Keelan: Vermont strong – now even stronger

By Don Keelan

Throughout the state, during these most difficult times, there has been a watershed of ideas, suggestions, and physical action regarding how we might overcome adversity during the next few months.

One of the most inspiring suggestions is to reach out to one’s neighbors. I refer to it as the 4×4. Meaning, my wife and I have been in contact with four of our neighbors to make certain that they are OK and if they are in need of anything. They, in turn, are reaching out to four of their immediate or nearby neighbors and on and on. In the small town of Arlington, it does not take long before we can cover the town’s entire population.

Don Keelan

The above is not new to this writer. In the Marine Corps, the largest group concentration would be a division, roughly 18,000 Marines, at full strength. However, when you look at how control is delegated, it goes down to four Marines, a fire team, and it is their job to take care of one another. If we make the task manageable as noted above, we can provide safety to our fellow Vermonters.

Another suggestion is to take a page out of what transpired by mandate during World War II – rationing. While there has been no government decree on rationing, why not adopt the concept now on a voluntary basis? A good way to start is to think of using/consuming an item by four-fifths of what you might have used/consumed prior to the present crisis. A 20% conservation/rationing is a good start and can really make a difference in the short run.

The closing of schools and child care centers has created an enormous burden for many families. Even with the educational material packets given out, there must be hours of frustration and boredom occurring in many homes. However, now just might be the time to teach the kids the skills of cooking/baking, small house repairs, re-decorating, board games, and crocheting (if materials are available).

For the longest time my wife and I have been saying that we just don’t see kids out playing in their yards and, where safe, in the streets. Surely, not what it was just a decade or so ago. We can now change this and it just might have taken the current situation to do so. Get the kids outside for games, hikes, walks, cleanup, and, of course, garden/yard work.

As we work our way through the pandemic there will be many Vermonters who will stand out as exceptional in how they performed under trying circumstances. We saw this during Tropical Storm Irene and many were thanked for their courage, commitment, and unselfishness at the time. But maybe it is time to have a new way of thanking such individuals.

When it comes to honoring Americans who have given so much on behalf of their fellow Americans, a select few are honored each year – either by the White House or Congress. The honor is the Medal of Freedom or the Congressional Gold Medal.

There should be such an honor bestowed by the Vermont governor with the advice and consent of the Vermont Legislature. The medal would be referred to as, the Vermont Medal of Freedom and Unity and presented annually at the commencement of the Legislature’s session. It would represent the highest honor the state can bestow on one (or more) of its citizens.

Nine years ago, Vermont’s backbone was severely tested during the days of Tropical Storm Irene, and for months following. There wasn’t any part of the state that escaped the damage. Events were canceled, the commencement of schools fall sessions were postponed, businesses were forced to close and homes were destroyed.

Out of such devastation and recovery came the motto, “Vermont Strong.” Today, we are going through much worse and from what I have seen so far, “Vermont Strong” has become “Even Stronger.”

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.