Saturday, March 31, 2007

Honest Immigration

Longtime readers may recall that, in May 2005, I blogged a series of posts recounting the story of my late husband Pete’s immigrant family. Their dramatic saga, from war-torn Latvia to German refugee camps, and finally to the United States, is one of faith, perseverance and courage.

Immigration was a very involved process in post World War II America, and there was no such thing as an entitlement program or high profile lobbyists clamoring in the media for aliens’ rights. An immigrant had to have a job and all necessary paperwork in order to enter the country circa 1950. Everything had to be on the books, upfront.

In other words, an immigrant had to be legal. So how, exactly, did my in-laws manage to come to America?

Close family friends of Pete’s parents were approached by a U.S. Army officer they had come to know while in a refugee camp in post-WWII Germany. This officer was from the southern U.S., and he had a large cotton farm that needed workers. This Latvian family had several growing children, and they were more than willing to do any work that would get them into America. The officer sponsored the family into the U.S.A. as legal workers on his land.

One of these children, Anna, was a young woman in her late teens when she arrived in the southern U.S. with her family. Anna told me that there was an abandoned railroad car on one of the farm’s empty fields, and that’s where her family lived. They had no plumbing and no electricity. The whole family worked picking cotton from dawn until dark. “Nobody helped us,” she said simply and without rancor. “Nobody gave us anything. We were on our own.”

Anna’s father would buy the Sunday newspaper and read the job ads that were posted for different parts of the country. After about one year of working on the cotton farm, he found a “help wanted” ad for utility workers in Indianapolis. He applied for a position and was hired. Anna’s father moved to Indianapolis first, leaving his family on the farm to keep working and saving money. After a time, all of the family moved to Indianapolis.

Shortly after they were settled, the utility company issued word that it needed more workers. Anna’s father submitted an application for my father-in-law, who was still in the refugee camp in Germany, awaiting an opportunity. The company hired Pete’s father, and that was my husband’s family's ticket into America.

My mother-in-law, Helen, told me that when they arrived in the U.S.A., she had no idea how far away Indianapolis was from New York harbor. At the time, my husband Pete was an eleven-month-old infant, and she had no food for him during the long train ride. As the hours wore on, Pete was screaming in hunger. A woman traveling on the same train with her child took pity and gave Helen a jar of baby food. My in-laws did not speak a word of English when they arrived, so the kind lady pointed to the baby on the label and then at Pete, to show Helen that the food was meant for him. Helen said she was absolutely amazed that such a thing existed. After spending six years scrambling for bread crusts in the refugee camp, a jar of specially-made baby food seemed beyond incredible.

Contrast this story with the sense of entitlement that surrounds some (not all) of the illegal immigrants who walk across our borders with their hands out. When our borders were meaningful, no immigrant waved any flag but our own. It would not have occurred to them to wave a different flag. These honest immigrants had worked too hard for too long, and had suffered too much to get here. Perhaps most telling, they did not feel "owed" by the U.S. They were, and remain to this day, very grateful to be here.

Valuable lessons, true principles of honest immigration, now lost on a blurred and trampled border.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Period: The End

The British military hostage situation has me remembering 1979 in many ways. Probably my most vivid memory of the days immediately following the seizure of the Americans at the U.S. Embassy is my father watching the evening news.

Dad was angry. This was an unusual state of being for him; Dad was by nature gentle and fun-loving. I hardly ever saw him upset. But he had a finely-honed sense of justice and principle, and that quality flashed through his reaction to the images on the television screen.

Disgusted with then-President Jimmy Carter's foot dragging (and this was only a few days in, mind you), Dad turned to me and, while pointing an accusatory finger in the general direction of the TV set, spoke with controlled fury in his voice:

"I would tell them, 'You've got 24 hours to let them go. If you don't, we're coming in to get them. Period.'" (He really did say "Period." That was a favored way of emphasizing that he meant business.)

I remember that moment so well because my father didn't speak lightly about such things. Today, I wonder how much death and destruction might have been avoided by an immediate policy of giving the Iranians 24 hours and then "coming in to get them."

It makes me wonder how much better off the world might become if someone showed the Iranians that they're not going to take any more of their nonsense. I wonder what would happen if someone showed that they mean business.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Supporting the Troops

It's not like I'm the only Soldiers' Angel blogging, you know. Check out "Mail Call!Supporting the Troops"--which also lists a roll call of blogs by members of Soldiers' Angels. I've been honored with an invitation to be listed.

The more support we can give to our men and women overseas in the military, the better. By all means, list my blog if it will help get the word out about Soldiers' Angels. Thanks for the e-mail, fellow Angel, and good work at "Supporting the Troops"!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

On His Way Home

I received wonderful news from Soldiers' Angels today. 1SG Rob will be coming home in April. His Easter goody box just went out today, so hopefully he will have some snacks for the long plane ride home.

If he's gone before the box arrives, that's just fine. My backup instruction, if package is "undeliverable," is always "Any Soldier" at Rob's APO address. So the M&Ms would never go to waste.

