Posts Tagged ‘America’

Gettysburg Documentary Educates, Informs, Inspires

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Walking Into The Light At Gettysburg: A Review

Written by: Gale & Robert Jaeger
Photography: Bill Gaydos & Kitch Loftus-Mussari
January 19, 2013
Lenfest Theater, Visitor Center
Gettysburg National Military Park
Copyright 2013 Face of America, Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

On a recent bright and shining Saturday morning, weGNMP_0768_250 traveled from our home in Waverly PA to a most enchanting and inspiring place… the Gettysburg National Military Park.  Although it has been on our list of places to visit for many years, it was the first opportunity we have had to actually get there, and we were not in any way disappointed.

The purpose of our trip was to attend the premier of a production by Dr. Tony Mussari and his wife and able partner, Kitch Loftus Mussari. We knew that our travels would reward us with an exceptional experience and we were correct in our supposition. It was an evening we will long remember.


As we all assembled in the theater, having been warmly welcomed by Tony and Kitch, people prepared to settle down and see the show. Mr. Frank Orlando, a former public school principal clearly devoted to education and learning, was the master of ceremonies.  He and his wife, Bonnie, were attired in civil war costume and proceeded to act their roles while providing the audience with charming reflections and historical facts of the era.

Following the Orlandos was Mr. William Troxell, longOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA time mayor of Gettysburg. He gave some history of this historic town – really a lovely hamlet of sorts – and told of his many generations of relatives who had resided here before him.  He was most gracious in his welcome and made us all feel quite at home.


Ms. Stacy Fox, VP of Sales and Marketing, Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, was exuberant in her discussion of the military park and all that it stands for in terms of American history.  It is easy to see why she holds the position she does!

Finally, just before the actual screening, Dr. Tony Mussari gave some reflections on why he and Kitch had decided to produce this documentary.

He spoke about visiting Gettysburg for the first time with his brother. Tony was 15 at the time and the experience, in his words,”changed his life.”

A part of the Face of America Project, Walking Into the Light is indeed enlightening. It educates us about the infamous Battle of Gettysburg. As important, as we view the monuments and battlefields through the lens of period photographs and renderings, we feel both the terror and the courage that these 161,000 soldiers must have experienced in this history making three day battle.

We were inspired and moved as the Battle Hymn of the Republic and other very moving music, well selected for this documentary, played in the background with footage of our great flag imposed across the screen, undulating in a stiff breeze. It was truly inspiring and our hearts were filled with pride for our new republic and for what it has become.

Central to this documentary was the presence of ten OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA students from North Plainfield High School in New Jersey. A diverse group, there was clearly one thing these students had very much in common: a thirst for knowledge and a true sense of astonishment and amazement at what they learned through this life changing experience – exactly what Tony and Kitch had hoped for.

Articulate and insightful beyond their years and life experiences, these students learned how much their forefathers sacrificed for our collective freedom. It caused them to do some critical thinking and express gratitude for all that they enjoy today. It clearly changed them in very real ways. We wondered how this experience might also move and inspire university level students who might come to Gettysburg with a higher level of understanding and perhaps see things that might have been lost on such young students. Clearly, people of all ages leave this place enriched and inclined to learn much more about our nation’s history during those Civil War years.


Also notable were the many comments made by General Robert E. Lee, so nicely interpreted by Frank Orlando.

While we never understood him as well as we did after hearing some of his “commentary,” we were reminded that even those whom we might disagree with ideologically, have something to say and, when given the opportunity, it is often something we can admire. We wondered what General Grant might have told us about and what memorable quotes we would have taken away from his commentary had he been a part of the proceedings!

And finally, the memorable quotes from President3a11366r Last portrai 300t Abraham Lincoln, a man who overcame so many obstacles to be a president who changed the world in so many ways, touched our hearts once again. Some were new to us, other we had known. All were words which are timeless and could have been spoken today with just as much meaning and power.

Iconic in today’s world for his many contributions, Lincoln was often misunderstood in his lifetime. One who understood him was T.V.Smith who said:

“This Lincoln, whom so many living friends and foes alike deemed foolish, hid bitterness in laughter, fed his sympathy on solitude, and met recurring disaster with whimsicality to muffle the murmur of a bleeding heart… and won through death what life disdains to bestow upon such simple souls –lasting peace and everlasting glory.”

While Lincoln and the soldiers who fought so valiantly at Gettysburg may not have provided for a lasting peace – perhaps humans are not capable of that –they did provide us with everlasting glory.

