Busy January at Eastgate….

January has been a very busy month.  It has been also a very cold month.  Usually we only have a few cold days that reach maybe in the 40s but mostly 50s, 60s, and 70,s.  This year it has been very cold.  Several times it reached into the low 30,s for several days.  We’ve lost many of our flowers.  We had a good frost that killed many.  They say its been the worst in many years.20180211_054906.jpg

We did a tour to the Marine Military Academy in Harlingen.  We have done this before, but I feel it is such an important part of Harlingen to share every year.  This is a private academy that can house up to 200 students. The cost is $20,000 a semester.  An average student will spend only 2 years here because of the cost for the parents.  Those who attend all the grades will almost be guaranteed entrance to a top college in the nation.  The curriculum is military style with a focus on academics.  Sports are also offered but no vocational courses.

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Marching to the Cafeteria

They have a very strict daily plan for the students.  They have a daily dress code and march in units.   They live in barracks and have a counselor family also living in each housing unit to watch over them and take care of their needs.  It is a very impressive place.  We boarded their bus, toured the grounds including the gymnasium, weight room,  library, rec center,  auditorium and and finally the cafeteria.  We ate, watched the kids march in formation and then they bussed us back to the Iwo Jima Museum parking lot.  It is the home of the Original Iwo Jima Memorial.  20180122_125212.jpg

It is the cast that made the Iwo Jima Memorial that sits in Washington DC. at Arlington Cemetery.  It is such an honor that it was installed in Harlingen.  It is across the street from the Academy and the back drop for the Academy’s Dress Parades.  They also have a wonderful Museum on the grounds.  It is also the burial site of Corporal Harlon Block, who was one of the flag raisers who’s picture was captured that fateful day.  He was killed in action several days later.  He was from Weslaco which is only about 10 miles from Harlingen.

Our next event was going to the Border Patrol for a Informational Presentation.   The Canadians had to have papers filled out 2 weeks prior to the date.  They said they use to take people back to the housing areas, but not any more.   We were taken to a large room where they hold their meetings etc.  20180125_111638.jpg

At the front of the room were 4 empty chairs.  They were in Memorial to 4 of the Officers from Harlingen that have been killed.  Their name is engraved and also notice the tree on the side holding a pair of empty boots, a gun holster and a hat.  Very moving.

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They held a slide show and gave us so much factional information.  The hot spot of the Rio Grande Valley is in McAllen.  The amount of family’s, men, women and children that have crossed over is astounding.   They are coming to the Park on March 4 to give their talk again.  Their was so much info and facts.  So many people had wanted to come, and the limit was 30, so I decided to have them come and give the same presentation.   Hopefully I can retain some of the facts to pass on.  It was interesting though, the highest quarter for illegal’s was the quarter just before Trumps election.  They thought they wouldn’t get over after he was in office.

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Entrance to Hotel….Concrete tree stumps.  Schlitterbahn has a very rustic appereance.

Next we had the Winterfest Concert in South Padre Island at Schlitterbahn Indoor Water Park.  I sold tickets for this event which qualified Rich and I free entrance.  They also had a 3 day special for a Dinner Show the nite before, Winterfest, and then a Matinee Dinner performance the following day.  All in all, 3 nites at the hotel.  Many went, but Rich and I chose to spend the just 1 nite.  The Dinner Show that nite was “Mirage, Visions of Fleetwood Mac”.  They were based out of L.A.  They were very good.  The next day was the Winterfest.  Live music on stage started at 10 am and continued till 5 pm.  We were also given a Shrimp or Fish Basket from the Shrimp Haus.

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We seen some great performances.  Many people from all over the Valley came to enjoy the entertainment.20180131_103735.jpg

Here is some of our Eastgate group.   I can see about 12 here….It was hard to get everyone.  We were so scattered around.  Total I believe , just from our park was about 24 people.  As we were watching the musical groups, we seen a zip line out of the corner of our eyes.  We walked over and the line was getting longer.  Only $5….Wow….Sure I’ll go.  Many of the people from our park were in line.  I found a partner, Laura from our park.  Rich came over also and went with Gaylon.  It is a zip line that 2 of you sit in 2 seats and are strapped in.  It is called the Soaring Eagle…Soaring-Eagle-Zip-Line-Mooresville-Indiana-6-of-7-1024x683