The e-mail from Soldiers' Angels asked if I want another name. Is the pope German? Of course I want another name! This next will be my fifth soldier. I'm a lightweight compared to some Angels. I had an e-mail chat once with a volunteer in the midwest who always has six boxes going at once, for six different troops. Now THAT's an Angel!

If you'd like to feel better about our world situation, Soldiers' Angels is the perfect answer. Adopting a troop from any branch of the military is as rewarding as it is constructive. From a veteran SA, my advice is to give it a try. Through your correspondence with our heroes in the field of battle, you'll understand exactly what "supporting the troops" means. (I wonder how many members of Congress volunteer as Soldiers' Angels? That would be an interesting question to toss out at a press conference.)

Hang in there, Sgt. Rob. You're almost home. Stay safe and well, and please write me when you get back onto U.S. turf. As always, my prayers and thanks are with you.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Rough Road Ahead

It's safe to say that John Edwards will never have my vote. But with today's announcement of his wife Elizabeth's recurring cancer, he has a landslide of my prayers.

Cancer is a long, tough, daunting road to travel. I wish both of the Edwards, and their family, every strength and blessing on this most difficult journey. I truly hope their ending will be much happier than my family's was.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Patrick's Day

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ within me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ at my right,
Christ at my left...

Although I've noted St. Patrick's Day in past years, the famous saint's feast day is more meaningful to me now. Having walked in Patrick's chosen homeland during my Christmas 2006 trip to Ireland, I feel more connected to the roots of the modern American celebration.

Even today, Ireland has a lot of wild and rugged country. One can only imagine how daunting the landscape was sixteen centuries ago, when Patrick was teaching Christianity to the Druids. Patrick's mere survival in the midst of the native population is in itself a small miracle; his success in converting the Irish to the new Christian faith is a large one indeed.

On New Year's Eve, 2006, I snapped the photo of St. Patrick's Church in my grandmother's hometown of Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, Ireland. It is one of the hundreds, if not thousands, of Irish churches, streets, and buildings named for Ireland's patron saint.

It's my guess that Patrick deserves all of them. And he certainly deserves this one joyful day each year. I hoist a toast to all my readers, in honor of St. Patrick's Day--SLAINTE MHATH! ("Good health!")

Sunday, March 11, 2007


When you find yourself vacuuming and cleaning bathrooms at 9:00 P.M. on a Friday night, you know you're short on time.

Such was the case two nights ago, as I tore through my long-neglected house. I was heading out of town on Saturday morning, for a weekend visit with friends in Los Angeles. Since this is the dreaded "Daylight Savings" moment, the weekend was shot for me anyway. I positively loathe this time of year. And this year, of course, the leap ahead launches even earlier. This means that 5:15 A.M., when my alarm clock goes off, will again be o-dark-thirty, as in the dead of winter. Just when it was starting to glimmer with dawn a bit earlier the past few weeks.

And of course, the new daylight savings schedule renders my satellite alarm clock pointless. I invested in it because it automatically changed the time at the appropriate hour on the designated weekend. But someone forgot to tell the satellite programming about Congress's bright idea. Now the "smart clock" has to be manually reset like every other stupid clock, watch, and electronic device in the house. That's how I spent my first half hour upon returning home today--checking and resetting every blessed time piece in the house.

Can Congress honestly find nothing better to do than tinker with our clocks? Do they have two neurons firing among the lot of them? How could they possibly think this was a worthwhile endeavor?

Wait, don't answer--I haven't the time.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Waiting for Equal Time

Okay, I'm waiting.

How long is it going to take someone in the media to challenge the fact that two presidential candidates gave political campaign speeches from church pulpits?

Where is the editorial outrage over such abuse?

Where are the demands for immediate removal of tax-exempt status for the churches involved?

Where is the outcry over the dangers of not completely separating church and state?

But of course, the speakers were Democratic candidates, so relax--that's allowed by our fair and impartial MSM, especially in the cases of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Can you imagine Rudy or Mitt giving a presidential campaign speech from a church pulpit? No, I can't, either. I suppose it's just as well. The longer we have to remember Hillary's frighteningly phony Southern accent, the better the Republicans will fare next election.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

A Timeless Battle

Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.
~ inscription on the stone at Thermopylae

One Marine's View previews the upcoming movie "300," the story of the battle at Thermopylae, meaning "hot gates."

It will give me nightmares, but I know I'll go see it. The ancient, inspiring tale of the Spartan soldiers' valiant stand against the Persian invaders at Thermopylae is one of the most fascinating in history. Steven Pressfield's gripping novel, "Gates of Fire," is an elegantly written, completely absorbing chronicle of the times and the crucial battle.

Told in the first person by the battle's lone survivor before he also dies, "Gates" is one of the most outstanding novels I've ever read. If you're looking for a story that suspends you in a faraway time and stays with you long after you've burned through the last page, I highly recommend it.