Gettysburg groupThank you Tony and Kitch for this extraordinary film and for all the expertise, insight and love that went into it.

Surely you changed the lives of many of us in your audience just as you changed the lives of your ten students, and just,Tony, as your own life was changed when you first visited Gettysburg many long years ago
with your beloved brother. He is surely proud of all that came of that visit and smiles on you today.

Godspeed to you and to all who helped to make this fine documentary a reality.

Heroes Without Headlines, Part 2

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Heroes Without Headlines, Part 2
By Tony Mussari
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates
The Face of America Project

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”Anais Nin

Finding the Essence of America in a Flood Zone

As the Susquehanna River flows, Mocanaqua, Pennsylvania, is 26 miles north of Bloomsburg, PA. It is a small community of less than 7,000 people. The name of the town is said to be the name given to Frances Slocum after she was kidnapped by the Delaware Indians in 1778. It means Little Bear Woman.

Kitch and I were introduced to Mocanaqua by one of our former students, Phillip Yacuboski.  In 2000, we were producing Windsor Park Stories. Phillip was working at a local TV station. He asked us to produce a documentary about his church, St. Mary’s of Mocanaqua for the Local Legacy Project sponsored by the Library of Congress. We said yes. The project brought us to his hometown, and the rest as they say is history.

Fast forward 11 years. Phillip is the overnight assignment editor at WBAL TV, Baltimore, Maryland, and we are on our way to visit the flood damaged sections of Mocanaqua.  

After we drove through a flood damaged neighborhood that sits less than 100 yards from the river’s edge, we noticed what appeared to be a carpenter carrying materials into a home on River Street. Little did we know, then, that we were about to meet a person who would speak with authority about the flood and what it means to enjoy the blessings of American citizenship.

Jerzy Milkucki was born in Poland.  He immigrated to America 17 years ago. After his five year probationary period, he became an American citizen. He is a painter by profession, but he is skilled in carpentry as well.  On this Sunday afternoon he was installing drywall in his dining room.

Jerzy is a natural conversationalist.  He was a delight to interview. He is genuine, honest, sincere and very positive. He believes the warning system worked. In fact, he had enough time to take everything upstairs where he spent the night of September 9, waiting for the river to crest. Before the river receded, he used his kayak to float around the neighborhood checking for damage and looking for people who needed help. He was favorably impressed by the help he received after the flood from the Red Cross, the Polish Falcons and volunteer firefighters. His experiences with FEMA were excellent, and the people he met there were, in his words, “very nice.”

When our conversation turned to his thoughts about America, the expression on his face and the cadence of his words spoke volumes.

“America is a beautiful country,” he told me.  This is a country for living. It is a country of opportunity for everybody.  It is a beautiful country. Last year I was in Alaska, a beautiful place. I was in the west states. I was in Florida. I was all over.  One day, if I have the money and time I would like to experience all of the states of America. It is a beautiful country, beautiful people, not everybody, but my experience is with very good, good people, helpful, very kind and very warm. It’s nice.”

When I asked him to compare life in Poland with his experience in America, he willingly shared these thoughts:

“In Poland, the political, economic situation is like this.  The money you make for living, it’s not enough. The level of living over there, you have to be working from morning until night, and it’s still going to be hard to make it."

"Here, you know, you learn something; you do the job, you work hard, you make money. It’s like my family. My wife works. My daughter is going to a very good university, Fordham University. In Poland, I would not be able to afford to put her in a good university. Over here she is a top student, speaks three languages, and she is going for the fourth one. I tell her hard work, hard work, hard work and then you are going to have it easy in your life.”

What did Jerzy Milkucki learn from his flood experience?

He is stronger as a person, more independent. In his words, “my view is way, way wider. I know who is the real person, and who is the one who is trying to slide under. I can count on my neighbors.”

Before I left his home, Jerzy summarized the past two months with this observation:

“In my experience, I survived flood and fire. I don’t know what’s going to be next. The good thing about a flood is you know it’s coming, and you have time to prepare yourself. It brings the community together.”

Don’t Live Next to a Creek

On our way home we stopped in West Nanticoke to speak with John Nash.  He was installing a light over his front door. He stopped what he was doing to talk with us, and his story reinforced the one we had just recorded in Mocanaqua.

His experience with all of the agencies of government was positive. “Everyone in the community pulled together,” he said, “and everybody just helped each other out.”  He believes America on its best day is people helping people.

His mother, Sylvia Nash, knows this is a tough time, but she refuses to sit back and feel sorry for herself. She is determined to keep moving forward.

