Right to the Point (6/25/09)

The Fourth of July: Celebrating America

June 25, 2009

By Mike Benevento

For those old enough to remember, back in 1974, Chevy ran an extremely effective television advertising campaign centering on the song “Baseball, Hot Dogs, Apple Pie and Chevrolet.” As one of the all-time top car commercials, the ad campaign succeeded because the jingle was synonymous with what was best in 1970s America.

Today, these American symbols are experiencing hard times. Performance enhancing drug use by baseball superstars like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds has brought shame to the national pastime. Additionally, dieticians frown upon hot dogs because they possess little nutritional value, making them somewhat unhealthy to eat. Finally, the federal government is bailing out General Motors — which sells Chevy trucks and vans. Chevrolet is now part of what many call “Government Motors.”

Despite the fall of these once mighty icons, there remains a lot to celebrate in America. For starters, mom’s apple pie is still as good as it gets.

With Independence Day nearing, let’s take a small peek at some of what keeps America great. Consider it as four slices of good old American apple pie. Don’t forget to savor every morsel and come back for seconds ….

First slice: Adam Bender

Last year, 8-year-old Adam Bender became an American hero via the Internet. A child playing sports at Adam’s age is not unusual. However, everyone who watches Adam play sports and live life is impressed. Adam is inspirational because he plays baseball, soccer, football and wrestles — with only one leg.

The cancer survivor from Lexington, Ky. was born with a tumor in his left thigh. After chemotherapy failed, doctors amputated Adam’s leg on his first birthday. That setback did not deter him. He quickly started crawling and now plays two of the most difficult positions in sports. The youngster is a Little League baseball catcher and a flag football quarterback — without the aid of prostheses.

Watch Adam in action and you can tell that he considers himself just one of the kids. To others, however, he is much more than that. He embodies the American spirit. By not letting his loss of a leg stop him, Adam motivates others to overcome their problems. He is truly inspirational.

If you would like to learn more about Adam, including watching videos of him playing ball, check out his homepage at AdamBender.net. You can also search for “Adam Bender” at YouTube.com. Warning: keep tissues handy!

Second slice: foster parents

Today, with so many shattered families and difficult financial times, foster parents play an increasingly important role in raising children. These unsung heroes provide a loving and nurturing home to approximately 1,200 Vermont children. Although it is a difficult job, foster parents help children and parents rebuild broken lives.

Two years ago, the Vermont Legislature recognized the importance of foster parents (like Williston’s Theresa Tomasi) by adopting Resolution 205 — Honoring the Role of Foster Parents. Following the Legislature’s lead, Vermonters should honor and support foster parents. They provide one of the world’s most important jobs — being a parent — under trying circumstances.

Third slice: Williston’s Medal of Honor recipient

The Congressional Medal of Honor is America’s highest military award. Since 1861, 3,446 military personnel have earned the medal — the majority posthumously. Ironically, only 10 medals were earned on the Fourth of July, none by a Vermonter.

According to the Home Of Heroes Web site, 47 Medals of Honor have been accredited to Vermont. Of these, only one recipient was from Williston — Edward A. Holton.

On April 16, 1862, 1st Sgt. Edward Holton earned the decoration for his extraordinary gallantry and exemplary valor during the Civil War Battle of Lee’s Mills. As recorded by the History of War Web site, two Vermont regiments of Union soldiers attacked parts of eight Confederate regiments near Yorktown, Va. Fighting against heavy odds, the Union attack failed and was pushed back across the Warwick River.

First Sgt. Holton’s citation reads, “Rescued the colors of his regiment under heavy fire, the color bearer having been shot down while the troops were in retreat.”

Final slice: Take me out to the ballgame

Back in the old days, towns all across the United States sponsored a hometown baseball team. On Sundays, townsfolk gathered on the village green to root for their team in a match against rival towns.

Harkening back to the old days, everyone is invited to attend Williston’s second annual Fourth of July Little League Baseball game. The game starts at 2 p.m. at the majors’ field behind Williston Central School. For an enjoyable time, bring a chair and watch Williston’s version of this time-honored tradition.

Michael Benevento is a former Air Force fighter jet weapon systems officer. He has a bachelor’s degree in Military History and a master’s in International Relations. Mike resides in Williston with his wife Kristine and their two sons, Matthew and Calvin.