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The American flag: Respect the red, white and blue

What would you think of a museum art exhibit that featured the American flag, not in a traditional flagpole display, but desecrated in a number of unusual, thought-provoking ways?

One work featured the American flag wrapped like a swaddling cloth around a baby who is being held by a Ku Klux Klan member in full white-sheet regalia. And, to enter the exhibit, you were forced to walk on a giant American flag unfurled on the floor, similar to the “red carpet” entrances of celebrity events.

Several years ago, that type of American flag exhibit opened at an art museum in our city. To say the least, the exhibit stirred raw emotion, protest and public debate. There’s something about the flag of the United States of America that brings out the best—and sometimes the worst—in people. When that exhibit came to town, I thought about this quote by Voltaire: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

Memorial Day is fast approaching, and flags will be waving up and down the street in remembrance of the brave service men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice to give us the freedom we enjoy today. These freedoms even include public art exhibitions with which we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye.

Here at University of Phoenix, we are honoring an annual, heartfelt tradition with regard to the American flag in which employees and volunteers will place more than 10,000 flags on the lawn of our building in a design that reads, “Freedom is never free.” That statement speaks volumes as we commemorate Memorial Day and our fallen service members. The flags will be on display until Memorial Day weekend, at which point they will be taken down so that all 10,000 can be placed on individual U.S. military service members’ graves at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona. It’s our humble way of saying, “Thank you for your service to our country.”

On Memorial Day—and every day—let’s respect what that American flag represents. Remember those who perished to ensure that it may forever wave.

EDITOR’S NOTE: If you haven’t done so already, please click on the Memorial Day Tribute Wall link on our Phoenix Patriot home page ( and pay tribute to someone you know who has honorably served—or to all of our brave and selfless U.S. military service members, then and now.


Editor's Blog


A table for one

Recently, I attended a veterans recognition event during which the hosts conducted a POW/MIA ceremony that I won’t soon forget.

I had never seen this tribute done before, and so when the emcee directed the audience to look at the solitary table with a single place setting that had been set up on stage and began to solemnly read the following script, every one of the more than 250 people in the room, including me, fell silent and became mesmerized by his words:

We call your attention to this small table, which occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that some are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs.
We call them comrades.

They are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them, and bear witness to their continued absence.

  • This table, set for one, is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
  • The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their country’s call to arms.
  • The single red rose in the vase signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep the faith, while awaiting their return.
  • The ribbon on the vase represents the ribbons worn on the lapels of the thousands who demand with unyielding determination a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us tonight.
  • A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
  • The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
  • The glass is inverted – they cannot toast with us at this time.
  • The chair is empty – they are not here.
  • The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.

Let us pray to the supreme commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks.
Let us remember and never forget their sacrifices.
May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.

Throughout this ceremony, standing at attention next to the table was a U.S. Marine who ever so slowly raised his hand in salute as those words were read, and then just as slowly and deliberately, lowered his salute so that his arm was down by his side as the ceremony came to a close.

When it was over, there was not a sound in the room. I wiped away some tears from my eyes and looked around to see several other people doing the same—men and women, service members and civilians, alike.

It was a moving and memorable message for all of us to never forget our brave service members who may still be in harm’s way as prisoners of war or who have been declared missing in action—their loved ones not knowing their fate.

This Thanksgiving, I will be blessed to be able to sit down at a crowded dinner table surrounded by family and friends—the people I hold most dear. You may also be one of the fortunate ones to have your family close by to envelop you in love. For those families who may have a POW/MIA family member or an active-duty service member who is currently serving our country and cannot be home for the holidays, let us honor them by keeping them in our hearts. Let us set our own “table for one” in remembrance and tribute.

Editor's Blog

The power of thank you

A few months ago, my niece who serves in the Air Force posted on her Facebook page that a random stranger handed her a $20 bill, telling her that lunch was on him as he thanked her for her service. She appreciated being, well, appreciated.

