Garrett Wiggins: Why I joined the lawsuit

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Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins

Since being elected and taking over the duties and responsibilities of sheriff, I am humbled more than I ever thought possible as I experience the highs and lows of serving in such a diverse position. Every year, Americans encounter new challenges, both personal and professional, that consume our time, energy and redirect our focus. This is no different for the position in which I serve you.

Early this year, I was inundated with emails and phone calls from citizens concerned about new legislative bills being introduced at the state Capitol regarding gun control. Hearts break and thoughts and prayers go out to the families and victims of the recent horrific incidents around our nation, which seem to be the center of this gun control debate. But to many citizens, these bills are viewed as an intrusion on the Second Amendment and will do little to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals or the mentally ill. I was asked to become familiar with these bills and to get involved as an expert witness during these legislative debates by many Routt County citizens as well as the County Sheriffs of Colorado organization.

A common topic during these conversations was a reminder that the sheriff is a position of trust supported by an oath of office, an elected servant chosen by the people and an individual they expect to stand firm to protect their freedoms and rights. I have taken several oaths of office during my career as a law enforcement officer and I always have taken my oath seriously. I understand that the promise of keeping an oath or keeping your word is a true testament to a person’s honor and integrity. It is also a reality that individuals serving in elected or appointed positions will often need to make decisions and take positions on political topics that will result in applause and praise from some and anger and hate from others. Personally, I experienced both support and discontent as a result of my involvement and position regarding these bills. One fact that remains true and is something I must live with is that no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to please everyone all the time.

The new proposed gun bills created constitutional concerns with citizens and additional concerns for law enforcement officials over the possibility of negative impacts on law enforcement resources. By their nature, I was already familiar with the bills being discussed because of the direct correlation to law enforcement. As requested, I and many other Colorado sheriffs became more involved in these proceedings. Many Colorado sheriffs spent several days at the Capitol speaking to legislative committees discussing both the positive and negative aspects of these bills. It was during these discussions that we all realized early input from law enforcement did not occur in the initial drafting period of these bills. This fact was brought to light only when testimony from law enforcement officials articulated and pointed out the many legal issues and complications with the bills’ content. The end result was the passage of several highly confrontational and debatable bills signed into law.

The signing of these bills into law did not put an end to the debate. Multiple lawsuits are being filed by many facets of the private and public sector. Some lawsuits are based on the belief that these laws violate several amendments to the U.S. Constitution, including the Second and Fourteenth amendments and the possibility of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

One of the many lawsuits is being filed by attorney Dave Kopel, research director for the Independence Institute, on behalf of 54 Colorado sheriffs. Attorney Kopel has agreed to represent all the county sheriffs pro bono, meaning at no cost or risk to the sheriffs or the counties they represent.

The participating sheriffs agree that legal action is a necessity because the new laws are extremely problematic with regard to their enforceability and could pose a drain on already stressed resources. The new laws are perceived as being very poorly written with so much ambiguity that a clear understanding of the laws by citizens and law enforcement personnel could be inconsistently interpreted from agency to agency, resulting in law-abiding citizens being unduly arrested. In addition, sheriffs are being encouraged by many of the citizens they serve to file suit based on the belief that the new laws violate constitutional law. The relief sought if the sheriffs prevail is an injunction against the enforcement of HB 1224 and HB 1229. If judgment is decided in favor of the defendant, then our desire is to establish clear, articulate direction in regard to enforcement.

Regardless of the outcome, the sheriffs feel we have represented all of our citizens to the best of our ability. A court ruling will provide direction and clarity to all Colorado citizens, law enforcement personnel and hopefully put an end to this debate.

From a personal and professional standpoint, I feel I need to be honest and transparent with all Routt County citizens in explaining my decision to be included in the lawsuit. When conversations first began about taking legal action against the state, the extent of risk was unknown, as was the basis of the suit that would be filed. Because of the initial unknown variables, I chose to remain neutral and not engage in legal action.

After weeks of deliberation and discussing the details with attorneys, law enforcement officials and local business owners, coupled with the overwhelming encouragement from citizens on both sides of the issue, I changed my position and agree that pursuing clarification through this avenue would benefit everyone. This option is viewed by most as a win-win action regardless of personal opinion or belief, and a court ruling should give closure once and for all.