When I asked her son what was the most important lesson he learned, she interrupted our conversation with six words spoken with authority:

“Don’t live next to a creek.”

Kitch and I have spent the better part of two years talking with people who live in small towns across America.  It never ceases to amaze us what we have learned from these conversations. On this November afternoon, the people we met and the things they shared give truth to the words of Rebecca Harding Davis:

“Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world, and a good enough man for any world.”

That’s the essence of the Face of America, and that’s what America is all about on its best day.

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15 Hours in Catonsville, Maryland

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

15 Hours in Catonsville, Maryland

By Tony Mussari, Sr.
Copyright 2011
Mussari-Loftus Associates, LTD

We realized that the important thing was not the film itself but that which the film provoked. Fernando Solanas

While driving to Catonsville, Maryland on a beautiful October morning, a story from half a lifetime ago flashed through my mind. It’s the only thing I know about Catonsville.

On May 17, 1968, nine people, including two Catholic priests and a Christian Brother, went to the Selective Service office in Catonsville to destroy draft documents. They filled two wire baskets with stolen documents.  Then, they assembled in a parking lot where they burned the documents to protest the Vietnam War.

Their act of civil disobedience was headline news all over the country. Four months later they went on trial in Baltimore, and the rest as they say is history.

Fast forward 33 years.  It’s October 5, 2011, the anniversary of the trial of the Catonsville 9. On this day, the morning papers are filled with stories of protesters carrying signs heralding “The 99” and their protest against corporate greed.  The first amendment is alive and well in America.

On this day my head and my heart were filled with anticipation. I was going to Catonsville to screen and discuss our documentary, Shanksville, PA: A Place of Transformation. It was a very special occasion, because the invitation came from a former student, now a successful manager and part time teacher, Dr. Richard Ostopowicz.

Rick, as he likes to be called and I have a history. We met at a time and place when we had some teaching moments.  They were not comfortable or easy moments, but they were transformational moments for Rick.  He graciously acknowledges their importance in his education and development. His old teacher relishes in his success.

Someone once told me a teacher must do everything he can to see to it that the student has an opportunity to equal and surpasses the achievements of the teacher. Sometimes it is affirmation, and other times it’s candor. To use the words of Steve Jobs, “at one time in our life all of us will be hit in the head with a brick.” Teachers use softer language, but the consequence is the same.  People with a learning, not a sulking, disposition understand it is one of the best things that can ever happen.  It produces transformations.

When I arrived in Catonsville, I had two experiences that endeared me to the city. I stopped at Edmondson Sunoco.  As I finished filling my Prius, a red truck carrying discarded metal parts pulled into the station. My eyes scanned the scene and settled on a sign attached to the rear window.  It read, “One Day at a time.”

I was curious and intrigued; the why question motivated me to get my digital camera. I approach the driver, and I asked him for permission to take a picture of the sign. 

He obliged.

When I finished, I had a brief conversation with Bill Garry about his sign, and I discovered the heart and soul of a man with a beautiful smile and a wonderful disposition.

“Living life one day at a time is central to the AA program,” he told me.  “I try to live these words every day.”

The expression on Bill’s face spoke volumes about the man and his life. It is a moment I will never forget.

Shortly after I left the Sunoco station, I managed to get lost. I ended up in the parking lot of Pierce Cleaners and Tuxedo. Once inside I met Kyle Davis the owner of Edwards Home and Lawn. He volunteered to help me find my destination. Using his smart phone he found the address. It just happened to be in the shadow of the parking lot two blocks away.

My two person survey of Catonsville left a positive impression of the town and its residents, not scientific to be sure, but heartwarming nonetheless.

As I was getting out of my car in front of Rick’s home, I had another serendipitous moment. A white pickup truck pulled in behind me, and a warm voice spoke words of welcome that sealed the deal. This would be a very good visit.

After dinner with Rick, his wife and their two adorable boys, we were off to the community college for the main event.

The ride to the Catonsville Campus of the Community College of Baltimore was short, and the conversation during the ride was pleasant. When we entered the building, I felt the rush of pre-class anxiety and expectation. I could feel myself going into teacher mode.

Rick is a big man with a very engaging manner. He attended to the technology making sure that everything was in place to optimize the screening for everyone who attended. While he talked with students, I printed a structural outline for the class on a chalkboard next to the entrance to the room. As students took their seats I visited with them to introduce myself, and I suggested that they take a seat in the center of the room where they would get the best view of the documentary.

