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Father Joe, Pastor Mike & being an American on this Thanksgiving Day
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We take a lot for granted.

Among them is the freedom of religion or - if we prefer - the freedom not to worship.

Not many understand more about how fortunate we are to live in America than Father Joe.

Father Joe was a Catholic priest at St. Joseph’s three doors down from where I grew up in Lincoln, Placer County.

He immigrated to America from South Vietnam after spending almost eight years in a re-education camp. His sin against humanity was straightforward in the eyes of the Hanoi government that prevailed in the Vietnam War. He believed in God.

I don’t know whether Mike Dillman of the Place of Refuge here in Manteca ever met Father Joe. It’s highly unlikely. Both though cherish and honor the sacrifices of those Americans who fought in Vietnam. Pastor Mike served America in the war.

On Thursday we will be getting our fill of the bounty of our land. It’s a day of family and feasting.

Most of us will be offering thanks.

And if we do so to a greater power we need to offer thanks also to those who secured our freedoms and to those who endeavor to make sure they are exercised.

Much has been made of late of how Occupy Du Jour is feeding off the uprisings in Cairo, the financial duress in Greece, the greed on Wall Street, or a hundred in one injustices worldwide.

It goes without saying that there are light years of difference between what is happening in most places in the world and the United States when it comes to freedoms and economic stability.

It is not a perfect country, far from it. But it in many ways America is still on top of the proverbial heap.

There is little doubt the Seven Deadly Sins - wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony - are alive and well in America today. They are not modern-day diseases of the heart and soul. They have played a role in the history of mankind since the dawn of time.

We are not on the cusp of complete collapse due to economic malady or the repertoire of stresses that try men’s collective souls today.

It has always been a struggle.

What will undermine civilization is a lack of faith in our fellow man.

Yes, faith in God helps keep men like Pastor Mike and Father Joe moving forward in a world of pain and suffering.

Equally important is their faith in their fellow man and a true understanding of the priceless commodities we are all handed in this country at birth - freedom and liberty.

America continues to be the promised land of a new start for modern-day pilgrims today. We just call them something else - immigrants. And just like pilgrims of yesteryear, some came to this land legally and others without the expressed consent of the crown.

They faced hardships we can’t even begin to imagine. Every day was a struggle to survive. Death lurked around every corner.

In a way, that is what Pastor Mike and other soldiers have faced as well as those like Father Joe who are persecuted for believing something different than the government.

It is only after you’ve been through such hell that you can truly appreciate just how fortunate we are to live in America.

That in itself is a lot to be thankful for on Thanksgiving.

This column is the opinion of managing editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209-249-3519.