Celebrating Our American Heritage
Last Sunday, I sat in a pew at West End United Methodist Church and thought about the reasons we celebrate the Fourth of July.
Glenda Clendenin the church's director of music, put together the American Heritage Concert as a tribute to all veterans, past and present, and to honor Harold Wayne Owens, a Pearl Harbor survivor.
The two-hour concert, except for one stumble - which I made - was perfect. More about that later.
As I looked around the sanctuary, I saw my old Army Ike jacket hanging prominently among other uniforms, some with Navy captain's stripes, colonel leafs, sergeant stripes, etc.
Most all of them sported ribbons and medals from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the current wars in the Middle East.
I had second thoughts about bringing my jacket out of storage and allowing it to be used among others that were probably more deserving of attention and admiration than mine.
Glenda thought I should, however. I'm glad I did. Seeing my Ike jacket with the ribbons and decorations I received during the Korean War brought back memories of a bygone era.
The threat North Korea still poses to freedom-loving people in that part of the world and elsewhere is still with us.
Joe, Glenda's husband, was an Army colonel who served in Vietnam. He mentioned that my Ike jacket was the only one on display. But rank and other identifying marks on the uniforms were not what made the uniforms special.
They were special because they had been worn by men and women who had given up part of their lives to represent their country. They had put their lives on the line for the freedom of others.
Without promise of benefit or spoils of war, those who wore the uniforms were willing to sacrifice themselves for others. There is no greater sacrifice.
Remembering them is really what the Fourth of July celebration is all about.
The uniforms were a fitting backdrop for the concert, which began with the Pledge of Allegiance and a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," sung by Ravon Sheppard.
Larry McCune, Bob Kucinski and David Wall, along with yours truly, presented a variety of songs, including "In The Mood," "I Left My Heart at the Stage Door Canteen," "Armed Forces Salute" and others.
Juliet Ward Howe played "Battle Hymn of the Republic," and David Wall, fully dressed in a Confederate battle uniform, played a medley that included "Dixie."
During much of the concert, the congregation was encouraged to sing along with songs like "You Are My Sunshine" and others.
The trio of Glenda Clendenin, Tammy Kujawski and Ann Spong sang "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree," made popular by the Andrews Sisters. The Men's Chorus, with help from the congregation, rendered "I've Been Working on the Railroad" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
Everything was complemented by the 22-member Chancel Choir and pianist Kristen Webb. The choir and Kristen gave depth and continuity to the fast moving program.
I've neglected to mention how I stumbled and kept Glenda from pitching a "no hitter."
She had said I could do a three-minute monologue if I would play a march for the postlude. Reluctantly, I said yes. Before the postlude I paid tribute to Sammy Kaye, a friend of mine, who wrote "Remember Pearl Harbor" and recorded some 1,300 songs and top 40 hits.
I thought I did fine with my monologue and mentioned that I would play "In The Mood" and "Stage Door Canteen." When I began "In The Mood," I must have flubbed at least half the notes.
Thank goodness, the congregation were generous church-going Christians so they mercifully gave me a pass.
So except for that, Glenda, "American Heritage" was a resounding success. I know I can speak for everyone when I say, "Thanks for a job truly well done."
Robey Howard is a local freelance writer.
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