Last night, many across America were tuned into the 2019 NBA draft. Once upon a time, when I was growing up, players got drafted and we knew when they showed up on the team. Now, we have all of this commercialized hoopla and some folks stayed glued to the TV for hours on end to see what kid gets picked to go to what team.
As I watched the NBA draft pre-coverage as I sat in my favorite Italian Restaurant, Carmine’s on Spring Valley Road in North Dallas, it hit me. What, and whom do we really cherish, and celebrate in America? I mean we put athletes on covers of magazines and award them with recognition, and multi-million dollar endorsements for taking a knee on the National Anthem, and the American flag.
One just has to ask: when was the last time there was constant coverage about young men and women, Americans, joining the team that keeps us all safe, secure? You know, that team that takes a real field, a battlefield? I would like to see someone, one day, cover a US military basic training graduation ceremony. I know, the President, Vice President, and SecDef all go and speak at the Service Academy graduations . . . but when was the last time we celebrated those young men and women who just complete their eight weeks of basic training? Heck, for me that is more important than watching some NFL or NBA training camp. Those fellas ain’t gonna do anything to keep us safe.
We often say, “thank you for your service” when we see our men and women passing through the airport, and to our veterans. However, the only time we truly feature them is on Memorial Day or Veterans Day when, really, we should be featuring them every month. I cannot tell you how many times, in just the 30 minutes I was there eating my dinner, that I saw cameo shots and profiles of Zion Williamson. I would have rather us see the profile of the story behind a young Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, or Coast Guardsman.
Maybe some of you think this trivial, but ask yourselves: who is more cherished? The young Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine standing watch right now somewhere, preparing for a patrol, perhaps getting ready to support a strike operation against Iran, or a kid who just became a multi-millionaire because he can dribble and shoot a basketball?
This is why I am so glad that I am on an airplane, right now, heading to the Cayman Islands, namely, Cayman Brac. It is time for the annual Dive Pirates trip with our selected recipients.
Who are the Dive Pirates?
“The Dive Pirates Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing scuba diving to persons with disabilities and joining them with the mainstream of divers. Its vision is to create a community of adaptive divers that will dive and travel in the mainstream world of scuba diving through education and overcoming obstacles.”
I have been a board member of the Dive Pirates for going on three years now. As y’all know I am a Master Rated PADI Scuba Diver, and last year I sponsored a former Marine Reconnaissance Major, Wu Khan, on the trip. Wu suffers from a spinal cord injury but just recently, he sent me pictures of himself, with his son, swimming, on vacation in the Bahamas. He confided in me that the trip last year inspired him to work to enable himself to once again walk.
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I just wanted to share with you a story on one of the recipients who will be rejoining us this year.
“When I was diagnosed with MS, I thought my life was over, I didn’t leave my house, I was so mad at this hand life had dealt me. After I met the Dive Pirates I realized I had a whole lot to see and do in this world, they saved my life.”
Those are the words of former Army Specialist John Kennedy in 2016, a recipient of the Dive Pirates Foundation who arrives by wheelchair Saturday to once again spend the week diving and enjoying time with his wife and friends diving the reefs off the shores of Cayman Brac. He is one of six returning recipients, joining nine new recipients, their buddies, instructors and friends comprising the 2019 annual dive trip with the Dive Pirates Foundation.
This year’s theme, Siren’s Song – Call to Adventure, celebrates the call the ocean has over all of us, and the nurturing affects the water offers in making it accessible to those whose arms and legs may not be as mobile as others. From June 22 through June 29, 2019, the Pirates will be rekindling friendships, starting new ones, and enjoying an adaptive sport that includes able-bodied and disabled divers alike to enjoy the same thrill of freedom, wildlife, and beauty.
Trip-goers will be enjoying five days of diving with three dives each day with Reef Divers II, as well as games, contests, and enjoying the grounds of the Cayman Brac Beach Resort.
“Each one of our recipients has a unique story, but one common theme seems to resonate with all of them; they suffered a life-altering injury, and had two choices, let it consume them or persevere,” Dive Pirates Director of Communications Theresa Cortez said.
“We are humbled and honored to a part of that journey focusing on celebrating what we all can do, not our limitations.”
The motto of the Dive Pirates is “We don’t see disabilities, we see possibilities.” Think of the incredible life-changing opportunity it is for these men and women — our true MVPs — to have this serene moment. We all find a way to raise funds to make it happen. Yes, this is what we must do for our veterans. Yet, consider all the government funds that are spent on giving illegal immigrants drivers licenses. Or how about the money spent on hormone treatments and special accommodations for gender dysphoric illegal immigrants? Or just plain consider all of the taxpayer dollars that go to support illegal immigrants, but, no government grants to train, equip, and deploy our wounded warriors on a diving trip.
What, and whom, do we cherish in America? Well, I am going to share with you the stories of these Pirates over the next four days while we are on Cayman Brac. For a few days, we are not going to mention the stuck on stupid comments, such as America running a concentration camp on the border. Just for a few minutes of your day, I am going to bring you the stories of these men and women who were not “drafted” but stepped forward, volunteered, to serve us, and our Constitutional Republic.
They did not run fast, catch, or shoot a ball. Nah, they just said to all of us, “Go, sleep well, I am standing watch on Freedom’s rampart. And I would lay down my life for you.”
These are the ones we should cherish. Their service, sacrifice, and commitment is what we should honor every damn day!
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During his 22 year career in the United States Army, Lieutenant Colonel West served in several combat zones and received many honors including a Bronze Star, three Meritorious Service Medals, three Army Commendation Medals, one with Valor device, and a Valorous Unit Award.
In November of 2010, Allen was elected to the United States Congress, representing Florida’s 22nd District. In July of 2020, Mr. West was elected Chair of the Republican Party of Texas.
West is a commissioned officer in the Texas State Guard. He’s a Newsmax Contributor, former Director of the Booker T. Washington Initiative at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Senior Fellow at the Media Research Center, and author of Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Family, Faith and Freedom, Hold Texas, Hold the Nation: Victory or Death, and We Can Overcome: An American Black Conservative Manifesto.