I have always had an open door policy and I encourage anyone who has questions or comments to contact me for a one-on-one discussion. My preference is a personal, face-to-face discussion, but I realize everyone is as busy as I am, so emails or phone calls are fine, too.

Garrett Wiggins is the sheriff of Routt County. He can be reached at gwiggins@co.routt.co.us and 970-870-5501.

Comments

john bailey 1 year, 3 months ago

thank you sheriff Wiggins for the letter. 54 out of what, 64 counties I believe, says a lot to me . what say you?

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Just being a partisan Republican.

Most counties are rural Republican counties representing relatively few people. Look at a map of Colorado's legislature by party and, by land area and counties, the Republicans appear to own the state. But then you look at population centers and the success the Democrats have in cities then you see why the Democrats have a majority in both legislative houses.

Didn't see a single legal argument on why he thinks the law is unconstitutional. That a law is enforced differently by different departments is very often true. Sheriffs in different counties have had radically different criteria for issuing concealed carry permits. Would that imply that concealed carry laws are unconstitutional? Of course not.

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bill schurman 1 year, 3 months ago

Cannot (read: will not) enforce the laws that you have sworn to uphold ? Then resign.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

Are you talking about G. Wiggins or The Obama Administration, Bill???

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Joe Meglen 1 year, 3 months ago

When Sheriff Wiggins’ announced that he will not enforce the new Colorado gun laws, this decision was not made in a vacuum. Constitutional and law enforcement experts were consulted. Experts concluded that the laws were unconstitutional and effectively impossible to enforce. Dozens of sheriffs and legal experts testified, or tried to, at hearings that were “supposed” to address the merits of the gun control legislation. Testimony not supporting the bills was severely curtailed. Some legislators were disrespectful to those not supporting the legislation. Senator Hudak would get up from her chair, turn her back and walk out of the room during testimony, while thousands of Colorado residents surrounded the capital in support of the 2nd Amendment. The hearings were a sham and the outcome of the vote predetermined.

County sheriffs are the last line of defense, short of the individual, in upholding the Constitution. The sheriff is obligated to protect the citizen’s constitutional rights. This includes the right to free speech, the right to assemble and the right to bear arms. Sheriff Wiggins took a sacred oath to uphold and defend the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. County Sheriffs must view law enforcement through the prism of the Constitution. The county sheriff is elected by and answers to the individual. He does not answer to the president, not state legislators not “DHS”. He is obligated to defend the Constitutional rights within his jurisdiction.

Some don’t like the individual freedom, and strict limits placed on government guaranteed in the Constitution. They prefer to dismantle the Constitution through gradualism, and remake our country into their vision of a collectivist utopia.

I am thankful that we have a sheriff with the integrity and courage to honor his oath of office. I applaud Sheriff Wiggins for joining in the lawsuit to protect the 2nd Amendment, and therefore the Constitution.

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bill schurman 1 year, 3 months ago

The alleged constitutional expert is with the right-wing Independence Institute "think tank". We'll just see how far this law suit gets in Federal Court.

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Brian Kotowski 1 year, 3 months ago

Bill - there are 9 sanctuary cities in CO. Should the elected officials in those jurisdictions resign? If not, why?

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

"The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable."

--F. Bastiat, The Law

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Woohoo, Sheriff Wiggins is standing up for the right for gun owners to sell their weapons to felons and the mentally ill. And for the right of owners of semi-automatic weapons to have magazines of unlimited capacity.

Democratic political strategists are probably amazed at how well this has worked out politically. When the bills were passed, the commentary was how they failed to get more substantial rules on assault weapons passed. But since then the Republican Party has fallen in line with the NRA and against the general public on two popular measures. So now the narrative isn't whether the Democrats failed to get what they wanted, but that Republicans are against any sort of regulation on the power of weapons or whom owns them.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

"A well-educated electorate, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and read books shall not be infringed."

Only someone like Scott would argue that that statement meant only the well-educated had the right to keep and read books, or that the broader electorate had the right ONLY to certain, "less detailed" books... you know... short stories, childrens books, comics, and the like; while the more weighty and philosophical renderings should be reserved for those with sufficient intellect and dicipline to really appreciate them.

Yet that is EXACTLY the argument the left makes about the 2nd ammendment.