Her post reminded me of the random acts of kindness trend that was so popular a few years ago. Yes, my niece’s experience was random, but it wasn’t isolated. I’ve heard a few of these stories lately about thanking military members and veterans for their service. In fact, my husband regularly buys a coffee or beer for service members he sees in our nation’s airports. It’s a minor gesture of appreciation, but it seems like the right thing to do.

One of the members of our Phoenix Patriot team, Jenifer King, mentioned that we should find a way to incorporate these thank yous into our magazine and website. So, we put our heads together to find a way to let everyone thank our nation’s military heroes and we came up with a way: our 30 Ways in 30 Days to Thank a Military Hero promotion. I have to give credit where credit is due, though, and tell you that associate editor Keri Ruiz is the brainchild of the idea. We launched the promotion on Oct 1 and it will run through Oct. 30.

So far, people have thought of some thoughtful and creative ways to show appreciation, one of which will come true for some lucky service member or veteran and their family.

Now, we want your ideas.  Tell us how we should thank a military hero—you’ll find all the promotion details here. Once our team has chosen the lucky winner, we’ll make it happen in the name of the person who submitted the idea.



Editor's Blog

A team of family

I love football. I love the season it falls in. I love the colors and pomp-and-circumstance that surround a football game. I love the nature of the game itself—its no-holds-barred competition, the unbelievable catches, the crushing tackles. I grew up surrounded by it. My dad was our high school football coach for several years, and after retiring from coaching, he became a football referee.  There were many nights around the dinner table where we would listen to him as he walked through play-by-fascinating-play of the game he had coached or officiated the night before.

Even now, when I attend a football game or watch the games on TV—and I don’t care if it’s a high school, college or NFL game—I love them all, I can tell you what nearly every call the referees are making based only on their hand signals. I don’t need the audio.  My dad instilled that knowledge of the game and love of the sport in me.

The other reason I love football so much is that it’s the epitome of a “team” sport. When I watch those players run out onto the field, enter their huddle, clap their hands to start the play, I can sense the feeling of brotherhood and camaraderie they have with each other.  They’re a team. They’re out there to protect each other and work together for their desired outcome.

While I’ve never served in the military, I imagine that service members have that same commitment to teamwork within their own ranks.  They’re a cohesive unit—dedicated to protecting and working as one to accomplish a greater mission.  They’ve got each other’s backs.

In the movie, “The Blind Side,” based on the story of Baltimore Ravens Offensive Lineman Michael Oher, there’s a scene where Oher is timid and unsure of his approach on the field and not performing up to the skill level that his coach and others know he has.  He’s told by his “adopted” mother to tap into his “protective instincts” and treat his team members as he would his own family—protect them at any cost. Oher’s mother tells him, “Your team is your family, and you have to protect them. You protect the quarterback’s blind side. When you look at him, think of me. How you have my back.”

Once he has that protective mindset, Oher dominates on the football field. He understands that the team “is” his family, only in a different setting. Military members understand that important team concept as well. They know that the individuals with whom they serve don’t have to be blood relatives to be “family.”

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Every dog has its day

We’re deep into the dog days of summer, so a little story about man’s best friend seems appropriate.

When my husband came home the other night after a long day at work, his dog was faithfully waiting for him at the door.

This is a nightly ritual. Stella hears the garage door open and runs to the door, whimpering a little until Tom walks in. She jumps up on his chest—on two legs, she’s as tall as he is—and the other night, as I watched their daily reunion, I was reminded of a video that’s been circulating on social media lately.

The video features a dog’s delight when its soldier comes home after a six-month deployment. It runs about four minutes and the dog—named Bucky—whimpers and yelps with happiness during the whole video. You can almost hear what the dog is saying. I imagine the conversation as something like this:

Bucky: “You’re home, you’re home, this is the best day of my life. I can’t believe it, I just won the jackpot, I’m so happy to see you. I can’t believe you’re finally here!”

