America the Beautiful: Parting reflections on the All-America City experience

America the Beautiful: Parting reflections on the All-America City experience

Posted on July 19, 2013 by Alicia Chalmers

America the Beautiful. The setting was Denver, Colorado. The spirit of patriotism for our country was in the air, and I couldn't help but be reminded of this great song. I am so unbelievably proud to have represented Sarasota County as a delegate at the All America City Awards. I was there as an "expert" on the Legacy of Valor campaign and partnership with the National Cemetery Administration to create Patriot Plaza at Sarasota National Cemetery.

The All-America City experience is and will remain one of the greatest experiences of my life. I witnessed first hand how much our country is proud of our veterans and our active military personnel. We truly are America the Beautiful inside and out.

The tenets of Legacy of Valor are to honor veterans, inspire patriotism, and embrace freedom. This was a common thread throughout All-America City, and it was so touching to see how the other communities were passionate and proud of their work for and with veterans.  From grassroots projects that help individuals in need to launching a campaign to construct an amphitheater, all of these efforts are meaningful.

The Sarasota County delegation arrived as a tight knit group, bonding through our preparation for our presentation.  As the conference went on, I found that we bonded with the other delegations as well.  There was a sense of camaraderie as we realized that we were all there for the same reasons. Throughout our time there, we were tasked with journaling and I reflected that this must be similar to how the troops and veterans groups must feel, the common bond of sharing an experience together.

I felt like our experience was mirroring what the Legacy of Valor campaign is all about. Legacy of Valor rallies our community, it is a mosaic of community-driven partnerships that is educating, building enthusiasm, and focusing our community to use their time, talent, and treasure to honor veterans and their families. The All-America City experience was a mosaic of America (small cities, big cities, counties) but all were connected by honoring veterans, inspiring patriotism, and embracing freedom. We were all pulling for other cities to do well.

In my journal from the trip, I wrote that we were so lucky to have Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs Steve Muro speak.  One quote from him that resonated with me is that, "the military sacrifices their tomorrow for OUR today."  That is freedom and that is why the foundation of a mosaic has to be so strong.

Patriot Plaza will be the culmination of what continues to rally our community after Legacy of Valor ends. It will be a place of reflection today for the living to honor those that have served and sacrificed, with art connecting the heart and the mind for all ages and for generations to come. For our community and beyond, it will unite us to crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

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