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Saturday, July 4, 2015

Random thoughts on the Fourth of July

First off, I’d like to thank Almighty God for my adopted country, America the beautiful and powerful.

I thank America for having given me the opportunity to serve her in defense of her freedom and democracy, independence and liberty. As always, I pray, “God bless the United States of America.” May she continue to be the symbol of freedom, liberty, independence, democracy, justice, and equality for all.  

The Fourth of July is more than a celebration of sale events for businesses in all of the 50 states that contribute to the income and revenue of both individuals and corporations, and the economy of the United States of America, in general.

It is not only a day off from work or school but also a day spent with family and friends barbecuing, cooking out, picnicking in the park, enjoying concerts, fireworks, jubilation, sharing together their freedom, dreams, frustrations, and politics.

It is a celebration of unity and thanksgiving to the founding fathers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and all veterans, dead or alive, retired or active or reserve.

It is an important event that have made and continues to make the United States of America  great. Why? Because America is independent and free, liberated and yet united! She has the freedom that is so unique from the rest of the world since July 4, 1776. As the leader of the Free World, she represents the world because of her diversity of people. She is truly a nation of immigrants who desire to get better and be free from poverty, lack of will power, all the indignities that reduce the worth and value of being a part of the human race.

It’s a fact that freedom is all that every human being wishes to have. But not everyone has it. It is this freedom America has that makes her unique and great, and powerful. It is this freedom that many Americans have fought, died and cherished  for generations to come. It is this freedom that leads America to help free other nations from oppression and abuse of power from autocrats and dictators. Yes, it is this freedom that sets others free and independent. It is this freedom that perpetuates liberty, justice, peace, and the rule of law and order, and equality for all.

The Fourth of July is an annual, national holiday celebration of freedom and liberty, an Independence Day for all Americans both here and abroad, It is also celebrated by non-American citizens and immigrants and their relations who are freedom-lovers and keepers and have lived here in the United States and her territories for years. They do what they can do to help preserve that freedom they so cherish and enjoy. Others have served in the armed forces of the United States, and others have died in defense of freedom. These veterans of different wars and conflicts engaged by the United States have never wavered their conviction of protecting our country’s freedom and independence. They and other public servants have volunteered to serve to defend our freedom and the United States wholeheartedly without reservation.

This freedom, liberty and independence, and the pursuit of happiness and equality by all are what embodies the United States of America! These are the embodiment of democracy that makes America a beacon of hope, a paragon of all that is great and ideal and beautiful.

It’s been a common knowledge that Independence Day or the Fourth of July is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from Great Britain.

What better way to commemorate and celebrate the Fourth of July than to recall an immortal speech from an American lawyer, planter, and politician turned famous orator from Virginia, Patrick Henry, who said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forgive it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.”

Happy Fourth of July!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A new puppy in the house*

In my 32 years of living in the United States, I have , for the first time, a new puppy, and I'm so very happy to have him in my family.

Frankly, I never really thought much about having a dog. But that changed when a friend of my sister-in-law Rose dropped by my house one recent afternoon. Tee, Rose's friend, mentioned having a number of puppies and older dogs in her townhouse.

She was very persuasive. She even called me, "Uncle," when she learned that I'd retired from the U.S. Navy after 20 years of honorable service.

I finally decided to see her last puppy.

At her townhouse, Tee, handed me a wiggly, brown, cute puppy a mixed breed of Chihuahua (mother) and a Yorkie (dad). He's less than two months old, she said. We had a connection right off the bat! He was that cuddly and sweet. He was that cuddly. So adorable.

After the deal was done and some information about him provided, we headed to Petsmart, where we bought Puppy's crate and bed, food, collar, leash and some toys. We were the last customers around because we had so many questions about keeping a dog in the house.

Thanks to the employees, especially to Dan and Sarah, also pet trainers at PetSmart in North Suffolk, for their help and useful information they shared us.

Now, the bonding and responsibility have begun. So far, so good. Puppy and I are getting along, and we're both learning from each other, while adjusting to this new adventure.

He's such a blessing. We have had several walks and around the yard, front and back, and quality playtime on our wooden deck. It's fascinating how a small puppy can make a difference in one's life. I consider him a pain reliever, truly a godsend.