Then as Bucky jumps into her owner’s lap:

“Where have you been and why were you gone so long? Do you know how much I missed you? You were gone and I was worried and didn’t understand where you went. Where were you? Why didn’t you come back sooner? Oh, I’m so happy you’re back.”

Then the soldier asks Bucky as she’s howling and yelping, “Are you OK?”

Bucky: “Well, I wasn’t OK for a long time, but now you’re back and I’m fine, I guess. But don’t leave me again, OK?”

It’s such a touching video and you don’t have to be a dog person to appreciate it. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should.

When a military service member is deployed, it affects the whole family: spouse, kids, parents, siblings and, in this particular soldier’s family, a loyal and lovely lab named Bucky.

Watch the video here, but get a Kleenex ready:


Editor's Blog

Oh say, can you hear?

I know the sound of freedom. I live just beneath it. It rains down from above as F-16s from Luke Air Force Base zoom across the sky over my house. And I love it.

I remember those days just after 9/11 when commercial flight was suspended and the eerie silence in the sky above told Americans that all was not right with our world. Even though we had seen the images on the television, it was still hard to believe or reconcile that civilian planes could be used as weapons of war. Of course, soon after, the faint hum of commercial jets drifted back into our lives, and with it new rules about air travel. I welcomed the sight of commercial contrails sweeping across the sky when the planes returned to service. But nothing compares to the sight and sound of screaming F-16s as they race over the landscape.

The sound rolls through the air, building to a crescendo slightly after the planes pass overhead. I get chills each time I hear the sweet sound of the training missions that pass over my house on the way to the Barry M. Goldwater Range. I know that the training flights are crucial to our nation’s security and, like many Arizonans, I was thrilled last year when the Department of Defense named Luke as the pilot-training site for the new F-35.

F-35s will start arriving at Luke in 2014. Before Luke was chosen as the training base last year, leaders from other potential F-35 training cities across the country voiced their concern about the noise pollution and environmental impact. They say that the F-35 is four times louder than the F-16. And the engine blast and boom may test my nerves when they start flying over next year. But I doubt it.

I’m certain that the noise concerns are valid—for others. But for me, that window-rattling roar is welcome. Because every time I hear our brave fighter pilots overhead, I know that our American way of life is alive and well, and I say, “Bring it on—let freedom ring!”

Have a safe and happy Fourth!

Editor's Blog


All gave some. Some gave all.

A couple of years ago, I experienced my first graveside service with military honors. Beautiful, solemn, patriotic, a tearjerker. Believe me, when I heard the soulful wail of a bugled Taps that day, my tears flowed freely. I had never seen this spectacle in person until I attended my older brother’s funeral in August 2011. As the saying goes, when it rains, it pours, and a few months later, I watched my father-in-law’s military graveside service.

My brothers both served in the Navy as medics during the Vietnam War—Jim on the USS Ranger and Dick at a naval base on Okinawa. Being somewhat younger, I don’t remember much about their time away, other than the excitement we all felt when one of the big brothers came home for leave.

 Recently, I came across some letters they wrote during their active duty that brought back some sad, yet heartwarming memories. They served only a few years and after they left the Navy, they moved on to new lives, never looking back. In those days, Vietnam vets of any stripe weren’t celebrated.

My father-in-law was a member of “The Greatest Generation.” As a paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, he parachuted into France on June 6, 1944. Don, like many of his fellow World War II veterans, said little about his war experiences, but on occasion, I prodded him to share some anecdotes.

Missing the designated drop zone, they jumped into the night sky, and Don told me that he could feel the German bullets whizzing past him as he floated down. After landing safely on firm ground, he described using the clickers they had been given to find one another in the dark. Initially caught in the hedgerows, they eventually made it to Sainte-Mère-Église, their original objective. A couple of months later, he went back to England, and then returned to fight in the Battle of the Bulge, beginning the long trek into Germany. He was there when Dachau and Mauthausen were liberated. He didn’t talk about what he saw there because it bothered him too much. Like most of his fellow veterans, Don preferred more pleasant memories.

