Monday, May 25, 2009

Revealing diversity, honoring servicemen and women

Iraqi Freedom veteran Duckworth says she owes life to diverse crew

"Putting in a new headstone was the least I could do for him because he served our country and gave me freedom"

"National Guard Soldier, Black Hawk pilot and Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth commemorated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month last Monday in the Hall of Heroes at the Pentagon. Duckworth lost both legs and partial use of one arm on a combat mission in Iraq in 2004. The Army News Service reported that Duckworth recalled
how she wouldn't be alive today had it not been for her helicopter crew made up of an Asian American, a Black American, a Caucasian American and a Hispanic American.

"Just by the nature of who we were, our diversity sends a message around the world of what a great country this is," she said. "A country of opportunity, of hope, of freedom and of the ability to be anything you want to be regardless of race or ancestry. Of that I'm proud."

Eagle Scout installs headstone for Hispanic veteran, hundreds of others

Over the course of five years, Utah Eagle Scout Brad Jencks has mobilized community volunteers and spent 2,790 hours rehabilitating a local cemetery. The people buried in the rural 8-acre site, including veterans, are from 30 countries and 38 states. From yesterday's story in the Deseret News:
Broken headstones. No headstones. Forgotten, unmarked graves. A cemetery rich with ethnic history — a Hispanic section, Yugoslavian section, a Japanese headstone, and all those babies buried there.

Five years later, the cemetery has a paved road and Jencks and his team have identified more than 1,000 previously unmarked graves. He's authored a 1,500-page book documenting each grave site and set up a virtual tour of the cemetery with GPS locations for every known grave.

He's secured new markers for more than a dozen veterans from six wars, had a granite memorial installed and has a "wall of honor" at the entrance of the cemetery showing known burials.


The brother of one Bingham City Cemetery occupant was blunt with Jencks one day.

"(He) asked me why a white boy would care about his Hispanic brother. It about floored me."

Jencks had helped install the headstone he received from the Veterans Administration to place at the World War II veteran's grave site.

"Putting in a new headstone was the least I could do for him because he served our country and gave me freedom."

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