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Show Some Respect

POSTED November 3, 2009 3:50 p.m.

Whether or not you exercised your right to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 3 — either by going to the polls or perhaps sending in your mail-in ballot, the sheer fact that you had that opportunity is not something everyone gets to experience.

We all too often take for granted the fact that we have choices. There were many candidates for mayor of Riverbank, for instance, and races for seats on the Oakdale Irrigation District board and the Oakdale school board, among others. Some elections spark more interest than others locally, statewide and nationally; Presidential years seem to bring voters out, but we would all do well to take a moment and remember why we can head to the polls.

In our democratic society, it’s all about choice. The choice to mark down who we want in office on that little ballot. The choice to approve or disapprove of Measure (whatever letter it is this time) or the propositions, 1 though infinity. There are sometimes even mailers sent out ahead of time to present a particular candidate’s case.

That’s a special freedom that people in many countries just can’t comprehend because it has never been afforded to them. And it’s something most Americans never give a second thought because it has always been there for them.

Close on the heels of Election Day, and just a week from today, we will mark Veterans Day.

This year, and, in fact, every year, we urge you to take a moment on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to reflect on its meaning. Find one of the local parades — Escalon and Modesto each have one — marking the occasion and attend, pull your American flag out of wherever you have it stored and run it up the flagpole. Veterans Day should be one where we all display the flag, a show of unity and patriotism.

In the hectic pace of our everyday lives, as we worry about the fast-approaching holidays and how we are going to fit everything in, take some time to give thanks for the military men and women dedicating themselves around the globe to protecting our freedom and the rights of others to live free.

America at war may not be the top story on the evening news anymore but it is still front and center for those overseas in the midst of it … and their loved ones back home.

This Veterans Day will be the first for the family of Navy medic James Layton, who was lost in battle in Afghanistan in September. It was front page news and the lead story … briefly. Then it faded into the background behind unemployment rates and the latest celebrity gossip.

But it will never be in the background for his family. Veterans Day, Memorial Day … those take on an entirely different meaning when it becomes personal.

The 22-year-old from Riverbank, a graduate of Escalon’s Vista High School, was honored with a full military funeral and buried at Burwood Cemetery. His grave will be among those in the cemetery to receive a small American flag next Memorial Day, placed there by members of Escalon’s American Legion Post.

So as we approach the holiday, remember to fly your flag and, if it is tattered or ragged, replace it. Treat it with the respect it deserves. And, please, take time this Veterans Day to thank a veteran for their service, home or overseas. It all adds up to freedom for you, me, our neighbors … our children.

That’s something that should never be forgotten.

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