A salute to freedom -
ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Among the family members who came to hear Platte Moring III talk (second from left) were Plate Moring Jr., father; William, son; and wife Susan. Daughter Leigh was working at a camp in North Carolina.
The Heritage Celebration held at Slatington Baptist Church on July 4 was a mix of music and a patriotic illustrated talk on the war in Afghanistan.
Members of American Legion Post 16 posted the colors and presented flag pins to all who attended the event, which was sponsored by the Greater Northern Lehigh Chamber of Commerce.
Opening selections, including "Gallant Heroes," "Liberty Bell" and "Stars and Stripes Forever", were played by the Northern Lehigh Community Band.
Master of Ceremonies Jason Breidinger of the Chamber wished everyone a Happy Fourth of July and said the program has been held since 1976.
The Rev. James LeVan gave the invocation, which included the words: "Blessed are the nations whose God is the Lord. We thank you for those who came before us. We need your guidance. God, take the hand of our leaders, those who have been in the service of our nation and those who still are."
Accompanied by the band, the audience joined in singing "The Star Spangled Banner" and recited the Pledge of Allegiance. The Northern Lehigh Community Band played "Amber Waves of Grain" and "His Honor." The Northern Lehigh Freedom Chorus sang "Creation Will Be at Peace" and joined the band in an "Armed Forces Salute."
Members of the service or those with family who were members of a service were asked to stand during the playing of that particular salute. Platte Moring III, the keynote speaker, saluted those who stood.
Breidinger said for those who had never heard the band or chorus, they certainly heard them now. He introduced Moring as a member of the Army Reserve, Retired, who went to school at Emmaus High.
Moring spent many years in several positions of the Judge Advocate's offices, and was three months away from retirement when he got the Raging Bull email - a call to active duty. He went to Fort Dix while awaiting transfer to Afghanistan and began keeping a journal.
Moring retired from the Reserves in 2005 and began writing a book from the journal: "Honor First: A Citizen Soldier in Afghanistan," which was published in 2006.
In his speech, Moring said the Declaration of Independence did not change life. It took five more years and the War of 1812. After that the country was relatively free of attack until Pearl Harbor in December 1941 when 2,400 perished. The next attack was 9/11 in which 2,740 were lost.
Moring used Power Point photos to illustrate the talk. He showed a picture of a C130 with soldiers packed knee to knee in canvas pull-down seats. His unit had 132 people, including some women. There were four operating units in Afghanistan and he went to Kabul.
He said the city receives seven-inches of rain annually and only has one river that is dry for nine months of the year. Eighty percent of the population is illiterate.
The country had been controlled by the Taliban: talib meaning students, and in this case students of extreme religious beliefs. They destroyed a 250-foot-tall Buddha which had been carved into a cliff. He showed the outline where the statue had been. It is now a United Nations protected site.
Sandbags around the bottom half of a coalition tent were to protect against shrapnel. It was 130 degrees one day in Kandahar. The tents are air conditioned.
"We could have bombed it back to the stone age, but it was already there," said Moring.
Much of the travel was by camelback. Some mountain peaks had snow year round.
Afghanistan had a king until 1976. Around his palace in Kabul there was once grass and palm trees but now there is nothing. There are 25 to 35 polluted wells but the Afghans had no choice but to drink from them.
Moring showed a corner market with produce from Pakistan. Meat, mostly lamb, hung from hooks and two months of the year it is fly covered.
If a woman needed a doctor, a male relative would explain the symptoms and get medicine. The woman could not speak to a non-related male.
Due to the Russian occupation from 1978-89 caches of weapons and ammunition are found throughout the country and most males carry an AK-47 on their shoulder. The Russians also left a legacy of land mines.
Camel spiders would hide in the sleeping bags and had to be shaken out every time they were to be used. The spiders were not deadly but could make someone sick for three days.
When the coalition planned to reconstruct the country Italy was given the judiciary, Germany-the police, Japan-disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, United Kingdom-narcotics and the United States, creating an Afghan Army.
When the constitution was being put together, 11 people walked out because they wanted everything in all 11 languages with every ethnicity being treated equally.
Moring was at the constitutional meeting. When others stood, he did and when they sat down, he also did. He asked a translator what it was about and was told he had just voted for the constitution.
Every American unit adopted a village. They learned about the civilian needs in the village and often were able to supply them. It was not from the government. Moring received boxes from his family, Crayola and the Rotary.
Of course, the best part of his deployment was coming home. He concluded by reading the judge's comments to Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. It included the words: "You are no warrior. You are a terrorist. You hate our individual freedom. Here in this society the very winds spread freedom."
To end the program, the chorus sang "America the Beautiful," were joined by the audience in "God of Our Fathers," and finished with "Battle Hymn of the Republic."