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Ute Mine, The Soft-Spoken Hero

(c) Best Years Beacon

Yutao Mine, who likes to be called Ute, was born in Ogden, Utah. When he was only a few months old, his parents moved to Fruita where he grew up on their farm. It was there he met Mypoka, who became the love of his life. Together they had two daughters, Nancy, who still lives in this valley, and Jeanne who now resides in Nevada.

After his girls finished school, Ute and his wife moved to California. They lived there 20 years before Mypoka became very ill. They returned to Colorado where she soon died. He remains a widower.

Now, that's the external part of Ute, which isn't so different from hundreds of other families living here. But Ute is not a common man. He is a hero. You would not expect to see a hero if you looked at him. He is no bear of a man, larger than life and twice as strong. He is a small-statured Japanese American.

Ute served his country in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War 2, which became the most decorated unit in United States history. He was even a German prisoner of war.

To understand Ute, you need to know the times. The United States was at war with Japan, and many of those with Asian features became suddenly suspect. Families were torn from their homes and placed in internment camps, just because of their national origin.

But Ute had never known Japan. He was born here. He was as American as the boy next door. He had no feelings for Japan, but strong feelings for the United States. He wanted, along with all those who served during that time, to defend his country from those who would take away his precious freedom.

Mine's regiment served in Europe because it was felt at the time that it wouldn't be right for Japanese American soldiers to serve against the Japanese. Did they ask the same of German Americans? I have no idea.

Ute didn't care. He and 18,000 others like him served in WWII in the European theater. His unit earned a total of 18,143 total decorations, 20 of them being Congressional Medal of Honors.

Yes, Ute is a hero. He is a Nisei, which means a second-generation American. Only a handful of Nisei remain alive nationwide. We are fortunate to have one of them living among us. To meet Ute is to meet a man of depth and character, a man of humor and wisdom, and a true patriot. His patience and gentleness of spirit sets him apart, and reveals him to be a hero, even today.

A Community That Gives Back

(c) Best Years Beacon

We are all familiar with the Salvation Army. On Thanksgiving they provide dinner for the whole community, never asking if the people deserve the help, or need a sense of family, never asking that income guidelines be met, or if a person has substance abuse issues or emotional problems. They just do this as a community service each year as part of their mission. Sitting at a family-style table, you might be sitting next to a millionaire or a homeless person. Your neighbor might be someone who has suffered a tragedy, or just someone who does not want to dine on Thanksgiving dinner all alone. No one checks. No one asks. Everyone is welcome.

When asked why the Salvation Army does this every year, Captain Terrie Wilson responded, "It's all in the attitude and our mission. We want to develop an attitude of thankfulness, in ourselves and in those we serve." God is gracious, she continues. We give and give, and the Lord continues to richly bless them.

It is this lifestyle of gratitude that has made the Salvation Army what it is today. They have been an organization since 1865, beginning with their stand against slavery, and their willingness to help wherever needed. They have developed shelters to help orphans get off the streets. They have helped prostitutes get out of their bondage. In some cities the Salvation Army has developed whole community centers, after-school programs, fitness centers, senior centers, and a host of other services. Captain Terrie would like to develop a community center here as well that might include recreation for all ages, education programs for all ages, maybe even a community music theater.

In our community they have summer camps for all ages. Can't afford a vacation, but desperately need one? The Salvation Army provides a week-long summer camp for seniors in a scenic environment, full of activities and guest speakers. The cost is a mere $150. Where else can you take a vacation for that price? But for those who can't come up with the money, scholarships are available.

For children who can't afford their school supplies, the Salvation Army has found a fun way to distribute backpacks. They plan their Vacation Bible School week around the backpack giving, so not only do the children receive their school supplies, but they get a fun week in addition.

On Veterans Day they do "Donut Day" at the Veterans Hospital. At Easter they distribute gifts to nursing homes, including a War Cry, the Salvation Army publication, with the gifts.

Speaking of gifts, the Salvation Army is the distribution funnel where many churches contribute, such as the Giving Tree. The Harley Hog Run is a fun toy drive for Christmas. Terrie says she gets to ride with one of the bikers each year.

Why do they do so much? "Our motto," Captain Wilson says, "is 'Do the most good for the most people.' We live by that."

So how does that affect our community? We are grateful for what the Salvation Army does in our community. When their warehouse floor collapsed, the whole community rallied around them. "How can we help?" we asked.

Captain Terrie Wilson and her husband have only been here two years, yet she feels extremely welcome and at home here. We have the kind of community she loves. "It takes a community to care for a community," she says.

Who else can we help? On a secular, non-partisan, level we have Operation Interdependence, a civilian to military delivery system. They provide 25,000 boxes comfort packages to service personnel every month. In every little packet they include a personalized note from someone.

As one serviceman said, "The goodies bags are nice. The things in the bags are nice. But the notes are precious. I have every note sent to me during my time in the military." The time in service can be a very lonely, heart-wrenching time. It takes just good wishes, even from a stranger, to help ease the burden of crushing loneliness. Notes from home make all the difference.

Karen Carley, who is the National President as well as the State Area Manager, began working with Operation Interdependent as a note-writer.