Rick picked up on this, and he projected a typewritten sign that reinforced my suggestion.

When all of the students were assembled, Rick collected their assignments. He shared some refinements for matters discussed in the previous class, and then he gave me the floor.

After I reviewed the outline for the class, I asked everyone to disconnect from their digital devices, and I repeated words I received earlier in the day in an e-mail from a former student who is a successful corporate executive in Florida. “Push the pause button.” I implored the students to focus their attention on what would happen in their classroom for the next three hours. The students who were in the room turned off their smart phones.

To provide context for the film, I read excerpts from the introduction I presented in Shanksville on September 24. Two key points were emphasized:

Ten years ago, we made a promised to tell the Shanksville story with dignity and class. For 3,650 days, we have remained true to that promise. In doing that, we have been changed in ways we never thought possible.

Today, Kitch and I look at our county through a different lens, and we measure ourselves and the people we meet against the Shanksville standard.

We produced Shanksville, PA: A Place of Transformation, the 22d episode in our What Is America? series, to remember the heroes of Flight 93, to put the spotlight of affirmation on a group of students who speak eloquently and convincingly about their county, this place of hope and healing, and the America dream.

Yesterday we celebrated the heroes of the day the earth stood still for America. Today we come together as a community of people searching for answers to questions that are larger than life. Tonight we will remember the legacy of yesterday to guarantee the promise of tomorrow.

At 8:05 p.m., four hours after I arrived in Catonsville, the lights were dimmed and the screening began.

I selected a seat in the back of the room where I could see the audience as well as the film. I was impressed by the quite attentiveness of the students during the film.  There was but one distraction. A student who arrived late settled in a seat next to mine. Before he sat down, we shook hands and I welcomed him. He was very pleasant and respectful. Unfortunately, he did not hear the request to push the pause button and detach from digital devices. At critical points in the film his eyes were on his smart phone. At one important point before the end of the film, I asked him to put his eyes on the screen. He politely turned off the phone, and he watched the ending.

Shortly after 9 p.m., the credits rolled. Then, the lights came on. Rick gave the students a short break.  When they returned, the discussion began.

Several students liked the positive tone of the documentary.  They liked the comments of the people featured in the film, especially the Cheerleaders from North Plainfield High School in New Jersey. One person called them genuine. Another person said she liked the story and the way it was presented.

From the back of the room, I received a warm greeting. “I’m from Duryea in Northeastern Pennsylvania. I like the film.” This special moment produced a spontaneous response from Rick. “Why does it take a visiting professor from 200 miles away to let me know I am teaching a student who was born and raised where I grew up?”

Another person admitted that she rarely thinks about the significance of 9/11 and Shanksville. The documentary helped her to better understand the need to think more about the events of that day and its consequences for her generation.

One student had very complimentary things to say about the documentary and this genre of film making.  “You told us your intention was to entertain and inform us,” she said. “You did that tonight.”

Another student liked the musical selections in the film.

Not all of the feedback was positive.  One student made a hard landing on a metaphor used by one of the speakers in the film.  Another student who lost a nephew on 9/11 expected more first person stories told by survivors.

The most earthy interpretation came from one of the last people to comment.  He used strong language to express the anger he was feeling. He needed time to think and sort things out. “I won’t be able to tell you what I think until 8:30 tomorrow morning,” he said.

When I told him this was the highest compliment any documentary filmmaker could receive. He pushed himself back in his seat.  His eyes opened wide, and a look of pleasant surprise covered his face.

If truth be told, documentary is all about evoking emotions and deeply felt reactions. If what is on the screen makes someone think, that’s about as good as it gets.

At 10:20 p.m., I asked the students and their teacher, Dr. Rick Ostopowicz, to assemble in the front of the room for a surprise. Then, I presented the National 9/11 Remembrance Flag to them for their school. Watching the smiles of satisfaction on their faces as they posed for a group picture is a frozen frame I will always remember from this visit.

Before we said our good byes, I asked the students to participate in an exercise I learned from my friend Professor George Parks at the University of Massachusetts. It was designed to help them identify their personal best.

The exercise worked, and the evening ended on a very positive note.

I spent the night in Rick’s guest room. Early the next morning we talked for a bit, made some plans for future visits, and then at 7:15 a.m. I headed home with a hundred different memories of the visit, the students, their teacher and the screening carefully stored in the safe deposit box of my soul. 

