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Guarded Patriotism

From 'Best of 2002'

by Casey White
July 7, 2003

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Guarded Patriotism_Casey White-From 'Best of 2002' When I visited Mt. Rushmore recently, I noticed the hightened level of security... the National Guard could be seen just about everywhere in the surrounding area of South Dakota's Black Hills.

We've all seen this familiar monument many times on TV, we've seen it in the classic Hitchcock film, "North by Northwest," and we have read about it in the history books. But nothing is quite like seeing it in person, and I must say, it was quite majestic and inspiring. The park was updated and well done. The paths were interesting. The lookout points... reflective.

My favorite lookout point was the one closest to the mountain ridge, where the Presidents' heads can be seen clearly by looking nearly straight up. Boulders littered the side of the mountain - rubble from the blasting and carving done more than a half-century ago by the sculpters. Strong, life-like features, seen up close, revealed secrets of the artists' skill in creating magic from rough-hewn stone.

I was struck by the quiet awe observed by citizens and foreigners alike, and I was drawn to observe the many families impacted by viewing the site together. Parents were explaining why they were so proud to be Americans, and passing their patriotism on to their offspring.

A group of young men, post high-school, made their way to the front of this observation deck, and exclaimed the same awe as the rest of us, but not as quietly. One of them in particular, with goatee and earring, expressed his thrill to the small crowd on the wooden platform. "They're awesome, aren't they?" he said to nobody in particular, and to everyone. "Washington, Lincoln... and Jefferson, I think." He then paused, and turned around to ask, "Hey, who is that other dude? The guy with the glasses... Is that John Denver?"

PS: My favorite moment of the evening at Mt. Rushmore was when the amphitheatre's U.S. Flag was lowered to "Taps." I was on a multi-step pathway descending toward the sculptors' studio. As the trumpet began to play, another group of young men, approximately 15 rifle-toting National Guardsmen, who were walking up the path toward me, turned toward the flag, and saluted in silence as our flag closed on another day. No rocket's red glare. No bombs bursting in air. Only the Presidents and myself viewing this quiet salute in the wooded crevice. And I shivered with pride.

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