Two unrelated events occurred in Tooele County last week that say a lot about who we are as a community, and who we are as Americans.
The first event was a small, yet sincere act of generosity that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. It carries a symbolism that strikes deep at the heart of every American who loves this country, and the men and women who choose to put their lives in harm’s way for us.
At last Wednesday’s Tooele City Council meeting, a soldier family, one of whom served in Afghanistan, bestowed a sacred honor and gift to Tooele City Mayor Patrick Dunlavy and the city council. Timothy Fagan, a recently retired specialist from the Utah National Guard, along with his three sons who also serve in the military, presented a U.S. flag to the city.
However, it wasn’t just any U.S. flag with 13 stripes and 50 stars. This one, with a stature 9 feet high and 16 feet wide, flew over a U.S. base in Iraq. It made its way to America by way of a fellow soldier and friend of Fagan who had been deployed to the Middle East. With the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq a week ago, the flag is a prized possession any soldier would want as a keepsake.
Yet Fagan and his family gave the flag a higher purpose. Enclosed in a beautiful glass and wooden case handmade by a local veteran, the flag was given to say “thank you” for waiving monthly city utility bills of active duty personnel. While Fagan was in Afghanistan and further served his military orders, the city didn’t bill him. This provided appreciated relief for his family while the man served his country.
Fagan said he didn’t present the flag for himself, but as appreciation from all soldiers who live in Tooele City. Thanks to his selfless act, and to the city’s policy of waiving utility bills for active duty personnel, we’re reminded about the true nature of the giving American spirit, and to honor our men and women in uniform.
The second event we can admire with pride is the 129th Grantsville Old Folks Sociable that was held Saturday at Grantsville High School. Renowned as the longest running community event in Utah, the sociable also strikes at the heart of many American values. Started in 1884 at the request of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the sociable’s purpose is to honor the community’s elderly citizens.
For almost 130 years, the idea has stuck. With the exception of just two years — the smallpox epidemic of 1901 and the influenza outbreak of 1919 — the sociable has been held annually without fail. What makes this amazing event possible each year is Grantsville citizens’ dedication to make it happen — with excellence. Thanks to the organizers and volunteers who have donated countless hours, the sociable’s entertainment and food are not just about tradition. The sociable has ultimately become a symbol of American goodness by strengthening societal and family ties and honoring elderly citizens who have contributed much to the community’s success during their lives.
A sincere round of acknowledgment and gratitude to this year’s sociable co-chairs Debbie Allred and Merrill Nelson, and to more than 150 volunteers, for yet another successful and memorable event. Their work, and the sociable itself, is a model for other communities across America to emulate.