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What is a hero?

By Gen. Peter Pace
United States Marine Corps (Ret.)

Who’s your hero?

We often respond to such a question with the name of a talented actor, gifted athlete, generous philanthropist, charismatic leader or perhaps a famous historical figure. Sometimes we use the word “hero” to describe our admiration and appreciation for those who have broken a world record, overcome personal obstacles to accomplish greatness or even enriched our lives with an act of kindness.

Heroism is more than talent, success, generosity, strength or determination. Heroes emerge when courage and selflessness combine, resulting in amazing acts that serve others.

Our nation’s men and women in uniform demonstrate real heroism every day. Quite simply the finest armed forces in the world, these incredible warriors put their lives on the line to defend the freedoms we all hold dear.

With a full understanding of exactly what service to this nation means – often facing repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan – these young men and women raise their right hands and continue to serve with exceptional courage and selflessness. They remain committed to making a difference, choosing to be part of something bigger than self.

This level of dedication cannot be ordered or demanded, it can only be given. Their gift will ensure that our children, and our children’s children, enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have enjoyed since the birth of this nation.

That gift of service simply would not be possible without our military families, who offer quiet strength and untold support. Through long deployments, they sustain morale from afar while maintaining the family foundation at home, despite daily challenges and unspoken worries. Our military families serve this nation as well as anyone who has ever worn a uniform, and for that we are eternally grateful.

True heroes do not consider the title appropriate. They often describe their personal feats as “just doing my job” – a “job” that makes our other hero-worshipping possible.

This series of articles offers a closer view of just a few of these heroes. By highlighting the courageous and selfless actions of our dedicated military personnel, we honor their service and demonstrate our gratitude.

To our heroes in uniform: Thank you. America values your courage, character and sense of duty.

Gen. Peter Pace retired from the United States Marine Corps in 2007 after 40 years of military service. Beginning as a rifle platoon leader in Vietnam, he rose to the most senior position in the United States Armed Forces, the first Marine to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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Breaking ground at Veterans Memorial Park

The Veterans Memorial Park in McKinney will break ground with a ceremony on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 11 a.m. The $1.2 million memorial park received the final amount of funding for its Craig Ranch location when the Collin County Commissioners Court approved a $300,000 park construction grant last year. The park is anticipated to open on Veterans Day this year.

“This memorial park is extremely important to our entire community. It took a lot of people to help make it a reality, and we are all eagerly anticipating the dedication this fall,” said McKinney Interim City Manager Rick Chaffin.

The memorial is located on a half acre site in Van Tuyl Plaza at Craig Ranch. It will feature a Wall of Honor with the inscribed names of those Collin County servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives in defense of our freedom, while it honors all veterans. A lighted American flag will fly 24-hours a day over the wall. A fountain at the base of the flagpole will symbolically water Shumard Red Oak trees representing each branch of the Armed Services. A ribbon-like walkway will extend from one end to the other.

“It’s been more than five years since we first conceived the idea, and we are all focused on finishing the park in time to honor our fallen soldiers this Veterans Day,” said former Marine and McKinney Armed Services Memorial Board member Ronnie Foster. “This park will provide our community and the entire county with a place to remember those who have fought and died for our freedom, and pay tribute to their sacrifice.”

Rath running against Kever for council seat

Long-time community volunteer Tracy Rath has announced her candidacy for the McKinney City Council District II seat in the upcoming May 14 election.

She faces council member

Geralyn Kever, (pictured at right) who is running for re-election after stopping K2 last year.

Rath has become well-known for her long community service history, as well as her ability to multi-task and make decisions. Over the last 14 years, her strong commitment to give back to the community through her service on boards, committees and non-profit organizations has helped McKinney residents.

Whether renovating a home during McKinney Make a Difference Day, planting trees in conjunction with Crape Myrtle Trails, serving dinner with her fellow Rotarians at the Samaritan Inn, or raising money for a host of other non-profits, Rath brings her spirit to the project.

Her fans say McKinney neighbors might recognize Rath as a driving force in transforming an abandoned historic landmark on the downtown square into the thriving McKinney Performing Arts Center.

Tracy Rath, a mother of two, says she believes McKinney needs leadership who understands that quality of life issues, things like soccer and baseball fields, parks, cultural arts programming, and other amenities brings a community together and help provide a quality of life balance to a fast growing city.

