When did you feel proud to be an American? Tell us

July 27, 2005|by BOB MAGINNIS

Last year during the July 4 weekend, in a cornfield adjacent to the Antietam Battlefield visitors center, 3,031 flags were flown to honor those killed during the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It was called the "Healing Field" because after the flags were displayed, they were sold to raise money for the Parent-Child Center, a United Way agency that works to prevent child abuse here in Washington County.

In 2004, I purchased 10 of those flags and gave them away to readers who, at my request, shared stories of veterans who had affected their lives for the better.

(A generous reader, who asked to remain anonymous, donated enough to purchase additional flags so that all who participated got one.)


Not all of the Healing Field flags were sold, so I agreed to purchase another seven and give them away this year.

These are nice, heavy-stitched flags, complete with PVC flagpoles.

This time I'm going to ask readers to do something a bit different. Tell me, in 100 words or less, about a time when you really felt proud to be an American.

I don't want to tell anyone what to write, but what I'm looking for is not sarcasm or nastiness. If you're going to tell me that your proud moment was when you cast a ballot against "that big dope George W. Bush" or "that fool John Kerry," I can guarantee you won't get a flag. Share something that will lift readers' spirits and perhaps tell those who have recently arrived in this country why you value living here so much.

Because many people are on vacation, I'll give readers until Tuesday, Aug. 9, to share your stories.

Send them to Flag Contest, c/o Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail., 100 Summit Ave. Hagerstown, MD 21740.

You also may e-mail your entries to Just mark "flag contest" in the e-mail subject line.

As with all letters, include your name, address and daytime phone number. Thanks.

This past Monday The Herald-Mail held the third in its series of online chats. This time our guest was Washington County Commissioner James Kercheval. Because of some technical difficulties, some of the early callers were unable to get through. We have corrected that now and the next chat will go much smoother.

Kercheval answered a variety of questions, including:

- Whether he will reopen his barbecue restaurant.

He's not sure if or when now.

- Why it took the county so long to pass a rural rezoning ordinance.

There was too little citizen input at the beginning of the process, Kercheval said.

- The accomplishments of the 2-plus-2 committee, a group of two county commissioners and two Hagerstown City Council members.

Better communication is the top benefit, he said, which has led to enactment of tax credits in areas city government is trying to revitalize and to a share of excise tax revenues going to the city.

To read the entire transcript, go to and click on "online chats."

Ernest Pletcher, a retired Maryland State Police sergeant and pastor of the First Church of God in Mercersburg, Pa., recently filed to run for Washington County Circuit Court clerk.

Pletcher, who said he had voted for incumbent Dennis Weaver in the past and felt he had done a "commendable job." But Pletcher said he had problems with the Democratic Party, with which Weaver is affiliated. Pletcher said that's in part because of the national Democrats' stand on Supreme Court nominees.

As a Democrat who wishes the national figures in the party were more in touch with regular citizens, let me say two things.

The first is that if Democrats who are doing a "commendable" job are tossed out of office just because of their party affiliation, who will that leave to change the party's direction?

And how fair is it to hold local Democratic officeholders accountable for national party leaders' actions? Here's my deal for Pletcher: Don't hold me responsible for what Teddy Kennedy does and I won't hold you responsible for the actions of Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. DeLay, you may recall, called removing Terry Schiavo's feeding tube barbaric, even though DeLay had earlier agreed to ending life support for his own father.

Both major parties would be better off if their rank-and-file members agreed to stop supporting their worst-behaved office-holders just because they wear what is, for them, the correct label.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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