As I drove north watching the traffic jams as thousands of people headed for Baltimore,  I thought to myself how fortunate I was to be Rick’s teacher and friend, and how good it felt to be a visiting teacher in his classroom.

Before I knew it, I was sitting in traffic on a congested part of Rt.15 in Harrisburg. On this morning of reflection, I didn’t mind the delays. Eventually, I was back on the open road taking in the sun drenched scenery of the rural landscape of the Keystone state, and thinking about the 15 hours I spent in Catonsville.

Then it happened.

I spotted an Amish farmer making his way on a wagon pulled by two horses. I stopped the car on the side of the road, and I took some pictures. For me, the pictures recorded a perfect end to a perfect trip. It helped to put everything in perspective.

In Shanksville, I met people who wanted to preserve the legacy of an important moment in our history.

In North Plainfield, New Jersey, I worked with students who went to Shanksville. While they were there, they discovered what it means to be an American.

In Catonsville, Maryland, the students and I were able to exercise our first amendment rights to assemble, learn and express our opinions without fear of reprisal.

On the farm bordering a blue lined road in Pennsylvania, two Amish men, two Amish children, their spotted dog, two horses and 72 containers of freshly picked carrots, spoke to America at its best.  This compelling image tells us that ours is a country where everyone has a right to be who they are, do what you do, worship the God of their choice and feel the warm spirit of belonging.

Collectively, the images from my 15 hours in Catonsville prove beyond any question the validity of Dr. Stephen Post’s words: “America is the land of the free and the home of the good.”

They give truth to the advice of Steve Jobs, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

I don’t know if I did great work in Catonsville. That’s for someone else to decide, but I do know I love being an old teacher in a new classroom.

Thank you Flight 93 for your valor.

Thank you, Dr. Rick Ostopowicz for the opportunity.

Thank you, students from the Community College of Baltimore for your time and attention.

Thank you, North Plainfield Cheerleaders for your thoughtful stories,

Thank you, America. We are blessed to be your citizens.

(Picture of the Catonsville 9 protest,; picture of the Peoples’ Memorial in Shanksville, Kitch Mussari; picture of the Permament memorial in Shanksville, Frank Pizzani; all other pictures Tony Mussari, Sr.)

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The Face of America: Montoursville

Monday, July 18th, 2011

The Face of America: Montoursville, PA

By Tony Mussari & Kitch Loftus-Mussari
The Face of America Project
Copyright Mussari-Loftus Associates, 2011

I saw the Face of America today. It belongs to a big man with a 19th century mustache that covers the scars of loss embedded deep in the lining of his face.

I saw the Face of America today. It belongs to a long distance runner and cross-country coach who carries in her heart the burning memory of the death of two of her team members.

I saw the Face of America today. It belongs to more than 200 runners and walkers who came to Indian Park to celebrate 21 people who are forever a part of American history.

I saw the Face of America today. It belongs to eight cheerleaders from the high school in North Plainfield, New Jersey, a place that defines diversity and community service at its very best.

I saw the Face of America today. It belongs to a photojournalist who conducted herself with dignity, class and distinction.

I saw the Face of America today. It is filled with hope for tomorrow and respect for yesterday.

These Faces of America came together to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the tragic ending of TWA Flight 800.

The man with the mustache lost a daughter named Julia. He was standing with Rev. Steve McGough, who knows in real ways the unimaginable suffering of parents like Chuck Grimm.

The long distance runner and coach Stephanie Bedison lost two of her team members, Jordan Bower and Jody Loudenslager.

The North Plainfield cheerleaders came to continue their annual tradition of community service, to affirm the special nature of this event, and to present a flag that flew over each of the locations that pay tribute to another unforgettable day, September 11, 2001.

The photojournalist, Karen Kennedy showed respect for the people and the event she was covering.

Everyone assembled here came to make a statement about America at its best. A caring nation, a helping nation, a supportive nation, a proud nation that does not forget its fallen, and finds a way to turn tragedy into the triumph of the human spirit.

This is the America of Montoursville, Pennsylvania, North Plainfield, New Jersey, Berwick and Sunbury, Pennsylvania and dozens of other communities represented at this race.

It’s the best that small town America has to offer. A welcoming place, a comforting place, a beautiful place where love of country, family and community makes one proud to be an American and humble in the presence of these heroes who push aside the tears of tragedy and move forward with confident and thoughtful hearts.

The people we met on this Day of Remembrance are the Face of America on its best day, and we are the beneficiaries of their example, kindness and good will.

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Happy Birthday, America

Monday, July 4th, 2011

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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