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Pat West 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark, when someone goes into a movie theater, or school, throwing books and killing people, I would expect backlash against books as well. Till then let's focus on guns, as they seem to be what's killing innocent children. Not books, or education.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark,

Your argument is not with me, but with the US Supreme Court. The US Supreme Court in their decision declaring that Washington DC's ban on handguns was unconstitutional also stated that it was still legal to regulate guns. That felons and the mentally ill could be banned from owning guns and that dangerous or unusual guns can be banned.

The difference between books and guns is that there is no risk to the public from felons and the mentally ill in reading or owning a book. Apparently the gun rights people are so extreme in their views that they do not recognize that thousands of people a year die of gunshot wounds while no one dies from paper cuts.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

You know what Pat... You are right. Knowing the whackos on the far left, and the attorneys of this great land, I too would expect that a BOOK would get blamed for killing someone long before the scumbag that actually threw it (ie pulled the trigger).

Scott,

Do you know how many mentally ill people and felons get their sinister ideas from books? Ever read any thing from NAMBLA, etc about how to lure children into...

And don't forget when the president spoke about how that horrible video sparked the killing of several Americans in Libya. That's right Scott. Your buddy Obama said that it was caused by the First Ammendment. And don't blame the Second for that because there IS NO Second ammendment in Libya...

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark -- I think one point of the conspiracy is that we never respond to the null character by name. To do so only feeds the barnacle. We can forgive the occasional breach, but only in cases of necessity -- blatant error, or ludicrous conclusion -- even then, never by name -- and certainly NOT to just beg more argument.

Don't make me confer with the Grand Poo-Bah, but this could be an evictable offense...

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark,

So you propose banning ideas and supporting weapons designed to kill? So in your world we might as well allow people to purchase fragmentation grenades because only bad people would use them against the public? The idea that grenades allows a person with bad intent to do far more damage than otherwise possible is not a sufficient reason to ban them?

It is normally recognized that there is a big difference between an idea and acting upon the idea. So the idea is not illegal, but acting upon the idea is illegal.

The US Supreme Court has enough contact with reality that it recognizes that society has an interest in protecting public safety. That there are people that are too dangerous to own guns and there are military weapons too powerful to be owned by the public.

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the "well regulated militia" is very important to understanding the Second Amendment. They have ruled that competent law abiding citizens have a right to consider themselves part of a well regulated militia and that government can regulate, but not ban that citizens militia.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Lawsuit filing is at:

http://www.i2i.org/files/file/54-sheriffs-complaint.pdf

Thing reads like satire. Did the paper ask Sheriff Wiggins if he supports the claims made in the filing?

It claims disabled people need at least 15 rounds for personal defense and having to reload another magazine is too hard for them. So somehow the disabled person has sufficient dexterity to responsibly fire at least 15 shots, but lacks the dexterity to reload.

It claims a 15 round magazine cannot be made as if an engineer could not design a 15 round magazine.

It claims that not having a date or serial number makes tracking ownership impossible because ownership cannot be proven. So laws against stealing jewelry or anything else without serial numbers would also be impossible to enforce.

It also claims that any law that cannot be absolutely completely enforced is unconstitutional. So apparently Sheriff Wiggins believes that since he lacks the personnel to monitor speed limits on every section of every county road at all times then speed limits are also unconstitutional.

It also makes the claim that Heller means that any weapon once legal must always be legal which would require Supreme Court to overturn precedents which Heller explicitly state are being upheld.

If Sheriff Wiggins takes these legal arguments seriously then how does he allow his dept to arrest anyone for any crime? Surely, he must realize that when they arrest a drunk driver that there were other drivers not caught that day driving drunk. He just signed onto a lawsuit saying such incomplete enforcement is unconstitutional.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

Sorry Rhys, but...

Scott,

I do not doubt your intellect, but I am beginning to think you have been educated way beyond your intellectual capacity.

What I "propose" is for busy-bodies like you and Steve to leave people like me the hell alone.

I propose that you do not come asking for my guns and that you do not send others to do so in your stead.

I propose you stop goading your buddy Uncle Scam into doing to me what YOU and Steve are not legally, morally, or ethically endowed to do to me.

I propose you stop splitting constitutional, ethical, moral, and intellectual hairs and wake up to the reality that all your intellectual fodder aint worth moose tits in the real world.

