America: We are UNITED!
September 11, 2001
Inspired Us All to Think About Our Relationships...
...Our Families...Our Friends...
...Our Military...Our Military Families...
Our Country...
God Bless the USA
And ALL the Peoples of the World!
Freedom-Loving People Around the World

We were ALL Attacked this Infamous Day!
The Flag of the United States of America
I am the flag of the United States of America.
My name is Old Glory.
I fly atop the world's tallest buildings.
I stand watch in America's halls of justice.
I fly majestically over institutions of learning.
I stand guard with power in the world.
Look up and see me.
I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice.
I stand for freedom.
I am confident.
I am arrogant.
I am proud.
  When I am flown with my fellow banners,
My head is a little higher,
My colors a little truer.
I bow to no one!
I am recognized all over the world.
I am worshipped ~ I am saluted.
I am loved ~ I am revered.
I am respected ~ and I am feared.
I have fought in every battle of every war for more then 200 years.
I was flown at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Shiloh and Appomattox.
I was there at San Juan Hill, the trenches of France, in the Argonne Forest, Anzio, Rome and the beaches of Normandy. Guam, Okinawa, Korea and KheSan, Saigon, Vietnam know me.
I'm presently in the mountains of Afganistan and the hot and dusty deserts of Iraq and wherever freedom is needed.
I led my troops, I was dirty, battleworn and tired,
But my soldiers cheered me and I was proud.
I have been burned, torn and trampled on the streets of countries I have helped set free.
It does not hurt for I am invincible.
I have been soiled upon, burned, torn and trampled in the streets of my country.
And when it's done by those Whom I've served in battle ~ it hurts.
But I shall overcome ~ for I am strong.
I have slipped the bonds of Earth and stood watch over the uncharted frontiers of space from my vantage point on the moon.
I have borne silent witness to all of America's finest hours.
But my finest hours are yet to come.
When I am torn into strips and used as bandages for my wounded comrades on the battlefield,
When I am flown at half-mast to honor my soldier,
Or when I lie in the trembling arms of a grieving parent at the grave of their fallen son or daughter,
I am proud.
A Soldier's Funeral
~ Texas Style ~
What follows is a message from Vicki Pierce about her nephew James' funeral
(he was serving our country in Iraq):
"I'm back, it was certainly a quick trip, but I have to also say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There is a lot to be said for growing up in a small town in Texas.
"The service itself was impressive with wonderful flowers and sprays, a portrait of James, his uniform and boots, his awards and ribbons. There was lots of military brass and an eloquent (though inappropriately longwinded) Baptist preacher. There were easily 1000 people at the service, filling the church sanctuary as well as the fellowship hall and spilling out into the parking lot.
"However, the most incredible thing was what happened following the service on the way to the cemetery. We went to our cars and drove to the cemetery escorted by at least 10 police cars with lights flashing and some other emergency vehicles, with Texas Rangers handling traffic. Everyone on the road who was not in the procession, pulled over, got out of their cars, and stood silently and respectfully, some put their hands over their hearts, some had small flags.
"Shop keepers came outside with their customers and did the same thing. Construction workers stopped their work, got off their equipment and put their hands over their hearts, too. There was no noise whatsoever except a few birds and the quiet hum of cars going slowly up the road.
"When we turned off the highway suddenly there were teenage boys along both sides of the street about every 20 feet or so, all holding large American flags on long flag poles, and again with their hands on their hearts. We thought at first it was the Boy Scouts or 4H club or something, but it continued .... for two and a half miles.
"Hundreds of young people, standing silently on the side of the road with flags. At one point we passed an elementary school, and all the children were outside, shoulder to shoulder holding flags ... kindergartners, handicapped, teachers, staff, everyone.
"Some held signs of love and support. Then came teenage girls and younger boys, all holding flags. Then adults. Then families. All standing silently on the side of the road. No one spoke, not even the very young children. The last few turns found people crowded together holding flags or with their hands on their hearts. Some were on horseback.
"The military least two generals, a fist full of colonels, and representatives from every branch of the service, plus the color guard which attended James, and some who served with him ... was very impressive and respectful, but the love and pride from this community who had lost one of their own was the most amazing thing I've ever been privileged to witness.
"I've attached some pictures, some are blurry (we were moving), but you can get a small idea of what this was like."

reprinted from
Mad About Redlands
Summer, 2005
with permission of the editor
Eric Negron