No place for your feet, just hanging freely.  So the only thing keeping you in is the seat belt.  As I was in line, our friend Ron asked me if I wanted to use his Go Pro camera…..Wow…Sure…He had a short tripod that wraps around your hand.  So finally my turn.  I was excited but also a little scared.  After you are strapped in, it is pulled backwards quite a ways up to the top of a pole.  You stop for about maybe 5 seconds and then start your descent going 30 miles an hour till you get to the end.  Then the brakes are applied and you stop abruptly.  I describe it as a jet landing on an air craft carrier and it is stopped by the hook.  So finally my turn.  Now I didn’t realize that with the camera on my right hand, I also got into the right side.  I now had no place to hang on to.  I also didn’t realize, my seatbelt was not tight.  Their was a lot of play.  Finally we started going backwards up the line…..zip line 2

We were almost to the top and I was feeling like I was going to fall out…All most at the top, it jerked you about 3 or 4 times.  Each time I thought I was falling. ….. OMG…..But the View from the Top was…..ASTONISHING BEAUTIFUL…The island looked so small.   What a View.  I still had the Go Pro wrapped around my right hand with nothing to hold on to.  I tried panning it around to get it on video.  Then all of a sudden we were falling….faster and faster towards the ground.  We came closer and closer and then I could see the end of the line….The platform where we loaded and at the end of the line????  The I-Beam holding up the zip line.  If it did not stop….It would be a DIRECT HIT to the I-Beam….In those last seconds, all my thoughts were, when the brakes went on, I would fly forward and slip out of the seat belt….So at the last minute…The hand with the camera came down and grabbed the seat…..And we stopped really very easy…..lol..lol…OMG….It was a crazy ride.   Many of you have probably seen the Video, It is on FB on my Time Line….So I got out and Rich was next….Him and Gaylon climbed on board and took the ride.  Now he really enjoyed it and wasn’t scared.  He also made them strap him in tight….So Would I do it Again???    Yes I sure would…..It was AWESOME...Now I will show you my Awful picture…..

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….In the corner, you can see the overlay of us at the end near the top of the pole…

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The next day I had to get up early.  We had a SegWay Tour back down at Port Isabel.   We ended up with 2 groups because we had 10 people.  We held one at 10 am and then another at 1 pm.  It was an absolutely Beautiful day.20180201_120705.jpg

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The temperature was in the low 80’s and hardly any wind, and the water and sky was beautiful shades of blue.  2 more weeks and we will be doing SegWay on the Beach at Padre……20180204_175349.jpg

Next affair was the Super Bowl PartyRich and I are in charge of that.  I have a budget to go by.  Rich cooked around 50 lbs. of pork and pulled it.

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We had smokies, shrimp, nachos and cheese, veggies and dip, sausage cheese and crackers and a Keg of beer.  I decorated with balloons from the ceiling in team colors, and made megaphones from construction paper for center pieces.  Everyone also brought a snack to share ….

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I had collected 27 door prizes to give away including 2 Director Chairs from the park owner.   They all had a great time…..Most of the beer was gone, and food too…..Everyone was happy.20180209_120500.jpg

Our last event we just had was our Ladies Luncheon with our 2nd Annual Style Show.  Everyone brought a dish for the food table.  Their was so many wonderful homemade dishes.20180209_124311.jpg

The desserts were out of this world.  Everyone filled their plates, and when we were done we still had so much food.  Finally the Style Show portion.  Last year we chose 3 stores that were in different towns.  They were rather elite stores that are a little pricy.  This year, they choose local stores that were more practical in style and price.

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The first one was Cato’s.  They had some really nice items for everyday.  The ladies had so much fun doing this….20180209_133346.jpg

The next store is Quelles Boutique down town Harlingen.  The modeled many items that were so inexpensive and yet so unique.  Its really a great store that I need to go and check out.  She carries new as well as gently used.  It sounds very interesting to see.  So that has been my month….So so busy…..soon it will be almost over……April 1 is officially the end of the season when everyone is going or has gone back north….

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A Beautiful Day in Port Isabel looking over the Bay to South Padre Island

 

 

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Tour of the Marine Military Academy

Out by the IWA Jima Monument is a private high school, the Marine Military Academy.  It is a college preparatory boarding school for boys for grades 8-12 with a optional post graduate year.   Since 1965, MMA is the only private school in the world, based on the values of the U. S. Marine Corp.  Boys come from all over the world to attend and are turned into cadets who will reach their full potential in life.  They offer a wonderful tour of the campus grounds and several buildings on campus.20160209_095016

We arrived at the Museum to board our bus from the Academy.

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We were greeted by our guide.  He was dressed in the Military uniform, and had a deep voice that carried through the bus.  He was very friendly and full of so much information, that I know I forgot a lot.  He is a retired Marine and is employed in admissions.  He thinks of these boys as his.  A very commendable quality.