He's such a baby, helpless and hapless, needing care and attention, and I imagine I'll pamper him.

Puppy is now the apple of our eyes at home. He gives me company and keeps me busy attending to him. As a young dog, he needs all the help he can get as he continues to adjust to his new home and owner. I am thankful we have wireless Internet so I can do some research about how to care for him as he grows up.

Dogs are man's best friend , they say. They're also intelligent. With proper training, they follow commands, do amazing tricks and help solve crimes.

This summer will undoubtedly be a memorable and enjoyable one for me, because of the arrival of Puppy in my family.

Time to go outside with Puppy. See you guys later.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the award-winning Suffolk-News Herald, Tuesday, June 30, 2015.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Some fun in the summer sun*

It's summertime! It's the season of hot and humid weather in Virginia.

Summer---the time to indulge in special treats, frozen delights, ice cream, coolers, watermelons and vegetables, especially local produce. It's the time to wear sandals, flip flops, shirts and shorts, and shades.

Yes, summer is here, like it or not. Iced-cold drinks are in demand to quench one's thirst or to combat summer heat. Whew, sizzling summer is now in full swing! Heat and humidity are becoming unbearable. So, watch out for the elderly and pets. They're vulnerable to heat-related injuries.

Weeks before the official arrival of summer, air conditioning units in homes and businesses already had been turned on for everyone's comfort.

Lots of activities (outdoor, especially) await, especially for children who need a break from school and clamor for vacation somewhere. They are ready to experience and learn new things.

Many parents already have planned something for their children, whether summer camps, road trips, cruises or vacation Bible school programs.

How and where do you plan to spend your summer vacation? At home? Out of town? Out of the country? Whatever you do, be safe while having a good time out there.

Safety is everyone's responsibility. Whether you're traveling, cruising, camping, gardening or working, observe safety at all times.

Heat exposure is a concern this summer. There are preventive measures you can take to avoid heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke or hyperthermia and other conditions associated with hot weather.

While you are away from home, your house should be properly locked, pets taken care of and cars and other valuable property kept safely. If you have a neighbor or friend you can trust, let him or her know, ahead of time before your getaway, to keep an eye on your house and property.

Keeping the community safe is everyone's responsibility. We are the eyes and ears of law enforcement officers. Therefore, report to the police anything or anyone that's suspicious in your neighborhood. Don't be a victim of crime. And don't take justice into your hands.

Prevention is the key to an enjoyable summer vacation, whether it's prevention of crime, prevention of heat-related illness or prevention of drowning? Practice prevention and common sense.

Summer reading is one activity that young and old should not overlook while enjoying summer somewhere. Learning is ageless and timeless, and it continues for all seasons.

Parents, bring your kids to the library and engage them in worthwhile activities that challenge them to think, to question and be curious, to wonder (and wander). Give them a book appropriate to their age level. If you need help, ask the librarian. Check out if the library has a summer reading program for different age groups.

Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body. That's the quote from Joseph Addison (1672-1719), an English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician. Your body is stimulated and your muscles become strong when you exercise. You stimulate your brain and become smarter when you read.

Have a fun-filled, safe and stimulating summer!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Wednesday, June 24, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Congratulations and best wishes*

Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

I would like to share his message with Suffolk's Class of 2015. A good education is your passport to a better, successful life. A better you is a byproduct of a good education.

You probably have mixed feelings about leaving the school where you've spent four years learning, (day)dreaming, acquiring skills and experiences, building bridges and relationships, meeting challenges and adjusting to the changes in your life.

Now, you're ready to on that cap and gown and listen to the strains of "pomp and Circumstance" as you march across the stage to receive your diploma. You are ready to move on with your life. you are ready to go out and, (as Mark Twain said) explore, dream and discover.

On your graduation day, the focus is on you, graduates. Nothing can stop you now. Cherish the moment. Enjoy and celebrate this joyful, memorable day with your friends, family and even teachers who have encouraged and inspired you to never give up.