With summer comes the Fourth of July, a time when we celebrate our freedom and honor those who served and are still serving in the Armed Forces.
On (the) cover is Erik Lopez, a young man who grew up here in Redlands and has just returned home from Iraq. I had a chance to sit in on the interview with Erik and could hardly believe that this was the same person who, as a child played football with my son in front of our home.
I am proud of you, Erik. On behalf of Redlands, and the rest of the United States, thank you.
You can read about Erik (below) ~ a story of courage, faith, and decisiveness ~ written by Brad L. Smith, who also served our country well in Vietnam.
~ Eric Negron, Editor

~ by Brad L. Smith
  The massive explosion left him dazed; unsteady on his legs. Only his training and keen sense of duty kept him vertical. Lance Corporal Erik Lopez, USMC, took up the slack as his finger tightened on the trigger. Any one of the dozens of Iraqis running toward his position could be another suicide bomber ~ and both his training and his duty told him to open fire....

"Since I was five years old I've always wanted to be a Marine and a pastor" said 22-year-old Erik Lopez. Erik was born in East Los Angeles. His family lived in Montebello before his dad got a better job as a social worker and the Lopez family moved to Redlands. Young Erik attended Lugonia and Crafton Elementary Schools, Moore Middle School, and REV, before graduating from Redlands High.
In 2001, shortly after "9-11," Erik joined the Marine Corps Reserves. After the first year, however, he was called up to active duty. He was sent to the Alasad Air Base ~ the second largest U.S. Air Base in Iraq ~ 100 miles west of Baghdad. There, with the Military Police, he manned this key installation's ECP (Entry Control Point) ~ the most dangerous job on the base.
On October 23, 2004, Lance Corporal Lopez was at his post with two other Marines. A taxi cab drove up and got in the wrong line. This wasn't all that uncommon, since the Iraqi police who train on the American base often come to classes by taxi. They've mistakenly pulled into the wrong line before. This time, however, it was no mistake. The cab was packed with 155 mm Russian rockets and a detonator!
"It was about 150 feet away when it blew," said Erik. "I remember seeing a bright light. It felt like the shock wave went right through me. I thought I lost my legs, and then realized I was running. If you've ever had a dream where you're running in slow motion, that's what it was like. My legs felt like Jell-O."
Erik made it to a defensive position and dug in for the worst. SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) is not to allow anyone on the base after an initial attack. Now Iraqi civilians were swarming toward him. He didn't know which of them were "friendlies," looking for safety, and which might be other suicide bombers. Time was running out; they were crossing the tank track, the point where you "shoot first and ask questions later."
"I was pumped up," recalled Erik. "My adrenaline was going. I felt threatened. There was a bunch of guys coming down that little funnel of barbed wire fast. It takes just one of those guys with an explosive vest, and forget it, you're done for. I started to pull the trigger, when I felt something compelling me to use the megaphone instead."
Erik picked up the megaphone and shouted in Arabic for them to stop. For once, they listened to him, he said. Later he found out that a whole squad of his fellow Marines was deployed at a higher position behind him, waiting for the first shot. If Erik had fired, they all would have opened up on the remaining Iraqis. It would have been a massacre! "The LORD must have been looking after them," said Erik.
For his grace under fire and for keeping his cool, Erik was awarded the Navy/Marine Corps Achievement Medal. "The LORD is good," said Erik. "Everyone who saw the cab explode thought for sure we were all dead. The actual explosion engulfed our position. Twenty Iraqis died in the blast. The cab was so packed with explosives that the only thing recovered was half of the engine block!"
If you ask Erik why they are over there, risking their lives on a day-to-day basis, he may tell you about the first Iraqi elections in January: "During the elections, it was awesome! We bused the Iraqis that came to our base to the polls so they could vote. From old people to young teenagers, they were so ecstatic. They were partying, dancing, and singing."
Today Erik is stationed in San Diego, but he spends weekends with his family in town here. Erik attends Calvary chapel in Redlands. When his active duty ends May 31, he will be joining their internship program to work with youth.
"I've always looked up to pastors. I've always wanted to learn about the Bible. Something about it really intrigues me. I love what they do. That's what I ultimately want to do in life."
Erik admits there are other things he could do..."But I don't feel that's my calling. I could make good money; be living 'cush,' but then I wouldn't be relying on the LORD to provide for me. I'd just be relying on my own qualifications. This way it's one step at a time; the LORD is just teaching me to trust Him."
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