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We boarded the bus, all 32 of us, and proceeded from the museum across the street to the gate.

Marine Military Academy Entrance

The gate was very impressive.  Double gates had a large gold rifle mounted in the center.  Black fencing surrounds the grounds and the lane is lined with palm trees.  As we drove along, we passed the home of the head military person in charge.  (forgot his rank)…As you can tell I have NO Military background.  We approached the campus and we were in front of all the barracks.

The school at one time housed 500 cadets, but as a sign of the times it has a size of around 225 cadets now.  Part of the reason is the cost.  It cost $37,000 a school year to attend.   Imagine that.  The average attendance for a cadet to attend is 2 years.  If a cadet attends all 4 to 5 years, he will most likely be guaranteed a spot at West Point or any elite Academy.  He will surely be given scholarships for any college.  This school had turned out many top notch people, doctors, lawyers, physicians, and even Generals.  You are not expected to enlist in the Marines, you can still enlist in any branch of service if you choice too.20160209_103051

We turned and stopped at the front of the Gymnasium.

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We entered the building.

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It was shiny clean modern gym.  On the wall was the MMA Emblem.

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The pads under the basket ball hoop said “Fighting Leathernecks”.  We were told why the Leathernecks.   Long time ago the Marines would stand guard.  Their collars were made of leather to help support their head while doing guard duty.  Another reason, was during hand to hand combat, the leather collar would also protect their necks from decapitation….Wow….I would have never thought that…..rather gruesome….. Off the side of the gym, we entered a state of the art exercise room.

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The cadets spend much time here, and theirs always an adult in duty.  They said otherwise the cadets would get so caught up in trying to get buff, they would probably injure themselves.  lol.  Boys love to build muscles.  We boarded the bus again, and proceeded to the back 40.  Back their was where they spent many hours doing all the things I would just shudder at.   lol.

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This is where all the obstacle courses are, mud bogs, zip lines, buildings to repel off, and many other courses spread over the area.  This was just like Boot Camp.  Next stop was a Class room.

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We went into a Math Class.  It was a small room, but it was constructed like theater seating.  Their was only 3 rows, but each row was raised, so all students could achieve  great visual and attention on the teacher.  Back to the bus again.  On the way he gave us some more info.  This Academy is on the edge of the Harlingen Airport.  The Airport was at one time a Military base.  After it closed the MMA opened bordering the new Harlingen Airport that was formed.  Many of the cadets also attend flight training classes.  He said their are more students who have achieved their pilot license than have gotten their drivers license.  The boys lead a very structured schedule.  It is just like boot camp.  Every hour is accounted for.  It is full of studying time, and the time for sports and physical training.  They have to earn time off.  Their are no cars or bikes of any kind belonging to the cadets.  A family with children lives in each barracks, so they have someone watching or someone to go to if needed.  Also on all four corners of the campus, are where all the houses of the teachers, etc. are located.  So they have a visual of all the barracks on all four sides at all times.   It is all about discipline and learning and self respect……..On to the Cafeteria for lunch.

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We were able to eat the same meal the cadets eat for $10.

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We went through the line choosing our fruit, main dish, vegetable, dessert and drink.  The cadets are not allowed any soda.  That is something that is given for a reward…..I would never last…..lol….

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20160209_113232We sat in the brightly decorated dinning Hall.  It was full of natural lighting from the ceiling.  We were waiting for the cadets to come in for dinner.  They had finished their morning classes and were in their dorms getting ready for inspection were they would line up military style.  We raided the ice cream cooler filled with fudge cycles, ice cream bars and sandwiches, and headed outside to the porch area.  The cadets were lining up and getting ready to march in.

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Finally, they marched in…..Company by Company….

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Our guide has his son enrolled here.   He is 16 and his dad was very proud to introduce him to us.  Finally it was over.  We boarded the bus and was taken back across the street to the IWA JIMA Museum.

20160209_095032Some of us went into the museum and some of the guys had earlier walked around the equipment that is on display.  Some went over to the Monument for a walk.

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This tour was actually done several weeks ago.  Last Friday was a Military Parade at the parade grounds in front of the Monument.  My friends Cici, Larry and I went.  It was so impressive.  The cadets marched from the Academy across the street to the parade grounds.  They went through the weapons inspection and all their other routines.  The band played, as they did their routines.

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The last march they did was to march in front of us in the stadium seats, their commanding officers, and mostly important was the veterans of our past wars.  They invited 2 surviving members, who fought at Iwa Jima to attend.  The flag was flying half mast for the Ceremony……

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……..The Marine Military Creed…….

