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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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Deal with taxes and move on*

Tax Day: By the end of the day, Americans are required to have filed their income taxes. It's a law we have to live with.

Most of us have already filed our taxes before today's deadline, and most probably either have received their refunds---or, for those, like me, who owe the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) some amount, they've (already) sent their checks.

Decades ago, I used to do my single, then joint, yearly tax returns for both federal and state taxes. But then it became complicated because of a rental house we have and I have had to seek help from a certified tax preparer, who has been doing a great job for my family by filing ours electronically.

Many of us have this procrastination issue---we wait for the last minute to file our taxes. That's just the way it is.

But I decided not to wait to send what we owe to Uncle Sam this tax year. I know our payment will, in one way or another, help make our country stable and safe.

With no more deductions to claim, since our two young adult children are now paying their own income taxes, my wife and I don't expect refunds from our federal tax returns.

Filing our taxes on time isn't something many of us look forward to, but it's easier than ever to get them done on time. It's just a matter of knowing who or where to go for help.

If you're willing to pay for a certified tax preparer or a certified public accountant, it's even easier. But there are also free volunteer tax preparers and organizations in our community willing to help prepare tax returns for people who meet the requirements. These individuals and organizations are to be commended for doing a great job serving our community.

If you've put off filing your taxes until the last minute, that's now. Just deal with it and move on with your life.

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Wednesday, April 15, 2015. For more information, visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Catholic practices remind believers of Christ*

As we commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are mindful of His influence in our lives. His teachings and examples have guided us to a life worth living for and sharing to others.

Our religious practices of prayer, fasting, abstinence, alms-giving, repentance and penance are emphasized. Our renewed faith gives us hope, courage and strength to do good deeds. With Christ in mind and heart, we conquer fear and sin.

With Holy Week in full swing, we're now focused on the observance of the Easter Triduum.

Triduum, commonly pronounced "TRIH-doo-uhm," comes from Latin and means "three days," the most sacred days in the church.

During Triduum, the traditional Jewish practice of counting days from sunset to sunset is used. Hence, Holy Thursday evening to Good Friday evening is the first day; Good Friday evening to Holy Saturday evening, the second day, and Holy Saturday evening to Sunday evening the third day.

Evening Masses are held in Catholic churches all over the world to commemorate the institution of the Eucharist and the sacrament of Holy Orders. The Gospel's account of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples is read.

There's also the symbolic commemoration of the Lord's Supper, in which Christ directed His disciples to carry out the same ritual: "Do this in remembrance of me."

On Good Friday, church worship services relive the passion of Christ. There are readings from the Old and New testaments, but the most important reading is the account of the Lord's passion and death from the Gospel of John. Then there's the prayer of the faith community gathered in the church.

After receiving the communion, parishioners say a final prayer and then leave the church qietly. Our long preparations of fasting and praying, of doing good deeds and listening to the story of Jesus' life and death will have come to an end. And then it's time to wait.

Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday evening is the climax of the Triduum, the high point of liturgical year. It is time to welcome new members into the church through baptism and confirmation and Eucharist.

Liturgy begins in front of the church, and faith community gathers around the new Easter fire blessed by our pastor and used to light the Easter Paschal candle, a sign of the risen Christ in our midst throughout the year.

Once inside the church, we hear the Gospel about salvation and the good news proclaiming that Jesus is risen. We hear the great hymn, "Glory to God in the Highest," sung once again, and we all sing the great Alleluia.

The Elect or catechumens are baptized, and they join us to celebrate the new life coming into the church by gathering in front of the altar, and, finally, receiving communion.

Easter Sunday is a time to celebrate Jesus' resurrection, after His crucifixion. The message, "Christ is risen!" is echoed in all Christian churches.

Happy Easter!