“Even in this difficult economy we can be successful in providing the amenities that our residents expect,” Rath said. “We can maximize our dollars by creating opportunities for more public/private ventures as well as strengthening our relationships with the school district and county. When one area of McKinney is successful, we all benefit.”

As Board Chair of the McKinney Community Development Corporation, she worked with staff and implemented policies and procedures to clarify grant guidelines, streamline grant cycles and created a more transparent sub-committee process.

“All of our meetings are posted and open to the public, even when not required by law,” Rath said. “We are entrusted with being good stewards of sales tax dollars –this year anticipated to be over $8 million– and our citizen’s deserve to have their business done in an open, honest and consistent forum.”

Rath said she believes McKinney needs a collaborative effort “between our government leaders, our citizen volunteers that make up our Economic and Community Development Corporations and our city staff and administration. By working together we can accomplish many things. We have a caring community of doers — great out-of-the-box thinkers — and we need to tap into that knowledge base. By communicating and working more inclusively with established city departments, organizations, and citizen volunteers, we can often bypass high priced consultants.”

“I feel like I have earned an MBA in McKinney,” Rath said. “Leadership McKinney and Citizens Police Academy, along with all of my work with non-profits, and volunteering has given me the perfect experience to jump on board with our City Council and “get to work for the citizens of McKinney.”

For more information on Tracy Rath, please visit the web site: or Facebook Tracy Rath for McKinney City Council.

Youth ‘pilgrims’ read Bible, journey together


Special Contributor

Reading the entire Bible can be daunting at any age. But if you’re 16 or 17, living in a hyper-competitive North Dallas suburb and under pressure to keep up your grades, apply for college, play sports and have some semblance of a social life—it can seem downright impossible.

That’s why Pilgrimage 2011, a Bible study for youth at Custer Road United Methodist Church in Plano, is so incredible. Twenty students have signed on to read the entire Bible together and attend weekly one-hour discussion sessions to share their thoughts about it.

The two-year effort began in 2009 when the “pilgrims” were high school sophomores and juniors. In addition to the Bible study, they spent their last spring break taking a pilgrimage trip through the South, retracing the journeys of civil rights activists in the 1950s and ’60s. Stops included Selma and Birmingham, Ala., Memphis, Tenn., and Little Rock, Ark.

Next summer they’ll finish it all with a visit to London, Canterbury and Oxford, England, to see the birthplace of Methodism. To raise money for the trip, the teens are hosting two garage sales and two auctions. They’re also engaging the congregation through an “adopt-a-pilgrim” program in which adult Sunday school classes partner with the teens to provide spiritual, financial and social support.

The goal is to raise enough money so that all of the teens will be able to afford Bibles, curriculum and the cost of the trips.

“Pilgrimage is an effort to help our students encounter the bigger story,” said the Rev. Mike Baughman, an associate minister at Custer Road, “to read the stuff that most gloss over, to ask the hard questions that only come when you see the big picture, and to get a glimpse of the divine that we can see only when we stare into the eyes of God for a long time,”

Baughman said this is the first time the church has done a Pilgrimage Bible study, and he knows of no other area churches doing a similar teen study combined with pilgrimage trips.

Pilgrimage 2011 is partially modeled after a format used in some Episcopal churches, called Journey to Adulthood. Baughman hopes to start Pilgrimage 2013 next year.

Digging deeper

The congregation at Custer Road believed it was important to offer such a Bible study for teens for several reasons, Baughman said.

“We live in a world that is so fragmented,” he said. “Most things come in sound bites, short clips, bits and pieces, and youth are longing for more. Unfortunately, the church far too often presents the Bible in sound bites, clips and bits and pieces. It’s hard to get a sense for the bigger story.”

Plano produces some highly intelligent kids who need to be challenged, he said. Pilgrimage takes things further to keep these kids connected at a deeper level.

The goal, however, is more than just insight and knowledge. The church wants the pilgrims to know they are part of a larger mission and have a role to play in the story of God and God’s people.

Faith in action

“The trips are so important,” Baughman said. ”They give the teens an opportunity to see how the word of God was lived out by those who committed themselves to God.”

After reading the book of Exodus, the students went to key sites from the civil rights era to see how people in the 20th century lived out the pursuit of freedom. The group will travel to England after reading the whole Bible to see the place where early Methodists worked “to reform the nation and spread scriptural holiness throughout the land,” and thereby changed the world.

