then yours is not dilapidated.
What surprised me most were John Pruitt and Garcia both saying the houses are not being purchased by Suffolkians, but rather people moving in. The quality and price of the homes usually requires two income families and you’d know why if you but peek in the kitchens. Top drawer and in a nice neighborhood that gets even better every time Garcia closes a deal, buying or selling, in the West End area.
Take a drive down South Broad and see for yourself what can be done to upgrade Suffolk. And there is endless opportunity for this kind of change. When he gets through with downtown Suffolk there are half a dozen villages that can use some overhaul. Garcia will be around a long time.
Rabbi Aryeh Spero said he saw in New Orleans, beginning Tuesday morning, Aug. 30, men in helicopters risking their lives to save stranded flood victims from rooftops. The rescuers were white, the stranded black.
&uot;I saw Caucasians navigating their small, private boats in violent, swirling, toxic floodwaters to find fellow citizens trapped in their houses. Those they saved were black. I saw brotherhood. New York Congressman Charlie Rangel saw racism. Yes, there are &uot;Two Americas.&uot; One is the real America, where virtually every white person I know sends money, food or clothes to those in need – now and in other crises – regardless of color. This America is colorblind.&uot;
The other is the America fantasized and manufactured by Charlie Rangel, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who constantly cry &uot;racism!&uot; even in situations where it does not exist, even when undeniable images illustrate love, compassion and concern. These three men, together with today’s NAACP, want to continue the notion of racist America. It is their mantra, their calling card. Their power, money, and continued media appearances depend on it.&uot;
Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.