This will be the second year that I won’t be able to call him on June 6 and thank him for his service on that day in 1944. As I do every day, on Memorial Day, I will remember my father-in-law and my brothers, but on that day, I’ll offer silent thanks for all they did to preserve our way of life and our freedom.

Editor's Blog

MilitaryOneClick One-Stop Resource Could Be a Life-Saver for Some

People often ask me why I gave up my career as a speech-language pathologist to start my own company,  The answer is simple: I didn’t give it up; it’s still a huge part of what I do as the founder and CEO of

I combined my 20-plus years of professional experience with my personal experience as a military spouse and mom to create MilitaryOneClick. Communication is the core of speech-language pathology and MilitaryOneClick is built with communication at the heart of its mission to provide the most comprehensive collection of military resources in one user-friendly platform. At MilitaryOneClick, our goal is to educate the military community about those resources through social media outlets and community outreach programs.

I spent a lot of time volunteering in the military community and saw so many people struggling to find resources. Information about jobs, education, moving and military family support is spread far and wide across the Internet and often difficult to access. I knew there was a need for a better system.

Yet, there is a huge difference between having an idea and actually executing it. The one thing remains constant on the path to success with MilitaryOneClick—communicating directly with our military community. From finances and health to relocation, education, jobs and military news, we’re passionate about improving and enhancing the lifestyles of our military families, as well as educating the community on how to connect with our military partners.

There was a specific moment when I discovered we were doing much more than a “resource website.”  In 2011, I was invited to brief members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon about MilitaryOneClick and how we are reaching our community.  During the briefing, Sergeant Major Battaglia, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman (SEAC), asked me about our demographics, specifically the gender and age range we reach.  I explained that our numbers are typically even week after week, male to female, ages 18-85, however one specific group, males 18-24, always emerges as the highest demographic through our Facebook page.  Sgt. Maj. Battaglia then asked me why did I think this was the case?  I admitted that I was also a bit surprised and I attributed the numbers to “millennials who are tech savvy.”  He nodded and responded with words I will never forget, “the first thing I thought of was suicide.”  He went on to explain that males 18-24 are the leading demographic of suicide in the military with an average of one suicide per day.  The SEAC acknowledged, while there is no way to prove this is why they are coming to MilitaryOneClick, we can show that we are a no login, no password site where the user has complete anonymity and feels safe in accessing information.

Our community can access the help they need both through military and non-military resources and connect directly with real people through our various social media platforms.  I went home that night and designed the Crisis Support area on our Health and Wellness Category with this note:  Dear friend, if you or someone you know is sad, angry or feels alone, we want you to know that life can get better again. We’ve done our best to list available resources so that you may connect with the best resource for you. Sending hugs and hope.” – from the MilitaryOneClick Team

If we are able to connect directly with members of our community through MilitaryOneClick to help make a positive difference in their lives, we are completing our mission. I feel so fortunate to be part of their journey.

Editor's Blog

3-25-Medal of Honor

An Atypical Honorable Mention

As I hear the “news” about the latest antics of a movie or TV celebrity or professional athlete, I can’t help but think, “Who cares?” But, I’m obviously in the minority since this is the type of “news” that seems to rule the airwaves these days.

We seem to have reached a point in our society where we afford those in pop culture a form of hero status, placing them on a higher pedestal than the individuals who truly should be the real “stars.”

I’m talking about individuals with integrity, compassion and honor. The dictionary defines “honor” as “a keen sense of ethical conduct; a person of superior standing; or one whose worth brings respect or fame.”

March 25th marks National Medal of Honor Day–a day to pay respect to the 3,460 individuals who have earned that badge. The medal, which is awarded by the U.S. Congress and presented only by the President of the United States, is bestowed upon the bravest of the brave and the most honorable of men and women in our military. The real heroes. The true stars.

The Medal of Honor was introduced during the Civil War by Congress to recognize Navy enlisted men who “distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action and other seamanlike qualities.” When President Lincoln signed the bill in 1861, the (Navy) Medal of Honor was born. The prestigious award was expanded to include Army privates, and later to incorporate officers, as well as all branches of the military.

