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Our freedom demands we all be involved

I'm as guilty as anyone. Under the excuse that going to the Veterans Day memorial at Overlook Park was an assignment, I blindly left my family at home. I usually feel guilty if I photograph while I have my family with me, so I seperate the two. Family and Work. Period.

But I knew better Sunday. As I walked out the door I had this feeling inside if me that I was letting something or someone down. I can't really describe it other than I felt guilty.

I was feeling guilty because inside I knew my family should be there. This was one of those assignments where the event was bigger than my simple photographs.

Now it's Monday, and it is still nagging me.

On Sunday, I found an excuse. And I know I'm not the only one. Don't get me wrong. There was a decent size crowd, with a sprinkling of Generation X participants intermixed with the WWII and Vietnam era folks -- and their children -- who made up most of the 70 or so people on hand.

As I watched for telling photos, two gentlemen in the second row caught my eye. I noticed them first because they were wearing service caps. I kept watching them because they had a different look in their eye. During both the national anthem and the playing of taps, they stood proudly saluting the American Flag unlike anyone else on hand.

Later, I found out who they were and why they had that different look in their eyes. John Murakami and Art Iwasaki were both WWII Nisei Veterans -- Japanese men who fought for America. I never really thought twice about Japanese American Soldiers until Sunday.

Keith Doroski, Post Commander of Unit 22 who gave Sunday's speech put it in perspective: "Imagine if you will, fighting for your adopted country, against your country of origin, while your family is imprisoned."

I couldn't do it. Heck, I barely made it out of bed and down the hill from my nice cozy house for a Sunday assignment on a cold, dreary Fall day.

To backtrack even further, I'm not one who believes in war. I feel killing on any level doesn't solve much but loss of human life.

But I do have respect. I know that "Freedom isn't Free," as Commander Doroski said.

In light of the recent events of continued terrorism on America, I think it has awakened the peoples' sense, and loss, of freedom.

That very freedom -- whether you believe in war or not -- was in part given and guarenteed by those men and women honored on Sunday.

Our children -- my child -- needs to understand our history in order to know where this country is going. As adults, we need to be aware of our deep responsibility to society and to our children. Our involvement is essential in order for the gifted way of life in America to continue.

The bottom line is I feel pretty darn guilty because I was lazy. My family should have been there. I should have made the effort. To be honest, I think too many of us were lazy or else at least half the town would have showed up to show just a little respect.

And respect could be the very cog that keeps America turning. From respecting our neighbors and planet, to respecting the individuals and beliefs that drive our way of life.

You never know by next Veterans Day how much freedom will be left. Don't be lazy. Be involved in your country's freedom through teaching and showing respect at any level. I think America's survival could depend upon it.

Jim Semlor is staff photographer and writer for the Hood River News. His son, Ethan, is 4.

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