Take as many snapshots as you can to document the culmination of your high school life. Thank your parents and your teachers for a job well done, and, if you're religious or have a deep faith in the Almighty, thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed on you---good health, mind and body, loving and caring family, good friends and excellent teachers.

You deserve all the recognition, because you finally made it. It's worth all the effort, and you've overcome all the obstacles, challenges and stresses of high school. Now, be happy and enjoy the moment. Then, party safely and responsibly.

It has been said that "knowledge is power." With the knowledge, skills and experiences you have acquired so far, you're ready to move on.

Get out of your comfort zone and realize that long-cherished dream. Don't be afraid to fail. Take the risk. Never give up. Keep on learning.

Use your knowledge and skills to further your education and economic condition. Use them to build bridges that connect, not walls that divide. Use them to promote family stability and solidarity, world peace and unity among humankind.

Remember, the future belongs to you, because you are the future.

You are our future leaders. You have the power and responsibility to share that knowledge and skills and training to others. You have the drive, the stamina and the vision to change the world, to solve societal problems that are affecting the vast majority of global population.

Once again, to the Class of 2015, congratulations and best wishes!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran and former high school and college instructor, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, June 5, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Honoring the ultimate sacrifice*

Once again, it's Memorial Day in the United States, a special holiday to remember and pay tribute to those who have served our country and paid the ultimate sacrifice---losing their lives---in order for us to live peacefully and free.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is an annual national holiday observed on the last Monday of May to honor the memory of our service men and women who died for our sake. It has been a tradition to decorate the gravestones of our dead soldiers with U.S. flags, flowers or wreaths.

Some of our valiant veterans came home alive while with memories of of doubts and fears on the battlefields. They shared with us their war stories, their sentiments and ailments, dreams and nightmares.

Others shared their lives lost, their unblemished and unquestionable service and sacrifices, their innocence and courage, bravery and humility. But they didn't die in vain. They will never be forgotten.

Although they are no longer in our midst, our dead service men and women remain alive in our memories, our hearts and minds because of the unwavering devotion, service and sacrifices they've made. Their bravery, in defense of our freedom and country, can never be underestimated. And their legacy of service and sacrifices live on as an inspiration to all of us.

Their good and noble deeds have made America the leader of the free world. Through their sacrifices, we are all beneficiaries of democracy, freedom and liberty.

Therefore, on this special day of observance and commemoration, we thank, honor and remember our brave soldiers and veterans, our dedicated men and women of the U.S. armed forces, who have proudly served and sacrificed, fighting to achieve and preserve the peace and the freedom we cherish and enjoy.

As we try to enjoy the Memorial Day weekend, while we gather together in churches and cemeteries to offer solemn prayers and lay flowers or wreaths for our dead veterans, let's pause for a few moment and reflect on the many contributions our veterans have made to our great nation. To our unsung heroes of war and peace, Thank You!

Below is my poem, "In Loving Memory," which I humbly dedicate to all of our dead service men and women:

In Loving Memory

With hope and valor
You fought for freedom
Without fear or reservation
You shed tears and blood
To the end...

Committed to defend your country
You fought decisively,
Struggled hard to win victory
With so much pain,
Sacrifice and suffering...

In the service to humanity
You left us a legacy
To cherish and to uphold
That love for one's country 
Is worth dying for!

Gone but not forgotten
Yet honored today, yesterday, forever
You, the unsung heroes, 
The freedom-lovers and -fighters,
The peacemakers and peacekeepers...

You will always be our ideal, our inspiration
For a better life, a world
Where there is love and unity,
Peace and brotherhood
Among humankind!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Friday, May 22, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

In praise for great teachers*

Have you ever wondered what would we be without teachers? There would be no professionals, career men and women, presidents, members of Congress, judges, clergy, chefs, salespersons, scientists, military personnel, police officers, writers, editors, counselors, managers, politicians or pundits.

This is National Teacher Appreciation Week. Thus, it's appropriate to express our sincere appreciation to all teachers for their dedication, love of learning, professionalism and public service.

Thank you for being there for our students. As you continue to mold and shape young minds, may your devotion and passion inspire them to excel and succeed in the future. May God bless you and your families.