Note writing is something anyone can do. She will accept notes written on napkins, if that's all that is available. Several schools write notes a few times a year, as do some churches and civic organizations. But notes and goodies are needed every month.

How can you help? Everything is donated, even the money for their postage. They can use leftovers from convention center activities, "buy outs" of discontinued items, samples of shampoo, soap, or other hygiene items.

Operation Interdependence raises money and other donations through various activities. They get donated space in events like Country Jam, Rock Jam and the Olathe Corn Festival. Schools volunteer cards given by students on Valentine's Day. With children, of course, only the first name is signed on the cards. Companies and civic organizations take part in an adopt-a-box program. People donate their time in packing meetings to put together the little bags into the shipping boxes. Even their warehouse and utilities are donated.

This year they had their second Mystery Dinner. The dinner is based on the game "Clue," and the audience becomes the detectives. It was a fun way to get the community involved.

But not just this community donates to Operation Interdependence. Karen Carley dropped some very big names of people who contribute to this effort: Bill Bennet, the Oak Ridge Boys, Mark Harman from the television program NCIS and Mel Tillis, to name a few.

But giving back is not just for huge organizations. Individuals can make a huge difference. Every year a group of about ten to twelve people go to El Salvador to help the people there. Although the group is a part of something larger, ESNA, El Salvador North America, the group that travels to this country is very small.

Most of the ones they help are subsistence farmers, meaning they grow all their own food and live only on what they grow.

These ten people help with the school, Seeds of Learning, such as building a classroom or brightening up a dimly lit classroom. They also provide some health care. One of this group who works for a local dentist provides fluoride treatments. They also bring care packages that include aspirin, ointments, toothbrushes, and other health and hygiene items.

Many who go to El Salvador are teachers, and it is not always the same group. The cost of travel is about $2000, so an individual's finances will determine his or her ability to make this trip.

People like Ms. Sherry often do not wish to be highlighted for what they do. Their giving is private and in response to a greater sense of purpose. But to emphasize how one person can give back to the community, Ms. Sherry began, on her own, to provide one meal a month to the homeless shelter. She made a meatloaf dinner, buying the hamburger and making all the meatloaves by herself. She is now being helped by her church that eases the burden by providing different meals, such as roasted chicken. Her church also now helps with other items necessary for the meal, such as potato casseroles and jugs of milk.

This one woman has inspired a whole church to take on this project. What can you do to give back to your community?

Beautiful Mountain Trails-On Purpose

(c) Best Years Beacon

Imagine horseback riding through the back country, the warmth of the sun on your back, the rhythm of the horse beneath you, the scent of pine around you, a refreshing breeze caressing your cheeks.

Then you hear the command to dismount and get out your tools. This is the part of the trail being cleaned today. Trees toppled by winter winds and spring snows have blocked the trail so that even horses cannot get through. The summer season will be here soon enough, and the trails must be ready.

This is the reality of the Grand Mesa Back Country Horsemen. This is their purpose, to work with the Forest Service and the BLM in maintaining public lands for recreational stock use. Not only do they keep our back country trails open, but they clean out corrals and trash from a number of sites.

With the increasing use of ATVs, the demand for access to public lands also increases. So it is also part of the purpose of the Back Country Horsemen to educate the public on how to enjoy our public lands in cooperation with horsemen, livestock and wildlife. Education does not end there. The Back Country Horsemen also provide ways for the general public, both adults and children, to learn about our great outdoors.

One of their goals for this year is to involve teens in their work. The Grand Mesa chapter would like to see some of our children and grandchildren learn by working on the trails themselves. They envision a group of about fifteen youths, accompanied by their parents and other members of the chapter, getting together for both work and fun.

But isn't an organization like this for ranching and farm families? Don't you need a horse to clean up a trail? The truth is, you don't need to be a horseback rider to be a member. You can be as active as you choose. You can attend meetings or just pay dues. You can hike with others in the group. You can ride horses for fun as well as work with chapter members. You can even borrow or "rent" a horse if you want to be more active and cannot justify the expense of owning your own horses. In fact, the Grand Mesa chapter would love to see more non-ranch families become interested. Our public lands belong to all of us.

What if you don't know how to ride, or are an inexperience rider? Many members in the Grand Mesa chapter willingly provide lessons. In fact, Penny Ackerman, the president of the local chapter of Back Country Horsemen, says that people over sixty make up their largest group of those taking horseback riding lessons. The benefits of learning to ride are beyond measure. Teddy Roosevelt once said that the best thing for the inside of a man is the outside of a horse.

As our communities grow, our ranches become fewer, as do our wilderness trails, unless we find ways to advocate for them. Through the Back Country Horsemen of America, the national organization, those who care about wilderness trails speak for us all by successfully lobbying for the needs of people who enjoy the natural world. Grand Mesa Back Country Horsemen is only one chapter. The Back Country Horsemen of America have chapters in every state, with Colorado having chapters all over the state as well.

Cleaning up trails can't amount to much, can it? It can. Just consider that over a six year period, Back Country Horsemen volunteers contributed 630,000 service hours, valued at $12.3 million. The underlying issue is, if they don't do it, it won't get done. Our Forest Service and BLM personnel have neither the time nor the resources to keep up with our multiple miles of trails. Without our Back Country Horsemen, trail after trail would be closed.