“The Bible is God’s word in two dimensions,” Baughman said. ”The trips give us a sense of what God’s word can look like in three dimensions—when it’s lived out.”

The Rev. Tim Morrison, youth and music minister at Custer Road, said the Pilgrimage teens show noticeable spiritual growth.

“These kids don’t just know the Bible, they have a relationship with it; and a relationship is so much more valuable than knowledge,” Morrison said. He added that all of the pilgrims come to church and to youth group more often than they did before.

Sharing insight

The teens are contributing more insight not only to youth group and Sunday school, but also in their English and history classes in school, Baughman said. Several parents have told the pastoral staff that their kids have become much more grounded, confident and positive as they’ve been going through Pilgrimage.

Plano East Senior High School junior Allison Blakley, 16, said the Pilgrimage Bible Study has been life-changing.

Though her parents are believers, Allison had not grown up going to church regularly. She started going to Custer Road with a friend and was accepted into Pilgrimage even though she was a not a member of the church. This year, she felt moved to be baptized and confirmed into the church and now attends regularly.

“I’m so glad I joined Pilgrimage,” she said. “Even though it’s really hard to keep up with all the reading each week, it’s totally worth it to be on this journey with such an amazing group of people. We’ve all grown so close and helped each other understand the Bible and apply it to our lives.”

Baughman said it has been inspiring to watch the teens’ faith mature even though many have undergone faith crises in the midst of Pilgrimage.

“They’ve opened up to each other, trusted one another and been taken care of by one another,” he said.

Sara Campbell is a freelance writer. This article ran in the United Methodist Reporter.

Keith Self: Economic development


The Commissioners Court will consider economic development policies during our February 7 meeting. I will outline my position along the lines of the post below.

One of the most well-known phrases of the Declaration of Independence is, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Did you get that? Governments are established to secure the rights of individuals.

However, government spending is THE issue of our day, not securing your rights.

This issue recently swirled around the State of The Union address; namely, more government spending as investment. The President made clear that he fully intends to continue government spending and control of our economy under the rubric of investment. He said, “Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine.” Can the President really think that government spending, not the private sector, is the engine of our economy?

The Commissioners Court will discuss the same issue as we consider our policies that basically give tax “rebates” to a company or a specific area for economic development. Economic development is a noble goal, but let’s examine the ideas behind government taxes supporting economic development.

Tax policies to drive any number of actions are well accepted today and have the best of intentions. However, as Freidrich Hayek, the author of “The Road to Serfdom” wrote, “If we wish to preserve a free society, it is essential that we recognize that the desirability of a particular object is not sufficient justification for the use of coercion.” Your county taxes, for example, are not voluntary.

Ronald Reagan understood the issue. In his famous 1964 speech, “A Time for Choosing”, he said, “A government can’t control the economy without controlling people. …outside of its legitimate functions, government does nothing as well or as economically as the private sector of the economy.”

Milton Friedman, one of the great proponents of individual liberty in the last century, in his introduction to the 50th anniversary edition of Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom”, “…the promotion of collectivism is combined with the profession of individualist values… Many of those who profess the most individualistic objectives support collectivist means without recognizing the contradiction.” He is saying that some talk a good game on individual liberty, but do not govern that way.

He goes on to say, “To understand why it is that ‘good’ men in positions of power will produce evil, while the ordinary man without power but able to engage in voluntary cooperation with his neighbors will produce good requires analysis and thought.” Results of collectivism are not related to the character of those in elected positions; but to collectivism itself.

Friedman also said that collectivism is simply inefficient. Government does not do a good job of allocating resources. Remember Reagan’s quote above. Why would we believe that we will do better than the private sector in allocating resources across the private sector?

The main stream of the Declaration of Independence, Hayek, Freidman, Reagan, and others understood that individual liberty is both moral and efficient; that collectivism is neither.

Our legitimate role? Provide core functions as required by the State; primarily, but not limited to various health care, certain government services, and a sound justice system. Beyond that, keep taxes as low and government as small as possible. That way you, and every private sector company in Collin County, decide where to allocate your resources.

I expect the county policies to pass by a majority vote. There are those who prefer that government tax more and control more. There is no consensus on the role of government.

The good news is that the $5.4 Million in tax rebates this year pales in comparison to approximately $63 Million remaining in private sector pockets just this year because of the slowing of county operating expenditures over the past few years. You allocated those $63 Million as you chose. And you did so freely.


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