I propose that you, and people like you stop shilling for a demonstrably corrupt system, headed by demonstrable crooks. That you grow a pair, and stop making excuses for a governmental system that has failed in every corner of the world in which it has ever been tried.

I propose that you stop trying to defend the indefensible, protect the guilty, excuse the inexcuseable, repair the terminally disfunctional.

I propose that you stop tearing down those who, despite their comparaive intellectual shortcommings, are actually far ahead of you on the "duuuhhh" scale.

I propose that you take a few days off and read Fredrich Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Rothbard , Friedman, Alexis De Tocqueville, Adam Smith, and others who understand liberty, tyranny, and the fallacy of the almighty State which you so foolishly champion.

Then, when all else fails, I suggest you do what your mother no doubt did, or was often tempted to do... GO HAVE A DRINK.

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark -- Now there are two asses braying, two chunks of babble nobody is going to waste their time reading. Fine conspirator you are.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 3 months ago

Hey Jerry, Rhys and John. After reading the babble I was thinking of the name "zero of oz".

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 3 months ago

This lawsuit is the crux of months of debate - the gun laws' constitutionality question.

Scott has actually read the lawsuit. And posted its link for you. So fellas, which is the more likely direction of Oz?

1) a continued interest in laughing at the guy smart enough to read the lawsuit.

Or

2) reading the lawsuit and having your own opinion on of it.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

"...smart enough to read the lawsuit." ??? Really?

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Steve Lewis 1 year, 3 months ago

I tried to find a copy of the Sheriff's Oath a few weeks ago. It is referenced frequently by Sheriff Wiggins, and indirectly referenced in this lawsuit:

III. P ARTIES A. Plaintiffs 1. The Sheriffs of 54 Colorado Counties

  1. Each of the following Sheriffs of 54 Colorado counties (“the Sheriffs”) has the primary obligation to obey the Constitution of the United States of America. The Sheriffs bring this case pursuant to this primary obligation, which is supreme over any other purported enactment.

I could not find in the lawsuit where they base, "has the primary obligation to obey the Constitution of the United States of America...over any other purported enactment."

Can any one provide the Oath Wiggins is talking about?

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Steve,

Well, most states would argue that the federal government was approved by the states so a local sheriff's primary responsibility is to state law, not federal law.

If a truly unconstitutional law was passed then the proper way for law enforcement to respond is to get official legal advice from a licensed attorney. That legal advice is not allowed to be a speculative lawsuit, but a carefully reasoned analysis of the current law and current legal decisions. If a court rules that the law is different than the legal advice then the attorney can lose their license to practice law. Thus, official legal advice is cautious and mentions all related legal decisions.

Thus, if City of Craig were to pass a mandatory gun ownership law then the Craig Police Chief could get legal advice which would most likely state why the law would be found to be unconstitutional. So then Craig Police department could have an official policy to not enforce that law and not be accused of arbitrarily ignoring local laws.

But, Sheriff Wiggins makes no claim to have sought official legal advice. Instead he made a political decision to go along with the NRA and use the legitimacy of his office to oppose Colorado gun laws.

If he really believed in what this lawsuit is claiming the why isn't he out busting the local dispensaries that are selling schedule 1 narcotics? They are operating under state law which is contrary to federal law. The current federal precedent (Raich v Gonzales) holds that mmj still violates federal law.

So his "primary oath" to uphold the US Constitutional depends entirely upon his personal opinion of what laws he likes or dislikes.

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mark hartless 1 year, 3 months ago

I wonder which one of you tried to find the sheriff's oath to grill him about breaking it when it was the former sheriff driving drunk?

I wonder if DUI is in the Sheriff's oath?

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 3 months ago

So zero of oz, What is it about Sheriff Wiggins you don't you like. Is it that he won't have his deputies ticket every one going one mile over the speed limit. It is his responsibility to ticket those going over the speed limit. Or is it that you just don't understand those knuckle draggers that think it is in their right to own guns. Sorry Jerry, Rhys and John I just can't take the crap from the left wing idealogue. I am fine with both side of the political aisle having reasonable discussions but the crap from the zero of oz pushes me over the edge. I need an intervention.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 3 months ago

PS - I am still waiting to hear from "he whose name can't be spoken" on Kermitt Gosnell and his band of murderers

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Dan,

These laws do not prevent from owning guns. It closes a loophole in background checks that are required at a retail gun shop and at Colorado gun shows for licensed dealers. Those that purchase guns at retail shops will not notice any changes in their ability to purchase guns.

