In talking about a fundraiser effort for the Semper Fi Sisters which her high school choir was undertaking, Walton County resident Adele Armitage talked about the importance for young people to look beyond themselves.
At this time it seems like good medicine for most of us.
Too easy these days is it to be sucked down, sucked in, by our crazy lives that to gaze above the dashboard almost feels like luxury.
We peek now and again, many of us better than others, but tunnel vision is far too prevalent.
So we need a visit such as the upcoming one by the Semper Fi Sisters to provide a ground wire.
Those wives, sisters, grandmothers and mothers of deployed servicemen and women remind us that indeed, after more than 10 years, there is something going on in Afghanistan, something during which those among the best and brightest of their generation are fighting and dying.
A recent survey showed that major media provides less than wall-to-wall coverage of a war half a world away, but plug into the Semper Fi Sisters and discovery is at the fingertips.
What began as a germ of an idea, a mere concept to provide respite for a few Marine moms by offering a beach holiday, has spawned and become included in a vast network weaved throughout the internet.
Borders are nothing.
Political viewpoints mean nothing.
This is about one thing and one thing only.
As was stated by Mary Beth Gunnerson from Destin, the annual Beach Blast is to ensure that servicemen and women in harm’s way know they are not forgotten by the average person on the streets; that Average Joe knows and understands and supports.
What has become of Semper Fi Sisters in the four years since its launch is nothing short of miraculous, and in significant measure that is because of the people of Gulf County and their welcoming warmth.
The first year some dozen Marine moms gathered and finished the weekend packing a few dozen “Boxes of Love” to troops in war zones.
Two years later, in 2011, more than 50 ladies turned the Centennial Building into something resembling the Amazon.com warehouse and sent off more than 700 boxes.
This year the goal is an astounding 1,000 boxes, with women arriving in Gulf County representing deployed servicemen and women from all branches of the military.
That beach vacation has become synonymous with a campaign to ensure as many troops as possible feel the love.
This year will even feature a blood drive at WindMark Beach.
These women represent men and women who are our better angels.
There is an organization called Soldiers’ Angels, an organization of volunteers with a goal that “No Soldier go Unloved.”
Spawned by a mother who had a deployed son comment on the number of soldiers who seemed to receive nothing from home, who seemed to be fighting alone in many ways, the organization serves as something of a portal for efforts to reach troops from the home front.
When Semper Fi Sisters needed the names and addresses for all those soldiers who will receive “Boxes of Love” that is the organization Semper Fi turned too.
This year, Semper Fi Sisters is being recognized by Soldiers’ Angels as a full-fledged partner, a fairly prestigious honor for a group with largely humble beginnings in Gulf County.
And maybe that Sisterhood provides a reminder for a community of the broader picture at a time when it is sorely needed.
Because you could make the argument that we too often have struggled this year with the tunnel vision in Gulf County, though the county is hardly alone.
But in the all the noise from a tough economy and a brutal election season we forget why, as Gunnerson said, there are young men and women overseas fighting and dying.
To protect a democracy more than 203 years in existence, the longest-running government of its kind on earth, to protect the rights of every citizen – each and every citizen – to enjoy freedom of speech, no matter how unnerving to others, that our Founding Fathers believed essential.
They are in harm’s way to protect the right, nay the responsibility, of all citizens to question government, to be engaged in government, to participate in government, no matter the political viewpoint.
Those soldiers are there to uphold a document written over 230 years ago that guarantees those rights and liberties and bestows on us the responsibilities that come with those rights and liberties – specifically not to abridge others’ rights and liberties, regardless of circumstance.
Nearly 80 women from 23 states and the District of Columbia – California, Colorado, Arizona, Alabama, Michigan, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas, Nebraska, South Dakota, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida – will convene for four days in Gulf County in the coming weeks.
They will take advantage of the Southern hospitality they’ve been offered the past three years, bond, relax, laugh, cry, sing, dance, eat, provide a jolt to the economy and reach out to 1,000 soldiers.
And in doing so offer a reminder about their loved ones in harm’s way, about the rights, liberties and responsibilities embraced by their families’ shared sacrifices and the distance left for us to travel between those ideals and reality.