………And Most Impressive…..A Night Time View of the Iwa Jima Monument…….

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Iwa Jima Monument…Original in Harlingen

Last week The United States commemorated Veterans Day on Nov 11.  We decided here at Eastgate to hold our first ever Veterans Day Breakfast on Sat. Nov. 14th. Here in Harlingen, out by the airport and the Marine Military Academy, is the Iwa Jima Monument.  I decided to check it out.

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I had known it was their, but was sure not knowledgeable to what it really was or represented.  My good friend Roberta and I took off and went exploring.

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We stopped at the Visitor Center first.  I had pulled up the web site before we left, and just as it said:

Their was the Calico Kitty to greet us at the door….She was just lazily laying in the bushes and came out to greet us.  The Visitors Center is a quaint little building.  The walk is edged with bricks that commemorate different family’s and soldiers.  The door has 2 of the most interesting trees beside it that had obviously been their forever.

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By the door was the sign stating the hours of the Visitor Center, and the Statement letting you know that the monument was being maintained entirely by donations.  Then we went in.  I was unprepared for the wealth of information and knowledge that I would find inside.  The first impression, was small rooms cram packed with items.  The first room was of course the gift shop, full of military themed souvenirs, flags, coffee cups, books, t-shirts etc.  Their were several other rooms to the left full of artifacts.  Towards the rear was a door open and I found out they were getting ready to show a 32 minute slide show.  I went in and sat down and the show began.  I had no idea really, what Iwa Jima was really about.  My father and grandfather had served in the Military, but I really had no recent ties with any family members. I learned so much.

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Iwa Jima was an island 600 miles from Japan and was only 8.1 square miles.  It was inhabited by the Japanese Imperial Navy.   It was a fairly flat island with a volcanic mountain at one end, Mount Suribachi.  It contained 3 airfields.  As our planes would fly to their bombing missions, they would be attacked by the Japanese. The  United States decided to take the island as it would stop the planes from being attacked as well as a good place for refueling and staging, also for planes that had been damaged in Japanese bombing missions.  The United States then attacked by bombing the island and destroying the landing fields and all the military bases and weapons. On the morning of Feb, 19 1945, the 28 Regiment, 5 Division, landed and was ordered to capture Mount Suribachi.  They reached the base of the mountain on the afternoon of Feb. 21, and by nightfall the next day, had almost completely surrounded it. On the morning of Feb. 23, Marines of Company E, 2nd Battalion, started the tortuous climb on the rough terrain to the top. At about 10:30 a.m., men from all over the island were thrilled at the sight of a small American flag flying from atop Mount Suribachi.

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That afternoon, when the slopes were clear of enemy resistance, a second larger flag was raised by five Marines and a Navy hospital corpsman:
– Sgt Michael Strank, USMC;
Cpl Harlon H. Block, USMC;
– PFC Franklin R. Sousley, USMC;
– PFC Rene A. Gagnon, USMC;
– PFC Ira Hayes, USMC; and
– PhM 2/c John H. Bradley.

Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal caught the afternoon flag raising in an inspiring Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph.  Little did they know that the 3 day battle would continue for 5 weeks.  This five-week battle comprised some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting of the War in the Pacific of World War II.

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The Japanese Army had built over 11 miles of underground tunnel system 4 stories down.  They had installed bunkers, and pill box areas, that opened up to the surface to man hidden artillery, mortars and rockets.  As the Americans would use flamethrowers and grenades to clear the bunkers, the bunkers would be reoccupied by more Japanese as they moved through the underground tunnel system. According to the official Navy Department Library website, “The 36-day (Iwo Jima) assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead.  Of between 20,530 and 21,060 Japanese defenders entrenched on the island, from 17,845 to 18,375 died either from fighting or by ritual suicide. Only 216 were captured during the course of battle. After Iwo Jima, it was estimated there were no more than 300 Japanese left alive in the island’s caves and tunnels. In fact, there were close to 3,000.  Those who could not bring themselves to commit suicide hid in the caves during the day and came out at night to prowl for provisions. Some did eventually surrender and were surprised that the Americans often received them with compassion, offering water, cigarettes, alcohol, or coffee.[35] The last of these holdouts on the island,  were just 2 Japanese solders who lasted 4 years without being caught and finally surrendered on 6 January 1949.[36][37]

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When the picture of the flag raising was later released, sculptor Dr. Felix W. de Weldon, then on duty with the U.S. Navy, was so moved by the scene that he constructed a scale model within 48 hours.  He labored for 9.5 years to prepare a working, full sized model from molding plaster. Once the statue was completed in plaster, it was carefully disassembled and trucked to Brooklyn, N.Y., for casting in bronze.