Teachers focus on ensuring their students' success, one lesson plan at a time. What they do is tremendously valuable and important to nation-building and community development. With their knowledge and expertise, they train our future leaders to operate in a changing society, a volatile world.

Budget cuts in education are always an issue in government funding, but most teachers remain true to their calling. They do what they can with whatever remuneration they receive. Though they don't receive regular pay raises, most rarely complain about it. They are too busy in the classroom, making sure that the school curriculum is followed and implemented and that their students pass the required Virginia Standard of Learning tests and other high-stakes tests and benchmarks.

Teachers deserve more than a pay raise. They deserve our respect.

Teachers are in the classroom, first and foremost, to instruct, not to police, counsel, judge or condemn. They have objectives to accomplish each day. But if they're always dealing with students with behavioral problems, they will be far behind in the implementation (and execution) of their lesson plans, and their students who are eager to learn will be deprived of learning. Parents of rowdy students should recognize the harm this does to classrooms.

Teachers can only do so much to help our students. It's our responsibility, as parents, to instill discipline on our children. We are their first teachers. They learn what they encounter at home and in the community, and what they learn they bring to school.

Teachers can bring out the best in students. With their knowledge, skills, expertise and professionalism, they challenge students to be the best that they can be.

We entrust them with our children, because we know they will guide, enlighten, instruct and influence them to be productive and law-abiding members of society.

Again, thank you, teachers---especially to my wife, who is a veteran chemistry teacher---for all the good you do.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com.

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, May 5, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com
  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Responsible parents beget responsible children*

Decades ago, my education professor used to say, "Education starts from womb to tomb."

When I became a parent, in 1988, I realized how important early child education is and the impact it has on early child's development and future success.

Child development involves early education, with parents playing the leading role in this reponsibility. Even if the baby is still in the mother's womb, learning takes place.

I remember those early days when I used to talk to my first baby when he was still in his mom's womb. He responded when I said, "Kick, baby, kick." I read Mother Goose rhymes to him and sang baby songs for him. I recited letters of the alphabet and also counted one to 10 for him. He responded when I spoke to him. I did the same thing to my second child.

Both my children were my "case studies." I studied them, while providing them opportunities to learn. My wife and I took time to teach them the basics---their ABCs, numbers, colors,letter and number recognition, reading and writing---at a very early age.

Books and other reading materials were scattered everywhere in the house. I "tested" them to find out if they were curious enough to open a book. and they did, especially the picture books.

We taught them simple prayers, took them to church and cultural shows, and encouraged them to be creative. They raised questions, and we tried to answer them the best we could. We also visited libraries. Eventually, they developed the habit of reading and loving books early.

By the time they entered school, they were ready to learn more. And more they did from their teachers, fellow students and other people around them. Consequently, their preschool teachers didn't have problems with our children. We continued guiding and helping them with their homework and school projects.

Young children learn what they see and experience at home and in the community. Their brains are like sponges that absorb everything they're exposed to. Therefore, as their first teachers, we should provide them with an atmosphere of learning environment and a variety of learning materials and equipment.

In her letter to the editor, Suffolk News-Herald, Saturday, April 18, Mary Grace Garner-Atkins wrote that too many children are not ready for school. She observed that they're "ill-prepared" and have not been taught responsibility for their actions.

Why? Who's to blame for this early educational problem? Their parents, of course. Responsibility resides in the parents who conceived these children.

Parents, take heed of Garner-Atkins' plea: " Make it your aim to teach your children how to be responsible, to get along with other children, to be honest and to thank you and their teachers for helping them to grow up to be good, reliable adults." Amen to that.

Educational responsibility starts at home. Home is where children learn to love to learn and be responsible.

As parents, we are supposed to be role models for our children. If they see us as responsible, they will also be responsible someday. And if they ever have families of their own, they will carry on that responsibility and apply those family values and virtues learned at home.

If we are not responsible for their early education, who will be? The government? Teachers? The government can only do so much, and so can the teachers. They are our partners in educating our children.

Responsible parents beget responsible children.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at chris.a.quilpa@gmail.com

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Sunday, April 26, 2015. For more information, visit www.suffolknewsherald.com.