Happy Birthday, America

Written By Tony Mussari
Photography by Kitch Loftus-Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari Loftus Associates, Ltd
The Face of America Project

On this Independence Day, Kitch and I will be thinking about America.  Not the America we read about in the news, not the America defined by critics and pundits.

The America we will be thinking about is the country we saw at the ground level as we traveled the blue-lined roads and superhighways searching for the Face of America on its best day.

It is the America of the Greatest Generation whose quiet heroes won the war against Nazism and Fascism.

It is the America of the New Greatest Generation with inspirational heroes like 2d Lt. Emily Perez and Sergeant Joshua Harris whose names are listed with 7,000 others on the black granite walls of the poignant memorial in Marseilles, Illinois, and the hand-crafted memorial of white crosses in Lafayette, California.

It is the America of the four men on the mountain whose faces were carefully and patriotically etched on Mt. Rushmore.

It is the America that is celebrated at an evening service at Mt. Rushmore that ends with a heartfelt tribute to every veteran in the audience.

It is the America of Libba Blanding, a woman who greeted everyone with a smile at the Welcome Center in Sumter, South Carolina, and the volunteers who found homes for unwanted and uncared for pets in Kent, Washington.

It is the America of Olympian Mechelle Lewis who realized her dream and feels an obligation to empower others to do the same.

It is the America of the men and women who volunteered to tell the story of Flight 93 at the People’s Memorial in Shanksville PA, and volunteers like Barbara Platt who help visitors understand the nuances of the great battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

It is the America of Montgomery, Alabama, where an historical marker records the courage and determination of Rosa Parks.

It is the America of Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas, where nine students opened the door to the fulfillment of the American dream of a free public education for everyone.

It’s is the America of Dr. Mollie Marti whose book Walking with Justice tells the story of a great jurist and the meaning of equal and fair justice under the law for everyone.

It is the America of Dr. Stephen Post whose book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping, provides a prescription for happiness and a healthy life.

It is the America of George Parks whose dynamic leadership at the University of Massachusetts helped students and band members understand there is more to music than notes on a page.

It’s the America of Monica Ramirez and like-minded people who believe that in America there will always be someone to catch you when you fall.

It’s the America of the North Plainfield High School where you see the face of America’s tomorrow today.

It the America of Erin Donovan, Jon Yee, and Jon Zagami who come together at Fenway Park for the Home Base Program to raise money to help veterans who have traumatic brain injuries.

It’s the America of Dr. Dan Kopen who treats patients not clients. For this competent and caring surgeon, his work is the work of a medical doctor not a medical provider.

It’s the America of Dr. David Greenwald and Dr. Norman Schulman whose innovative thinking resulted in the creation of a first-class, state-of-the-art medical oncology and radiation treatment center in our hometown.

It’s the America of the not-for-profit hospital, Fox Chase, where everyone realizes that a person does not get cancer, a family does. At Fox Chase, everyone is treated with dignity, class and compassion.

It’s the America of former boxing champion Larry Holmes who taught an important principle by example, not words, “There is some money that ain’t worth making.”

It’s the America of Julie Marvel where the road to a friend’s house in never long.

It’s the America of Peg Yascur’s garden where you are nearer God’s heart than anywhere else on this earth.

It’s the America of Kitch where determination, perseverance, and hope are stronger than cancer.

It’s the America of great teachers like Sister Mary Hilary and Dr. Richard Loomis who can see beyond the obvious to help students become the best edition of themselves.

It’s the America of all those people who opened their hearts and their homes to Kitch and me while we were on the road searching for the Face of America, and while we were traveling that long, dark gravel road called cancer.  

This is the America I will be thinking about on this the 235th birthday of our country. This is the America that gives me hope that tomorrow will be better than today.  This is the America I know and love.  This is the America that is my home. This is America the beautiful.

Happy Birthday America, you are glorious!

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