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at 

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, April 1, 2015. For more information, visit

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Looking for someone to blame*

     Since coming to the U.S.A. over 30 years ago, I have learned many things about my adopted country.
     I learned there are Americans who are not homeowners. Before coming here, I did not know poverty was a problem in this country which is known around the globe as the richest and most powerful in the world. I did not know about discrimination until I got here and experienced it. I did not know there were people with bad intentions, taking advantage of others.
     It's tough to reconcile what I learned in school back in the Philippines, an ally and once under American tutelage. We studied U.S. history and government in high school. We loved everything American, and our dream was to be here, experiencing everything American.
     Why is there poverty in a country known to be the richest and most powerful in the world? I don't know, and I don't understand. I wonder what our federal, state and local governments have done to solve the problem?
     The nation's founding documents describe the pursuit of happiness, life, liberty, equality and justice for all. But I've observed inequality in pay and poor living conditions continue to be problems of America.
     Who is responsible for this? Is it the people themselves, and not the politicians and government officials or the millionaires, company CEOs that may be in cahoots with politicians and lobbyists?
     We are quick to blame those in authority, who are supposed to represent us, but instead stick to their party's line, even if their party's votes don't reflect the wishes of the American people.
     When the country is going in the wrong direction, many people are quick to point their fingers at the president, whose power is to execute laws passed by Congress. Why don't we blame Congress, which is charged with the task of making laws for the nation, or the Supreme Court that interprets the laws?
     Everything public officials do should be for the common good of all people in America, right?
     What about our responsibilities, dear people? We were responsible for placing these public officials into office. Aren't we also to blame, then, if everything is not going the way it should be in our government?
     Isn't it supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and by the people?

-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in today's Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. For more information, visit 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Neighbors helping neighbors in Suffolk*

Yes, Virginia, we have volunteers and good people in our midst---ordinary people who do extraordinary deeds.
Suffolk is not in short supply of caring people who volunteer their time and selves to help. They go the extra mile to make a difference in others’ lives.
After Monday’s snowstorm (that brought about 5-7 inches of snow over Hampton Roads on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 16th), our neighbors, Margaret and Ritchie Shermer and their daughter Kate and her fiance Matt (a U.S. Coast Guard), braved the cold Tuesday morning to clear my snow-laden driveway and front yard. 
This act of love on their part reminds me of what they did (again) last year to my family and me, a disabled, retired U.S. Navy veteran.
I thank them for all their help. They showed me to always trust in God. They were God’s instruments of His goodness and love. They reminded me to continue to do good and make difference for others and to always have hope.  
One of our friends in neighboring city, Mike, who saw one of the snowstorm photos I shared to Facebook, commented, “Good things come to good people. May God bless you all.”
I do believe that if you’re good to people, something good come out of it. I keep on thanking God and praying for our good friends and neighbors that we always maintain good relations with them, no matter what the circumstances are in our lives.
Just as I trust our Almighty God, I also trust in the goodness of people. (In Proverbs 3:5-6, we read: “Trust in the Lord with all your might and lean not in thine own understanding, In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path.")
Neighbors are a lifeline when family members are far away. They are your family when no one else is around.. When they know you’re disabled, they are there to extend a helping hand. They are there to look after you. You try to help them, too, with what you have and can do.
Having worked in naval hospitals and clinics, I would say I did my very best to care for patients (and other healthcare beneficiaries to the point that I have this disability). (God knows how) I interacted with them, making sure they get the best care out of me, my knowledge and skills, and life experiences. (Putting myself in their position,) I did my best to alleviate their condition, without any reservation (at all). I treated them the way I wanted to be treated---with dignity, respect, and professionalism.  
I’m so grateful that I have good neighbors like Margaret and Ritchie and family. I’m also fortunate to have lived in a city like Suffolk, where volunteers and good people abound. It’s hard to find them nowadays (in these times and age), when there are so much anger, apathy, indifference, mistrust and suspicion, hatred and intolerance going on around the globe. 
But, I still believe in the goodness of man, that we are all precious gifts of God to one another, that we live for each other in good times and bad.
We are interdependent. No man is an island. You need me; I need you to make me grow and develop, like a child wanting attention and care, and love. Interdependence can never be underestimated.
In this Lenten season, I resolve to have trust and hope and  love for my neighbors, just as I have trust and love in our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. (I pray,) May we have more good and caring people in our midst. God bless us always.

-CHRIS A. QUILPA, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Appeared in the Opinion page of the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Thursday, February 19, 2015. For more information, visit

                                         (c) 2015 Photos and text by Chris Quilpa