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Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Diamond in a Dung Heap

"If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation." — Samuel Adams

When I was growing up my grandfather told me stories of the St. Patrick’s Day parades in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. My grandfather was a Protestants who had married a Catholic so he had relatives of competing religions. He told me that on St. Patrick’s Day the Protestants, or Orangemen as they were known, would line the parade route and throw oranges and tomatoes at the “Micks” as they marched by in their green garb. This animosity went could be traced to the conflict between warring factions in Ireland.

For years the St. Patrick’s Day parades in our big cities with large Irish-American populations, like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and my home town of Cleveland, were joyous affairs where the various Irish-American groups and clubs would march. They would be dressed in green and orange Irish costumes, have pipers and bands playing traditional Irish tunes and proudly display their Irish heritage. Afterwards they croups and clubs would gather in halls and homes to toast the Irish, eat corned beef and cabbage and sing Irish songs.

If you saw videos of this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City you would have seen much of the same, but a new element was added — vandalism and porno. There were groups of young people acting badly and carrying signs promoting Gay rights. Many were dressed in costumes bordering on pornography. They did damage to city and personal property and left the parade route looking like Libya.

Perhaps you, like I, have seen the videos of middle school student gangs beating up on a single student, vandalizing property and dressing in clothes that your mother would have never allowed you to go to school wearing. We have seen many instances of young children, as young as 10 or 11 years old, bullying and harassing other students on the various social networking sites and the Internet — at times with the help and approval of parents. The latest example being a eighth grade Orange County student whose parents paid for her to record a song for YouTube. The comments posted regarding the girl were vicious to the extent of being death threats.

While watching Fox and Friends this morning I saw another side of the youth in this country. Jordan Brown of Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, an 11-year old fourth grader, wants to raise $100,000 to construct a memorial to Maj. Dick Winters of Band of Brothers fame. Barbara Miller of the Patriot News reports: “It’s not every 11-year-old boy who would be thrilled with getting a box full of 1,000 olive drab rubber wristbands to sell. But they’re not Jordan Brown of Lebanon County, who wants to raise $100,000 toward the statue honoring Maj. Dick Winters planned for Normandy.”6a00d8341c630a53ef0148c77c6c5b970c

“Jordan, a fourth-grader at South Lebanon Elementary School, came up with the idea after his mom showed him an article about filmmaker Tim Gray’s effort to erect a statue in France honoring his hero, Maj. Winters, and create a documentary. The family brainstormed over a weekend, with Jordan at first thinking of selling a few hundred snowflakes or paper airplanes for 66 cents, because this is the 66th anniversary of D-Day June 6.”

“After Jordan decided to up the ante and try to raise a quarter of the needed funds, or $100,000, they had to find a more efficient way to raise the money, said his mom, Yasmin Brown.”

“We ended up with the wristbands,” she said, and then had to decide on a color and phrase. Bob Hoffman, a Lebanon architect who is a friend of Maj. Winters, suggested the olive drab color, referencing the Army, and the phrase Maj. Winters said to inspire his soldiers — “Hang Tough.”

Jordan Brown is a WWII buff and has embarked upon a campaign to ensure that the WWII vets who served on D-Day are memorialized. In May 2010, he learned of an effort to honor Jordan’s hero, Major Dick Winters, and all the men that served on D-Day by having a statue built in St. Marie Du-Mont, Normandy, France. (This larger effort is being undertaken by Emmy award winning filmmaker, Tim Gray, see

When Jordan read about this effort, he decided to embark on his own campaign to make sure that the necessary monies were raised for this and an associated documentary that will be produced on Major Winters Leadership abilities.

Major Dick Winters (whose heroism & leadership were captured in the Steven Spielberg/Tom Hanks mini-series Band of Brothers) is known for using the expression “Hang Tough” when leading his troops in battle and also after the war. Jordan created olive green wristbands (to match the WWII army uniforms) that are inscribed with the words “Hang Tough”. (These wristbands are similar to the Lance Armstrong “live strong” ones.)

hang-tough-wristbandsjpg-b569bbb53febe5deJordan has been distributing these wristbands for minimum donations of $1. (Jordan wanted to ensure that children could afford them too.) To date, Jordan has collected over $32,000 towards the creation of the monument. He plans to continue to “hang tough” until all the necessary monies are raised to ensure that these WWII vets are honored appropriately.

In order to bring greater awareness to his efforts, Jordan has delivered speeches to area civic organizations, marched in parades, manned stands at fairs, and has been interviewed by local media.

hang-tough-wristbands2jpg-b006bba428f0fba5When I saw the interview with Brown on Fox and Friends I was very touched by this young man’s courage and patriotism, as were the hosts of the show. As a member of a reenactment group portraying members of the 101st airborne and knowing quite a bit about the exploits of the unit throughout WWII. Brown was well spoken and was clear and passionate in stating his reasons for wanting to raise the money for the memorial to Maj. Winters.

Brown is like another young man I know, who for his Eagle Scout badge, raised $25,000 to place a memorial to the war dogs at the Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Orange County, California. Whenever I see stories like this my hopes are raised for the future.

There are so many stories portraying our youth behaving badly or being ignorant of our history or exceptionalism. We even have a President who knows little more than these youths. I see this as a dung heap of ignorance and disrespect of our country and the sacrifices so many of its people have made to insure our freedom and Republic over the years.

Yes, I realize that in the media the old saw, “If it bleeds it leads” is what every editor adheres to. But, in the interest of balance a few more stories like Jordan Brown’s and a few less about youth behaving badly would be welcomed. I know that we need to know how our youth are behaving so we can possibly take measures to prevent that behavior. So far that has not worked too well. It seems the more stories and videos of bad behavior that appear the more copy-cats are encouraged to do even more outrageous deeds. Perhaps stories of youth doing honorable and patriotic things would encourage the copy-cats to follow their actions instead.

In November of 2010 AP picked up on this story that was published in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette. Since the original story broke in the Post-Gazette Major Winters passed away on January 2, 2011 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Jordan plans to "Hang Tough" and continue to collect donations to ensure his hero and the men that served with him are forever remembered.

Jordan Brown’s “Hang Tough” wristbands can be purchased at The minimum donation is $1, plus $3 shipping.

Note of interest: There is a group promoting the award of the Medal of Honor for Major Winters. They want the medal awarded posthumously for his actions during D-Day, 1944 in the Brécourt Manor Assault, which to this day is still taught at West Point as the epitome of a tactical assault.

Maj. Winters in his own words.

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