A friend of mine, Alfred Rascon, is one of only 80 living recipients of the Medal of Honor.  He earned it by throwing himself between wounded soldiers and exploding grenades and enemy fire as he tried to pull them out of harm’s way during a firefight in Vietnam. As an Army medic, Alfred says he did what came naturally—administer aid for the wounded—his brothers, his comrades. He doesn’t consider himself a hero, but I’ll bet the soldiers he pulled out of the line of fire did—and still do. Some of them survived because of Alfred. When he received the medal from President Clinton in 2000, Alfred says the one thing he thought about was that every person he served with who stepped out on that battlefield deserves a medal—not just him. To me, that simple statement illustrates a true hero—someone with honor and integrity.

Alfred, and the men and women who serve our military then and now deserve our deepest respect for their selfless actions. Remember and honor them on March 25—and always.

To learn more about the Medal of Honor, visit

Editor's Blog

Clara Barton, Founder, American Red Cross

Clara Barton, Founder, American Red Cross

A Woman With a Cause

I’ve always admired nurses—probably because my mother was a nurse. I’ve always believed that nurses must be incredibly strong in both mind and spirit, while still showing the compassion and tenderness for their patients. Those qualities certainly describe my mother, as well as our country’s most famous nurse—Clara Barton.

Almost a decade before the first formal nursing school opened in the United States, a former schoolteacher and government clerk was providing medical care and compassion where it was most needed—on the battlefield.

Long thought of as the “angel of the battlefield,” Barton possessed the strength, energy and ambition of a commanding officer to accomplish all she did in her lifetime.  Early on, she earned her way in a man’s world as a teacher at a time, during the late 19th century, when most teachers were male. Later, Barton was one of the first women to hold a job with the federal government as a clerk with the U.S. Patent Office.

In 1861, when Union troops started to flood the Capitol as the Civil War began, Barton recognized that the soldiers needed more than the Union Army could provide. Her compassion for these young men—some newly wounded—motivated her to begin collecting medical supplies that she distributed to those she called “her boys.” But Barton didn’t stay in the comfort and safety of Washington, D.C., for long.

Eventually, she convinced those in charge that the need was the greatest at battlefield hospitals. Traveling with Union troops, she brought supplies—medicine, bandages, food and clothing to the front. But above all, Barton gave the soldiers compassion. She nursed soldiers’ wounds, cooked for them, and comforted them. She wrote letters to their families and prayed with them. She tended the wounded from some of the war’s most brutal battles at places like Fredericksburg, Antietam and Petersburg, among others.

As the war wound down, Barton wrote to families of missing soldiers, but she didn’t stop there. With President Lincoln’s blessing, Barton established the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the United States Army. Barton and her assistants received and answered 63,000 letters, and identified 22,000 missing men—all without the use of today’s technology.

Thinking her work was finished in Washington, Barton traveled to Europe in 1870, volunteering to work with victims of the Franco Prussian War. It was there that she became familiar with the Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland, and a new treaty—known as the Geneva Convention—that called for agreement across the globe to aid citizens of war-torn countries without regard to nationality.

When she returned home, Barton fought tirelessly for the U.S. government to sign the Geneva Treaty, which finally happened in 1882. Just before the treaty was signed, a group headed by Barton formed the American Association of the Red Cross, later to become American Red Cross.

Mainly focused on disaster relief, Barton and the organization helped victims of forest fires, floods—including the infamous Johnstown flood in 1889—and hurricanes. The American Red Cross began the organization’s tradition of war-time assistance during the Spanish-American War.

During her lifetime, Barton was involved with a number of causes, including women’s suffrage, civil rights and education. Honored with numerous awards throughout her lifetime, Barton is best known for her early work on the battlefield with “her soldier boys.” Hers is a legacy of volunteerism and service to those in need, and continues today through the employees and volunteers of the American Red Cross.

March is American Red Cross month–to donate or learn more, visit