A magazine limit of 15 rounds may not have that much of an impact, but it is hardly comparable to confiscating guns. It is reasonable to have a magazine limit because it is well documented that even trained police officers will often keep firing until they have to reload. So it is reasonable to hope that a magazine limit will result in fewer rounds hitting innocent bystanders or neighbors when someone is defending themselves. Considering the long history of six shooters and other weapons with less than 15 rounds, being limited to 15 rounds is not preventing a credible ability to defend one's self.

It is Sheriff Wiggins who is claiming that reasonable discretion cannot be practiced and so a law which cannot be enforced in all cases becomes unconstitutional.

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Mark and Dan -- Let it never be said I stood in the way of free and open discourse. Rarely in history has a bi-partisan conspiracy such as ours endured so long. Already the breach privilege has been extended heavily, no reason you can't squawk up too. Somebody's got to, right?

Me, I choose my fights, many issues are trite by now, everybody's feelings well-known, and I am not compelled to become an instant expert on the remainder, thus demonstrating my innate superiority... better things to do...

Like the Rockies!! Let's hope Tulo keeps making a fool of me!!

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 3 months ago

Kermit Gosnell was convicted of murder. He ran an abortion clinic that violated numerous laws. Looks like he should have been caught and shut down earlier.

I consider it to be comparable to cases where a doctor or nurse at a nursing home is found to be killing patients. No one, not even a doctor, has the right to kill others.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 3 months ago

Rhys, Sorry I fell off the wagon. I am going in for rehab.

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john bailey 1 year, 3 months ago

a lilo type rehab or a real one? grow a pair guys, although the temptation is there and hard to resist, I washed my friends dodge the other day see how red it is?~:0) oh and have a great holiday, and thank you vets and dad for serving our country. next...........

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 year, 2 months ago

I am working very hard to resist but my gosh he is every where and it is so easy

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john bailey 1 year, 2 months ago

jejeje, 12 steps is a difficult task also, but it can be done. but the almighty Oz of zero must speak, least the head explode. peace to you and yours also, Dan have a great weekend. is summer here? finally..........~;0)

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Dan -- Just recognizing the problem indicates you are recovering. We can all relate; the temptation is virtually irresistable. When you realize you are banging your head against the wall, it helps to remember: These forums are not all there is. You will NOT get the last word in. You do not need this for validation. You are a worthwhile person already. There is a whole world out there. Surely you can find a more productive use for your time. Now if I can just practice what I preach...

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jerry carlton 1 year, 3 months ago

Rhys The above comment made my day! I was not going to start a debate about Tulo but I have thought he was a great player ever since he was a rookie. A little injury prone but I wonder if that is not because he seems to give 110% and sometimes over stresses his body. All good hitters have slumps and get caught with the bat on their shoulder once in a while. He is third in the National league last night in batting average. I can think of no shortstop in baseball I would trade him for.

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rhys jones 1 year, 3 months ago

Jerry -- I was sold on Tulo his rookie year -- I saw his unassisted triple play live -- his defense is extraordinary -- his bat just a bonus. Still, with all his skills, I hate to see him fanned looking. Let's hope the magic continues shortly in SF.

How 'bout those Pacers, eh? Giving the Heat a run for their money!! I just hate to see the refs decide the game...

John -- Every year at this time I take it upon myself to remind the folks: Veterans have their own day. November 11. Jarheads such as myself dig the previous day, Nov 10, the Marine Corps birthday (older than the Nation itself). All the uniforms whoop it up on the Fourth.

This holiday is not about them, or us. This is to commemorate the thousands who never made it home to enjoy the easy life their sacrifices bought us. God rest their souls.

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john bailey 1 year, 2 months ago

true that ,Rhys, but I think of all of em on our national holidays. for they are the reason we continue to celebrate them. alive or those that payed the highest price. that's just how I roll. peace to you and yours and have a great weekend. gotta go see the goddaughter graduate , man that was a fast 17 years. watch out boys, shes a man killer.......LOL,,~;0)

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