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After the three-year casting process, the bronze parts were trucked to Washington, D.C., for erection at Arlington National Cemetery. The plaster working model was moved to Dr. de Weldon’s summer home and studio in Newport, R.I., for storage.

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Look at the size of those crated shoes compared to the man

 

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The Building of the Memorial

 

In October 1981, Dr. de Weldon gifted his original, full sized working clay model to Marine Military Academy in Harlingen Texas, as an inspiration to our young cadets. Other major factors involved in his site selection included:

  • The fairly constant temperature and humidity in Harlingen were ideal for the preservation of the molding-plaster figures.
  • The street facing the memorial was appropriately named Iwo Jima Boulevard by MMA’s founders in 1965.
  • MMA is the only place outside of Washington, D.C., where proper honors are rendered with battalion-size dress blue parades.
  • The Marine placing the flagpole into the ground was a South Texas native, Cpl Harlon H. Block of Weslaco, Texas. Block’s gravesite resides directly behind the monument.

The Iwo Jima Monument was dedicated April 16, 1982 on the MMA Parade Ground.The 32-foot high figures are erecting a 78-foot steel flagpole from which a cloth flag flies 24 hours a day. They occupy the same positions as in Rosenthal’s historic photograph. Hayes is the figure farthest from the flagstaff; Sousley is to the right front of Hayes; Strank is on Sousley’s left; Bradley is in front of Sousley; Gagnon is in front of Strank; and CPl Harlon Block of Weslaco, is closest to the bottom of the flagstaff.

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CPL. Harlon Block was killed in action about a week after the photo was taken.  He would never know what his actions would mean to America some day.  He died when he was just 21 years old.  He was buried on Iwa Jima, and later after the war was over he was returned to his family in 1949, and buried in Weslaco.  In 1995, his body was moved to a burial place at the Marine Military Academy near its Iwo Jima monument.  For many of you who don’t know, Weslaco is but a few miles west of Harlingen.  Cpl. Block still has many family members in the area.

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This is a bicycle hanging on the wall in the museum.  So many more artifacts, guns, ammo and pictures are on display.  Finally Roberta and I went across the street to walk around the Monument.  It was massive when you walked up close.  The area is such a well groomed park.

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In between the monument and the road is a large grassy area used for Military Parades in Formation.  By the road is several large sections of stadium seats.

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As you walk up close to the monument, I could see how well it is taken care of and preserved.  I was immaculate.  Clean and Fresh.  They have to continually care for the monument as it is the original clay monument.

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Their is such detail to the sculpture.  As you walk around the back side of the monument, you’ll see a walking area with many trees.

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Right in the middle is the grave of CPL. Harlon H. Block USMC.  A Beautiful wreath has been placed at his grave site.

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Behind his grave is small brick patio area with a fire pit in the center.  Benches surround the pit.  This is the Flag Retirement Facility….

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Such a beautiful area to Retire a Flag with Honor….

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This is the view looking north….The Fire pit, CPL. Blocks Grave, and the Monument………Beautiful…..Many of the bricks through all the walkways have been engraved with names of Veterans….

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This was the end of a Wonderful and Inspiring Day.  This was a pamphlet we picked up.  Every year, they Celebrate Cpl. Blocks Birthday.  He would have been 91 this year.  They also hold the Veterans Day Parade.  Next year I hope to see it……As the Generations grow, I think we forget and never understand what our Veterans of all the wars went through.  This are things that we must keep the future generations educated about.  War is different these days.  Our generations don’t understand or know some of the fierce devastating battles our fore fathers experienced.

Please support Our Veterans and All Our Military….If Not for Them, We Would NOT Have The Freedoms We Have Today

On Saturday we honored Our Veterans in the Park.   After our breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy,  I gave a short speech on the Iwa Jima Monument, and CPL. Block.   I called them 1 by 1.

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After each name, I also called their branch of service.  They got up to go to the stage with a giant hand of applause.  Each one was given a huge hand of applause…..So heart warming.  You could just feel the emotion, unity, respect and appreciation fill the room.  We took pictures and then had a drawing for the Vets only.

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One of the park residents Steve, had made 7 blankets and 1 pillow with Military themes.  Each Veteran was given a ticket.   After the drawing, a resident suggested we sing………. God Bless America…..What a Special Emotional Moment….Many left with Tears in their Eyes…

God Bless America….Home of the Free & The Brave