By Pastor Gary Cortese, Chaplain – Byron Fire District

        A family friend recently passed away following a brief and sudden illness. His wife, children, and grandchildren will have to find a way to live the rest of their lives with broken hearts and without him. Holidays and family gatherings will never be the same again. There’s a long road of grieving and adjusting ahead for them but they will all be able to do it together - in the United States because of his extraordinary effort to start a new life here for them and with them. What an example of love and sacrifice.

        For years people have been leaving their homeland to come to this country in hopes of a better tomorrow and to share in the American Dream. Many accomplished just that (and are still accomplishing it today) – better tomorrows, not only for themselves, but also for their families. That’s what my family did. I’m forever grateful that I have an Italian heritage that molded and shaped who I am today. You know there are only two kinds of people in this world: Italians and those who wish they were!

        Against all odds different ethnic groups crossed the vast oceans to arrive in a harbor where a famous Statue greeted them with her torch raised to the sky welcoming the weary. We’re it not for their sacrifice, hardship and determined courage we would not have continued a remarkable heritage and legacy that sets America apart from every other country on this planet.

        Many years before Ellis Island began processing immigrants from distant lands, thirteen colonies were brought together to form a single nation. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson assumed the task of creating a seal for the United States. It was believed that an official emblem and national coat of arms would be evidence of an independent nation and a free people with high aspirations and hopes for the future. The Great Seal was finalized and approved six years later in June of 1782. The symbols on the seal reflect the beliefs and values that the Founding Fathers wanted to pass on to posterity.   The bald eagle, our national symbol, is in the center of the seal holding a scroll that reads “E PLURIBUS UNUM” which means, “OUT OF MANY, ONE.”

          The late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is credited to have said something like this, “We may have come here on different ships but we’re all in the same boat now.” Regardless of who said it or how it was said this is a profound statement.

            Folks, we are a special country. We have much to be thankful for and much to live and die for. We are the land of the free today because of the brave. November is a time to reflect and to express gratitude for the many blessings we enjoy. Our National Day of Thanksgiving is no small holiday. This month is also a time to remember the countless acts of bravery, service and heroism throughout the years made by the men and women in military uniform.

           Oh, and one other small, insignificant point I almost forgot to mention: this November we have the incredible blood-bought right and privilege to vote for the candidate we believe will best lead our country in accordance with the vision of our Founding Fathers. May God (Whom we trust) Bless the United States of America.


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