Blessings of a Grateful Nation
By Doug Patton
May 20, 2003
year, to observe Memorial Day, my brother, my two sisters
and I meet at a little cemetery in Montgomery County, Iowa.
It contains the hallowed graves of men who served in every
conflict since the War of 1812. My father, a World War II
veteran, is buried there, as is my grandfather, who served
in World War I.
A few miles
west of that cemetery lies the county seat, a small but
vibrant town called Red Oak. I was born there.
Call it fate.
Call it karma. Call it kismet, chance, destiny or just plain
coincidence. As a Christian, I call it blessing. Whatever
you call it, there is no denying the fact that at a time
when so many small Midwestern towns are struggling just
to stay viable, the remarkable little city of Red Oak, Iowa,
population 6,300, is flourishing. Why? Why should this town
be so blessed while others have dried up and disappeared?
city of Red Oak has a remarkable record of attracting new
industries. The community just snagged another one last
week, as the Chamber of Commerce welcomed Johnson Controls,
a Fortune 100 company, to town. In the last 40 years, no
fewer than 16 new companies have come to this town located
just east of the meandering Nishnabotna River in Southwest
So, why would
Red Oak be singled out and given such opportunity? Is it
the people? Is it the "movers and shakers," the
bankers and others who make it their life's work to promote
their community? It is that and more, much more.
As I heard
about the town's latest coup, I thought of all the other
struggling communities and wondered what was different about
this one. Although I was born in Red Oak, I had never really
lived there, my family having moved away shortly after my
birth. So, I had not thought much about the community over
the years. It seemed to thrive, but I never gave it much
thought until last week.
As I reflected
on Red Oak's remarkable record of accomplishment, I thought
about a statistic I had heard a long time ago and had not
In late 1941
and early 1942, men all across the country were enlisting
to fight tyranny. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor had galvanized
the nation like nothing else could. National Guard units
were being called up in counties across America, and Montgomery
County, Iowa, was no exception.
18, 19, 20 years of age, as they always do, were preparing
to save the world from itself. And in the thick of it, standing
shoulder to shoulder with professional soldiers, were the
young recruits of Red Oak, Iowa.
They were among
the first to attack the beachheads at Normandy. They fought
valiantly and they fought hard, and in the end, they suffered
horrible, unthinkable casualties. In fact, the town of Red
Oak, in Montgomery County, Iowa, gave more of its young
men, per capita, during World War II than any other town
in America. To commemorate their sacrifice, when the "Victory
Ships" were launched later in the war, one of them,
a 455-foot cargo ship, was named the Red Oak.
The Bible says,
"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure,
pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be
poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will
be measured to you." (Luke 6:38, NIV)
Red Oak, Iowa,
paid a terrible price to preserve the blessings of liberty.
This year, as Memorial Day is observed in Montgomery County,
it is fitting that the community that gave so much should
be blessed with the bounty of a grateful nation.
Patton is a freelance columnist who has served
as a political speechwriter and public policy advisor at
the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns
can be read in newspapers across the country, and on www.GOPUSA.com,
where he serves as the Nebraska Editor.
He also writes
for Talon News Service (www.TalonNews.com).
e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.